A transplant staple in the Mammoth scene for the past decade, Arbor’s Stefi Luxton finally visited her home country of New Zealand last month for the first since the pandemic started. If you are planning a trip to board the Southern Hemi this summer, read up. Stefi gives the inside scoop on her favorite resorts, the past season, and what she is riding this week on Mt. Hood for It’s Tits. – Mark Clavin
Hey Stefi! How’s the end of the season been in Mammoth?
It’s been a mix of wind, snow, and warm weather. Today was fun! Mammoth early season was probably my highlight. They got a 10-foot storm in December which was a good way to start the year. And the QP event that just happened was very eventful to say the least!
Yeah! We thought we would see you on the podium at World Quarters? What happened?!
I don’t know how to air out. Some part of my body must stay on the ground at all times (Editor’s note: Stefi is being modest, she very well knows how to air out. )
Awesome. How long had it been since you’d been back home?
December 26, 2018.
And you are from Wanaka area?
I grew up in Wanaka, but my family doesn’t live there anymore. I just visited the North Island when I went home.
Did you visit them often before the pandemic while living in the states?
Yeah, I would always go back once a year. I moved to The States for the winter when I was 17. I’m 30 now and would do back-to-back winters up until until 2015, which is when I moved to Mammoth. I can’t do math right now, but been living here on-and-off for fourteen years?
That math checks out to me. How was it not being able to get back to New Zealand the past few years?
Very homesick. I have never called the USA home before.
After these three years then, would you now consider USA to be home?
Nope, haha! I’m moving back one day and taking Scott [Blum] with me.
What is it about New Zealand that will pull you back?
I love living in California, but there’s so many people here. I feel like NZ is what California probably once was. It’s still busy in New Zealand, but nothing like here. I love it for its culture, mountains, ocean, and overall ruggedness. It’s also just feels way safer in NZ, in my opinion.
They seemed to handle the pandemic a lot better as well, right?
Yeah, they lived COVID-free for like a year, but then it dragged on a bit too long. I feel like they could have opened up sooner, even if it was just for NZ citizens. They will fully open up to everyone in July I think, which is pretty crazy considering it’s a country for tourism.
They aren’t even fully opened yet? Did you know a good amount of family and friends that contracted COVID over there?
Everyone is just starting to get it. My cousin just had it and my brother, too. That’s about it.
So how was it finally getting to go back last month?
It was so great. I feel so refreshed. Just filled out some forms online and got a COVID test. The plane was empty going over because only NZ passport holders and visa holders could go, but on the way back the plane was packed with Kiwis itching to travel after so long. Being homesick really sucks. My younger brother lives in Australia, but he came over and my older brother was there, so my whole family got to spend a week together. I’m so much happier now! Ha.
Is there a difference between the snowboard scenes in Mammoth and Wanaka?
Mammoth and Wanaka have a pretty similar scenes apart from the fact Mammoth is huge and all the resorts in NZ are much smaller. I haven’t spent enough time in NZ lately to really know though–heading back for three months to find out this September.
Where is your favorite place to ride back in NZ?
My favorite place to ride is Treble Cone and Cardrona. And for anyone looking to take a trip to ride in NZ this summer, 100% do it. Go explore more than just the resorts around Wanaka to get the true experience.
Any trips this year? Filming for anything?
I hurt my back the end of February so I had a pretty chill winter trying to fix it. Katie Kennedy is making a movie called 6040, so I’ll have a few shots coming out in that
How’s the back feeling now?
It’s getting better, finally.
Did you go anywhere before your injury?
Yeah, I went to a few places before and after. I kept riding, which is why is probably taking ages to heal, ha. I went to Salt Lake three times, Baker, Jackson Hole and Big Bear. I rode with Seth Huot and scored a week of pow at Brighton, which was definitely the highlight.
IT’S TITS! started today? What board you riding up there?
Yes it did. I just got to Timberline. I’m riding the Cadence by Arbor. It’s my park board.
What are you looking forward to there?
I use to travel with Possum Torr all the time, back in the day, and I don’t get to any more, but she’s out here with me this week, so that’s what I’m looking forward to the most!
Thanks, Stefi! Have a good time on Hood!