Chasing winter from Vail to Australia |

Chasing winter from Vail to Australia

Theo Stroomer/Vail DailyNigel Mills, center, and his family " clockwise from top, Andrea, Charlie, Cody, and Carter " had a family ski day at Vail on Friday.

VAIL, Colorado ” Nigel Mills’ last summer was 1983. It was perhaps a bit too summery, he remembers.

“I like to surf, but 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) is hot,” he said.

Since then it’s been nothing but winter for Mills.

The native Australian spends November through April at Vail, where he is a ski instructor. When spring comes around here, he, his wife and his three kids head to Australia, where Mills runs a ski school.

Though Mills spends the majority of the year on skis ” about 230 days ” he said he doesn’t tire of skiing.

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“Not really,” he said. “I can honesty say I don’t because I enjoy the work I do.”

You might think the summers in Eagle County are short, but some globe-hopping locals don’t see a bit of summer. They follow winter each year from hemisphere to hemisphere. Some do it because they love to teach skiing. Others just like the atmosphere of a ski resort. Others like the travel.

Michele Fuller, a ski instructor at Beaver Creek, last saw summer in 1986. She spends Colorado’s offseason in New Zealand, where she teaches skiing at a resort called Coronet Peak. Even though she doesn’t see true summer, the milder winters in New Zealand are a welcomed change of pace, she said.

“I really like what I do,” she said. “I enjoy the atmosphere and the outdoors. The nice thing about winter in New Zealand is it’s not like the winter in Colorado. You can get on your mountain bike or go golfing or get in the garden. … It’s not like you’re surrounded by snow.”

She hops the globe because she just loves to teach skiing, she said.

“If I stop this, I might realize what I’m missing,” said Fuller, who has permanent residency status in New Zealand in addition to her American citizenship. “I pinch myself everyday.”

Marian Little, a bus driver for the town of Vail, splits her time between Vail and her native New Zealand. But for Little, following winter isn’t about the skiing.

“The weird thing is I don’t ski or snowboard,” Little said. “I just really enjoy it here.”

This is her seventh season in Vail. Perhaps the upside of double winters is you get double springs, too.

“You get to have a little bit of spring, depending on where you are,” she said.

Dennis Hammond, another town of Vail bus driver, spends winters in Vail and winters at Mount Buller, a ski resort in Australia.

But it’s not like Hammond hates summer.

“I absolutely love summer,” he said.

What he likes about shuttling from hemisphere to hemisphere is being in ski resorts, he said.

“It’s taken me a long time to figure out, but what I really like is working with tourists,” he said. “Working in a holiday atmosphere.”

Hammond skis about 14-15 days at Vail, but doesn’t really ski in Australia, he said.

“I’m not a snow junkie,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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