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 In Diary of a Ski Musteress

As Laura my Osteopath manipulated my frozen shoulder into worryingly odd angles, our diversionary chat turned to the ski season in Wanaka and the 25th international cross country ski race, the Merino Muster at the Snow Farm NZ.

Unusually, as a Brit, I can bluster through a conversation about Nordic cross country skiing better than most. My husband is a World Loppet Master (not as weird as it sounds – more of that later!) and my sister is married to a Norwegian, so family gatherings often involve cross country ski chatter (a very big deal in Norway).

But I am certainly no athlete, have no cross country ski skating experience and have had a pathological dislike of mass participation events ever since a serious accident in 2010.

Fast forward a few weeks, snowflakes are falling (in June – so weird for a European!), the Snow Farm opens tomorrow and I’ve persuaded myself too:

  • Learn to cross country ski,
  • Overcome my event phobia
  • Get fit enough to tackle the 7km Straggler event
  • Ski alongside the pros at the 2019 Merino Muster

How on earth did that just happen I ask myself?! Whacky ideas can fall out of an Osteopath session, especially when backed up by warm encouragement from Mary Lee, the inspirational ‘Snow Farm Queen’ pioneer of Nordic skiing in NZ and Loppet legend.

Skiing and mountains have always been twin passions of mine. In the 1980’s I worked my socks off as a chalet girl in France so that I could spend a winter skiing in Val d’Isere. Ditch any notions of glamour – I literally worked with socks, in the laundrette of a hotel basement.

I’ve spent many days since downhill skiing in the European Alps, with the operative word ‘downhill’. I love chairlifts and cable cars that whizz effortlessly uphill. So what is this other version of skiing with no lifts, literally ‘cross country’ – are these Nordics nuts?!

As such an unlikely amateur, it’s with some trepidation that I’ll be sharing my ‘Diary of a Ski Musteress’, charting my first lesson at the Snow Farm until the Merino Muster event in ten weeks’ time. My diary entries will span the functional (kit, technique, training) to the more personal (my physical and emotional ups and downs), along with snippets about life at Snow Farm and experiences of fellow competitors. Join me as I sheepishly skitter, ski and
skate a path towards becoming a Ski Musteress (I promise – no more sheep puns). Are you also learning a new sport or training for a personal challenge? Are you contemplating the Merino Muster yourself (do it – sign up!) or maybe you’ve done it before and you’re an accomplished cross country skier? Any tips to share? I (and the 300 other
Musterers) would love your support to help us slide cross the finish line on 31 August.

Margaret, 20 June

Follow ‘Diary of a Ski Musteress’ on Snow Farm NZ’s and Merino Muster’s websites, Facebook,
Instagram and Twitter social media pages, plus on Margaret’s Instagram page @BattyIdeas

A bit about me:

After 30 years of commuting, career and city life
in crowded London and travelling to over 90
countries, I moved to wonderful Wanaka with
Gary, to pause, breathe and reconnect with the
mountains – and my muscles…We’re totally
smitten with New Zealand, immersing ourselves
in all four seasons, biking, hiking, kayaking and
skiing, for a precious year-off (an ‘OE’ in our
fifties) before heading back to England,

Attempting the Merino Muster is my nod to the famous Kiwi ‘give it a go’ attitude.


Loppet life (pub quiz fodder):

  • 20 of the oldest, biggest and best endurance cross country ski races around the world are
    bestowed with the title of World Loppet.
  • The races range in distance from 42km in NZ/Aus to 90km in Sweden, with 300 skiers participating in
    NZ to over 17000 in Norway.
  • A World Loppet Master will have completed 10 Loppets on at least two continents.
  • At 5021, there are fewer World Loppet Masters (including 5 Kiwis, 69 Brits and 114 Australians)
    than people who have summited Everest (approx 8500). Both are hardcore achievements.
  • The Merino Muster is one of only two World Loppets in the Southern Hemisphere, the other is the
    Australian Kangaroo (you guessed it!) Hoppet.
  • The Snow Farm is located near Wanaka on the South Island. A former sheep farm, it is the only
    Nordic cross country ski area in NZ with over 55km of trails.
  • The Merino Muster event is named after the traditional annual farm muster, when sheep are
    moved down from the top of the mountain. Merinos are the prized sheep of NZ (don’t get me
    started on socks again – but Merino wool hardly ever has to be washed and doesn’t smell, ever).
  • The full Merino Muster race is 42km, with a 21km option and a 7k ‘Stragglers’ event. The
    straggle is for those sheep left behind after the first muster. ‘
  • Merino lambs’ aged 3yrs upwards will also be competing on the big day (cuteness alert)!
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