Finding the Rainbow connection

Last updated 11:25 03/07/2012

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Two days on the piste is just what I needed.

Winter in Blenheim was starting to take its toll on both body and mind.

She can be a cruel mistress, winter, especially in a poorly insulated Kiwi home with a lacklustre heat pump.

So, rather than fight the frost, I've decided to embrace the cold this year and hit the slopes.

Why watch Jim Hickey's daily weather forecasts with unnecessary dread?

That same snowflake icon that deflates so many of us, provides endless joy for others. I'm talking about the skiers.

Rainbow Ski Field at St Arnaud, about 90 minutes southwest of Blenheim off State Highway 63, opened on Saturday and I wasn't the only one keen for some fresh powder.

Beautiful blue skies and a blazing sun made for perfect conditions to start the season, a world away from a dull and overcast Blenheim.

Gloomy faces were nonexistent as families from Marlborough and Nelson shared the hill with visitors from Australia, Malaysia and South Africa.

Even the staff seemed happy to be there, pleasure breeding pleasure. They were genuinely interested to hear how a snowboarding beginner, like myself, progressed throughout the day. They caught the alpine bug years ago and were hellbent on spreading it.

But that all adds to the sense of community on the mountain. From 3-year-olds whizzing past lumbering newbies to grannies sitting outside the cafe with their knitting. Like its namesake, the whole spectrum of the social rainbow was well represented.

Rainbow Sports Club chairman Peter Johnstone said the skifield, which was started by a group of Blenheim investors in 1983, relied on community support.

Members volunteer through the summer to help with maintenance, he said.

"We never stop painting, it's like Brooklyn Bridge," he said about the huts.

They had extended the terrain park that runs along the top of the mountain, Mr Johnstone said.

A few jumps were added but won't open for another couple of weeks, he said. "The terrain park should be a big improvement on last year."

The Rainbow Sports Club had been gradually building the skifield since taking over in 2002, Mr Johnstone said.

"We are trying to make it a good solid operation that is viable for the future."

Blenheim man Adam Dawe helped relocate a snow fence along the terrain park and lay new concrete foundations on tower 10 of the T-bar lift.

Mr Dawe, who was enjoying the fruits of his labour on Saturday, said the work gave skiers a sense of ownership of the field.

It also gets you a discount on your season pass, he said.

"You contribute to the place and get to meet other volunteers so you feel part of the Rainbow community," Mr Dawe said. "Cruising up the T-bar, I was like `that's my tower 10'. You also feel that you are helping to make the place viable so it can continue. Let's not forget you are there to get [money off] your season pass, which is a nice reward."

Their hard work was made worthwhile by a full car park on opening day, Mr Johnstone said.


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- The Marlborough Express


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