Embracing the First-Time Magic: A Journey to Mt. Buller

The memories stay with you forever. First guitar: Age eight, steel strings, bleeding fingers, quickly calloused—start of a lifelong affair. First surfboard: A much-repaired yellow twin fin, more like catching a small bus. Consequently, the first unbroken wave, fingers tracing along the face, then dumped but ecstatic. First oyster: What is that?

Snow handful


And then, the first time at the snow. Do I remember that? Only like it was yesterday.

We drove to Buller in my friend Tom’s Holden Kingswood. Tom was a skiing veteran. At 21, I was a late starter, and as we ascended the mountain, I got my first glimpse of snow. I asked Tom to stop the car, got out, and picked up a handful. A big personal moment. If Tom was rolling his eyes, he didn’t show it.

Discovering the Magic of Snow

Snow is surprisingly cold when you’ve never touched it before.

About two hours later, in radiant sunshine, with a sky so blue it seemed unique against the white backdrop, I was told off for going too fast down an intermediate run, arms and legs all over the place. I apologized and meant it, but I was also secretly chuffed, flushed with the majesty of sliding—quite rapidly—down a mountain for the first time.

Where had skiing been all my life?

Where it had been was nowhere. I was a hold-out, not wanting to go skiing in case I fell head over heels in love with it and then couldn’t afford to go. My cadet journalist’s wage was tricky financial terrain. Surfing was cheaper.

Turns out, I was right, because after that first trip, I was hooked.

Post-Lockdown Adventures

Post-lockdown, I went to Buller again, this time with my daughter and her partner, Will, who was at the snow for the first time. Will plays football, cricket, tennis—all well—and he found his feet straight away. In fact, he was awesome, tackling green runs in the morning, blue in the afternoon, no problem.

We skied all day, the runs getting ever more challenging, and Will coped well, navigating some icy sections and bigger crowds as we headed back at speed for a fireside vino.

It was a great day. You only get one chance at a first time, and Will certainly seized that chance. It’s brilliant to watch someone take to something so quickly and want to go again.

Savoring the Après-Ski

We were a happy crew that night, especially knowing we were heading to dinner at French restaurant The Villager (Buller Central, Village Square), flushed with the thrill of the day. The roast duck and the pinot tasted even better than usual after being on the mountain, breathing in all that high-altitude air.

Skiing is more than just a sport. It’s a perfect community activity, where you’re talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company.

Making Skiing Accessible

A trip to the snow sounds complicated and expensive, but it needn’t be. Stay at a lodge instead of a hotel. You meet people and cook your own meals: Who needs a restaurant every night?