Words | Chris Booth
Tamara Bell is 19 this year and very pretty. Two years ago she finished school and got into Sydney University studying arts. She enjoyed her first year, making plenty of new friends and broadening her horizons. She worked jobs here and there to fund her fashion habit and weekend party lifestyle, living from boyfriend to boyfriend and enjoying the moments that came her way. She even occasionally popped up in the social pages – but this was more on acount of her prettiness than anything else.
But something was missing. You see, ever since finishing high school she had never really done anything. She was living at home, going to the same places with the same people – for the same thrills. She never bothered with the whole ‘gap year’ thing. A few months ago Tamara decided she was living a variation of a very common theme. So Tamara decided to get out.
Tamara is dropping uni next semester. She’s bumming a seat in her brother’s mate’s car and heading to the mountains to be a… liftie. Yep, her dream is to pull tees and unhook punters from chairlifts. I would be amused to hear this from the hardiest ski bums, but for it to come from the lips of such a delicate, society-loving little Sydney girl is beautiful, surpassed only by the naivety required to believe in it.
Tamara just bought a new outfit and board, and yes, it matches. She leaves for the mountains this Thursday.
Image | Harro
Stan and Amelia have been lodge managers in Perisher on and off for over 20 years. Once school teachers on the south coast – imprinting Australian history into young minds and doling out detentions to those less enthused with Algebra, they traded in the chalk and packed lunches for a life less ordinary. The following years were divided into seasons; winters spent cooking for guests at Cronulla lodge in Perisher and summers guiding corporate types on eco tours through Tasmania’s wild west coast. Mortgages were something their friends had and owning a car under 10 years old was considered plain arrogant. Occasionally they would throw it all in and head to Europe for a few months, then often they found it hard to come home. But one thing always drew them back, the Aussie winter. Plainly aware of the unreliable snowfalls, the three-course-meals-each-night grind and the relentless aller-retour to Jindy for supplies, Stan and Amelia have always come back. It’s the frosted gum trees, they reckon.
This week Stan and Amelia are stocking the troopy with cooking essentials and fresh produce in preparation for the first intake of guests at the weekend. Stan had a stroke last year and Amelia’s hip is not what it used to be. This winter they are promising themselves, as they have before, that this will be their last season.
Image | Hansen
Paul Jillian is a ski instructor. Paul is one of the original ski bums, one of the blokes who’s best days on snow pre-date snowmaking, who skied Perisher before it went ‘Blue’ and when ‘freeride’ meant hitching to the mountain from the roundabout near BP. Paul started out teaching snow-ploughs on Front Valley by day and flogging himself at the pub by night. Ski Instructing was at first just a winter job for kicks, with the rest of the year spent doing his bakers apprenticeship in Newcastle. But Paul needed more kicks, so his summers soon turned into winters. Paul spent the next ten years between Perisher and Austria – where he got his full credentials and taste for Jaegermeister. Things really bumped up a gear though when he moved to Aspen. Paul’s happy-go-lucky Aussie mentality combined with his Austrian-grounded technical know-how made him quite the draw-card among the visiting clientele and soon enough he had a rolodex of cashed-up New Yorkers employing him as a private from week to week. The tips were off the charts. He’d reached the top of the game. Paul was then diagnosed with cancer.
Now in remission, Paul is at home in Newcastle working as a rep for a local importer. He tells me that when things got tough during chemo, he would put on his ski boots and sit on the couch in front of the telly. He is sitting this winter out, but is planning a comeback for winter 2011.
Image | Harro
I’m Chris Booth, 22 years old and a struggling student. I’m struggling because my final exams are in 12 days and I can’t concentrate. I’m struggling because whereas all the other students in my course look out the window and see rain, I see potential snow. I’m struggling because while other people walk around wrapped up in scarves with brows desperately furrowed, cursing the cold and their runny noses, I breathe it in. I’m struggling because this weekend ends the countdown that has been in my head since I got home from a heli trip in Alaska in March. I’m struggling because the snow, the mountains and the excitement are not what I am supposed to be focusing on right now.
I’m afflicted. Skiing is the one thing that will prevent me from ever leading a normal life, even thinking about it gets me jittery and excited and I can’t sit still. And I don’t think I’m alone.
I welcome the June long-weekend, the official start of winter.