Masters of universe

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Veteran Queenstown skier David “Digs” Hargreaves really is the old master.

He’s been skiing at Coronet Peak for nearly 50 years – and for almost half that time, he’s been an annual entrant in the 21-year-old NZ Skiing Masters competition.

Despite a dodgy knee, the 61-year-old will continue that tradition in the 22nd national masters event at Coronet Peak this weekend.

“I’d normally enter the GS [giant slalom], downhill and slalom races, but because I injured my knee earlier this season I might not do the downhill and slalom.

“But I’ll definitely go into the GS because that’s my favourite.”

Hargreaves says he’s one of only two competitors who’ve taken part in the event since it began and over the years he’s collected “a wall-full” of medals.

He’s a regular face around the mountain during the ski season – when not racing in the weekly Winter Classic, he’s often found showing visiting, unfamiliar skiers around in his role as an NZSki “ambassador”.

He’s one of a group of long-time local skiers who have volunteer ambassador status, including “75-plus” Les Brough.

“[NZSki] have helped us for years so we don’t mind helping them out,” says Brough, a skier since 1947.
Like Hargreaves, Brough – who hasn’t entered the NZ Masters for a few years after he broke his scapula while skiing – enjoys showing people around his home mountain.

“Most visitors will just ski down the M1 when they arrive whereas there are so many wonderful little gullies and ways to get down which are much more interesting,” he says.

Things have come a long way at Coronet Peak since their first memories.

“When I first arrived at Coronet there were two rope tows,” recalls Hargreaves. “Then they got the chairlift in the 1960s – that was what I came down to Queenstown [from Canterbury] for, because it was the only field in the South Island that had a chairlift.

“It was quite something being on a chairlift rather than the old rope tow.

“The facilities are so much better now than they used to be.”