Locals that Love Queenstown & Wanaka: Elysia Gibb

Elysia Gibb has come a long way from sleeping in a tent at Treble Cone to feed her snow addiction. She now has one of the best ski jobs going as operations manager for Southern Lakes Heli Ski in New Zealand. This is her love story.

As a kid snow was already in my blood. It wasn’t in anyone in my family’s blood, just mine. At 5 I got to touch and slide on it, in my woolly jersey I managed to take out an entire ski lesson in one swoop of my toboggan. Yep back then toboggans were allowed in the heart of the ski field, not anymore though.

From then my desire just grew and I managed to rope my family into a day at one of the club fields. Dressed in an 80s getup with a pair of gumboots I got my first chance at skiing and also riding a nutcracker. After straight lining the mountain, crashing and then nearly mangling my fingers in the nutcracker I was hooked.

It wasn’t until I was 23 that I got my next chance. I was wildly in love with a boy, thinking marriage and babies until my friend Debbie said to me – we have jobs in the snow! let’s go!! I ummed and ahhhed and then she said – you have always wanted to do this. So no brainer, off we went and spent a season working and living a snow life.

I have never in my life felt so at home as I did on a mountain with other people who also loved the same thing. Everyone had a smile on their face and looked young, even if they were old they looked young. The feeling I got riding my snowboard was one where I felt like it was the most natural thing I’d ever done. I felt free. I had found my nirvana.

From then I dibbled and dabbled, riding mountains when I could. Subconsciously it was encouraged by friends who made me buy season passes and made it easy to become part of the mountain fold. After some overseas travel I got lost, I didn’t know what to do with my life but the only thing I loved at that point of time was snowboarding so I went to the snow.

It was then I found Wanaka and Queenstown. My friends had randomly encouraged me to buy a season pass so I had to follow through as I’d never explored the South Island of New Zealand before. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found Wanaka, it was stunning, surrounded by mountains and lakes. A vibe that was laid back and easy.

I lived in a tent at the bottom of Treble Cone and boarded every day with a bunch of free spirited life lovers, met a boy, he asked me to follow him. We needed jobs so we ended up in Queenstown which I thought would be for only 2 months but 13 years later I was still there. Mountain life is fun and until I couldn’t find the fun in it anymore I was going to stay and it’s still fun.

My first job in the tourist industry offered me a freebee in a chopper. Little did they know that apart from snow, choppers had always fascinated me and once I got to experience the rotors spinning, and the ground disappearing beneath me I knew I had another love.

How better to satisfy my two loves in one hit – start working at Southern Lakes Heliski which I now have been for 9 years. It doesn’t get tiring being surrounded by legends, listening to their stories and watching the smiles they put on people’s faces as they take them into our magnificent backcountry.

The company has grown and become a place that I’m proud to be a part of. To me it’s a family and we have helped each other through the thick and the thin and come out the other side.

The mountains have taken me on a journey. My snowboarding has evolved from an initial rush, to a love, to a pusher of boundaries, to a therapy, to competing, to working in the industry to and now I’m a mum and it’s time to show my love to my daughter. And shes already asking to ski…

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.


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