Aussie, aussie, aussie! Oi, oi, oi! I was beyond excited about heading to Australia for the ANC races. Not only was I finally getting to ski across the ditch, I was also going to my best friend's home town with the promise that I would definitely see kangaroos just about everywhere. Despite living through it, I still can't quite believe that our 2hr 30min flight was so short in comparison to the 5hr drive we embarked on to get from Sydney to Jindabyne. A distance that looks so minuscule on the map. As usual by the time our entertaining car ride brought us to Jindy, it was already dark so the anticipation of finally seeing the place I'd heard so much about was unfulfilled till the following morning. We had a day before the races began so we headed up to Perisher to bomb around and see what the race pistes looked like. The famous Australian Flat White certainly held its title for a reason. I've been at big resorts before but Perisher felt a little ridiculous. It was so wide but with its tangle of lifts and lack of ridges it felt as though you spent most of your time traversing from one route to another! Nevertheless I was still super excited that I was there! So much so, that despite being on the hunt to see a live kangaroo, I wandered past 4 kangaroos on my way to the tuning room and didn't even notice them till Adam pointed them out... I knew they were pretty big but I didn't realise that most of them were as tall, if not taller than me (Not that that is actually all that hard but still!!)! On another occasion, not far from where we were staying, I was running and saw an entire field full of kangaroos just hanging out. They weren't too impressed with seeing me and scattered which was quite incredible to witness.
Anyway, enough about kangaroos, we were met with a terrible weather report for our weeks races. Armed with our new storm jackets from ONE studio we ventured out into the wind and rain to race some slalom. Lucky for us the wind was so strong that the imposing clouds just rolled overhead all day. I was in 6th after the first run with some tactical changes needed. After the second run I moved up to 3rd also placing as the 2nd U21 scoring a result that exactly tied with my previous best SL result of 53.42. The following day the weather also held out pretty well and again I was round about 6th after the first run with similar mistakes. Second run I improved hugely, coming in second on that run which pulled me up to 4th overall and the 3rd U21 scoring a PB of 48.47! Having cheated the weather the past two days we ran out of luck heading into the GS races. The fog was so bad they lowered the start by about 8 gates and kept pushing the start time back. After a couple hours of set backs the fog lifted from all bar the first couple gates and the race was underway. After the first run I was only 0.20 seconds behind fellow kiwi Piera Hudson and despite a mistake second run, managed to keep relatively hot on her heels, locking in 2nd place in both the open and U21 as well as scoring my best ever GS result with a 34.88! Unfortunately it rained pretty heavily in Jindy overnight and snowed quite a bit up the hill which made for some trying conditions for the next day, considering we didn't have a solid snow pack to start with. The weather repeated itself form the day before and again we lowered the start and were delayed. It was still lightly snowing when we began racing but you could see what you were getting into which was a huge help. Regardless of the rough conditions I was keen to race.
I skied into first with a 0.24 second lead on American, Madison Lord. Because the snow conditions weren't ideal and would have catastrophically crumbled under the weight of the boys, the decision was made to postpone the men's race until the following day and run the girls back to back. This caused some controversy among coaches but it was easy to see that yes, we were already making some holes with our lighter mass but we could still compete in the conditions where as the men would have quickly destroyed the course and potentially themselves as they are heavier and stronger than us girls. I was able to keep the lead in my grasp and earnt my first FIS win in a continental cup race which in itself was pretty awesome. Not only did I win the open and U21 I also scored a 36.39! My new points will be 35.64! Which also halves my world ranking to 415, just outside national C team criteria! Needless to say I was ecstatic! Sadly, with the weather the boys race was cancelled the following day. Instead we packed up and started the long trek back to Sydney. This did mean we were able to spend the afternoon in town being tourists, visiting the Opera house and the Harbor Bridge etc.
We certainly hit the ground running upon arrival back in Queenstown. A days training then straight into the NZ ANC races held at Coronet Peak, the first of these two also being Winter Games events. The first day of this series was slalom. In the second run I somehow managed to catch my pole on the snow and punch myself in the neck. There was a split second where I said to myself "you've got this, you can still make the next gate." I tried to make that happen but I was unable to garner a breath. I had successfully winded myself and shoved my handle 2.5cm lower on my pole... Needless to say I was unable to finish the run. We had some awesome and tough competition in these races and I was incredibly glad I went into them with some ANC points under my belt which guaranteed me a top 15 start despite the amazing points of the first 30 girls. I skied pretty well both days of the GS races but made some silly mistakes which cost me time. I still scored in the 40's for both of them which I'm happy with considering the caliber of the competition. There were sections of my slalom which were good, yet riddled with aspects that need work. The Treble Cone races rounded up the end of the season. I was hit with a stroke of bad luck, especially in the GS where the visibility was great until two people before me (I was bib 18) when the fog crept up, encompassing the course in blinding, never ending sea of mist. The fog was so dense the moisture clung to your goggles making it entirely impossible to see even if you tried to clear it off it would only return within 3 meters. I made up a huge amount of time on my second run but no where near enough to get a result. I'm not too fussed though. I know what I need to do to further improve in both disciplines it's just a matter of consistency at the moment.
I must say a huge thanks to Nils Coberger, my amazing coach, without you hammering my technique and your insistence that I was capable, I wouldn't have achieved what I did this season. Also thanks to Hamish and Robbie, you guys are hilariously brilliant in the start and a motivational presence in training, same goes for my awesome team mates. It's been a wicked season so far and I'm excited to continue to stretch my abilities in training on and off the snow here in NZ for a couple more months before heading over to Europe.