Louis Macindoe throwing hammers in Perisher Image:: Tom Hannam
OPENING WEEKEND WRAP UP | Alex Horvath
Winter 2012 launched across the weekend to the tune of glorious fine and sunny weather with light winds and excellent early season snow. The resorts were stoked to officially hit the switch on lifts early Saturday morning and riders were able to make the most of the best conditions we have seen on opening weekend for a number of years.
Even though the sun was shining the temperatures remained mild, this acted to keep the snow pack intact and so at this point we don't seem to be losing snow, as can often happen during mild days early season.
The Mt Buller community gathers to celebrate the opening of the brand new Bonza chairlift Image::Harro
To the south in Victoria Falls Creek opened three lifts, Mt Hotham switched on four, including the Summit Quad for the first time since opening weekend of winter 2000. Mt Buller fared worse then the other Victorian resorts after the system of last week delivered mostly rain, excellent efforts by the snow making team meant that resort management opened Bourke st on a base of man made snow. Mt Baw Baw opened the Tank Hill lift and to celebrate the early opening they let everyone ski for free.
When asked about conditions across the weekend Tony "Harro" Harrington said, "There was enough snow making on Bourke Street to keep the hordes more than happy with enough terrain and Mt Buller Park crew put in a small box that kept all the grommets stoked for the whole weekend. Buller also unveiled a new chair lift called the "Bonza", the only resort in Australia to do so in 2012. Buller is the only resort in Australia to have built new chairlifts in the past seven years and this is the third."
Conditions across the NSW resorts were amazing, Thredbo kicked things into gear by opening 100% of terrain around the Cruiser Quad providing something to shred for all levels of skiers and boarders. Gunbarrel chair opened providing access to High Noon Supertrail and a small terrain park, the ability to open this terrain so early is testament to Thredbo's snowmaking and grooming abilities. Next door in Perisher strong natural snowfall last week combined with excellent snow making infrastructure enabled them to operate 10 lifts across two resort areas, Smiggins and Front Valley, including the quad chair to mid-station.
Mt Buller installed a flat box to get the keep the jibbers stoked Image::Harro
Perisher wins the prize for the best early season terrain park that included an assortment of well placed jibs and a 25 ft jump, this meant that some of Australia's top freestyle athletes could be seen showing off their new tricks learnt during a long season of northern hemisphere competition and training. Australia's talent pool is high and this seasons competition schedule is not one to miss.
Through the afternoon and evening the excitement of a new winter season was celebrated in style with some very lively après sessions that continued through the night. The Snowy Mountains of Music festival in Perisher saw 250 artists perform across 8 on-snow venues. Mountainwatch's own Reggae Elliss said, "It was the best opening weekend here in a decade - and that's not including the snow!"
"Thredbo's occupancy was over 80%, making it the busiest opening weekend since 2000. While there was a very good cover on Merritts, High Noon and Friday Flat, the village was pumping with live music, a massive long-lunch in the village square, fashion parade and a welcome to Winter Ball with plenty on for the kids. The feedback was all positive and all about having fun" said Reggae.
If lift lines on the weekend are any indication of the general publics eagerness to go riding this year then I think that resort managers will be rubbing their hands in excitement. Huge crowds descended on all resorts and this really does show that the Australian ski community is continuing to grow and grow. Competition for your winter tourism dollar is higher then ever, so be on the lookout for great offers by your favourite destinations.
Another beautiful alpine sunset over the Leichardt area Image::Perisher
The Grasshopper has laid down the law in his latest forecast and is tipping Sunday to be the day of heaviest snowfalls for the system appearing on the horizon, "So in a nutshell, a mix of rain and snow Thursday afternoon and evening, tending to patchy snow Friday and then continuing on and off through Saturday and Sunday. Sunday is my pick for the best accumulation." said the forecasting guru.
The biggest question of this time of year is always exactly how much snow will we get? Always keen to make the big calls The Grasshopper said, "Everything going to plan, Hotham to Perisher should pick up between 10 and 20cm, with a bit less further south and west. Some may be luckier than others but right now it's hard to tell who's in the bullseye."
The latest snow depth courtesy of Snowy Hydro is 37.5 cm, as this base starts to accumulate we will begin to see the resorts open more and more terrain. In the meantime we all wait in eager anticipation of those first few pow turns for season 2012!
Sunrise over Mt Hotham Image::Hotham Alpine Resort
For regular weather updates stay tuned to The Grasshopper's daily detailed forecasts, also keep an eye out for Reggae's video reports providing the latest vision from the mountains.