Once upon a time in Wanaka, cowboys and hippies would ski together, play together and smash their legs together.
Fast-forward nearly four decades and legs (and other things) are still being smashed.
The one-doctor town now has a multi-purpose health centre, which is celebrating its 10th birthday, while injuries on skifields around the Queenstown Lakes region in last year’s winter school holidays alone accounted for 705 Accident Compensation Corporation claims was a quiet Covid year.
But that’s not what this story is about. It’s about a smashing time had by locals last Thursday night, when Lake Wanaka Tourism started this year’s ski season with the premiere of a new documentary film In Search of Koura Ma:The Story of Skiing in Wanaka
Multiple back-to-back screenings were held at Ruby Cinema, downstairs from the new Cardrona-Treble Cone Basecamp at 50 Cardrona Valley Rd, during the skifields’ annual “Welcome to Winter” bash.
Hundreds of people crowded into Cardrona-Treble Cone’s new offices, shop and off-mountain licensed premises to toast the start of winter, prompting general manager Bridget Legnavsky to wonder, “I think the whole town has turned up.”
Noel Williams proclaimed the skifield’s new town office and bar concept next door to the town’s Basecamp climbing wall a “great use of the facility”.
David Varney said it was “fantastic’,’ while Paul Parker was confident “it will work”.
The film, produced by Wanaka film-maker Hugh Barnard, proved popular. Narrated by Hank Bilous and featuring a galaxy of Wanaka snowsports identities, including Jossi Wells, Whitney Thurlow and Sam Lee, it drew broad smiles and a thumbs up from skifield entrepreneur John Lee (85).
Lake Wanaka Tourism’s film takes viewers all the way back to the humble roots of skiing and snowboarding in Wanaka and delves into the stories of intrepid locals who pioneered the town’s mountain culture.
Koura Ma translates to “white gold”, a term used to describe the best snow on the mountain.
The film combines interviews with contemporary and archival footage and has been overlaid with animation.
Lake Wanaka Tourism’s marketing and communication manager Gizelle Regan said it provided a deeper context to the Wanaka story.
“This really is a quest to discover more about our rich history and why this small New Zealand mountain town has become such a hot spot of international skiing and snowboarding, producing world champions and attracting skiers and boarders from around the globe,” Ms Regan said.
Ms Legnavsky said the film was “a fun ride back into the past, with some remarkable stories of those who have paved the way for us.”