Taking The Piste – Australia

June 25th, 2009


By Rachael Oakes-Ash

Australia has never claimed to be the big mountain tops of Austria , the deep powder of interior British Columbia or the dry snow of Utah, so why do so many Australians complain every year about skiing here?

If you’ve grown up skiing and riding in Oz then you know what it’s like to ski when it’s snowing when it’s really sleeting or is that borderline rain, you know ice is not just for the Bundaberg Rum mixed with coke back at the bar and you know that a hamburger on the hill is the price of a Wagyu beef in Sydney’s finest restaurants. That’s the point, you know it. So, if you’re going to choose to ride it, drink it and eat it then go prepared. Waterproof gear, good technique and home made sandwiches go a long way to enhancing one’s snow experience

The truth is no matter how many times you’ve heard your mate say “I’m not skiing Oz this year, no way, uh uh, it’s one overseas sojourn for me” when the snow starts falling and there’s a spare seat in the car going to Jindabyne he’s the one to nab it. Why? Because Australian snow lovers are passionate people and who can go a full twelve months without the white stuff?
There is something magical about tree skiing in the eucalypt snow gums. You can spot an Australian ski photo just by the terrain and trees alone – the view of Feathertop from Mt Hotham, Rocky Valley Dam from a Falls Creek groomer, the Thredbo flare run down Crackenback.
Every resort in Australia is unique from the pedestrian only ski in ski out village of Falls Creek where cars are left at the carpark to Mt Hotham’s ski village on top of the mountain when guests ski down to first lifts to the club feel of Charlotte Pass and the boutique fields of Selwyn and Baw Baw .

Sure the snow has more moisture than one would like but at least there is snow. But when the weather system brings the storm from the south, from the deepest depths of the Antarctic region then we’re always in for a treat with what the marketers love to call ‘Colorado style snow.’

I have been fortunate enough on numerous occasions to be in the Aussie resorts when this happens and with one turn of the skis all is forgiven and forgotten. Skiing untracked dry powder through the Bluff at Thredbo, face shots on Mt Perisher, negotiating the Maze in Falls Creek, hitting the chutes of Buller on a powder blue sky day – need we say more?

We haven’t even got to the lifties who make skiing in Oz so great. Anyone who can stand in sub zero temperatures through wind, snow, rain, sleet, mist and fog and still smile is worth their weight in Jagermeister. Yet day in day out they take it on. Why? So they can ski and snowboard on their day off. You don’t hear them complaining, they are living the dream and they’re doing it in Oz.

Sure lift passes are overpriced but if the resorts don’t make a profit or break even there will be no resorts and we’re not exactly the population of India or China. It’s a numbers game people.
Australians are good skiers and boarders and we’re found in ski resorts all over the world in mass like Whistler and Niseko or in clusters around Europe on the slopes of Verbier and Chamonix where the big people play. Russ Henshaw, Anna Segal, Torah Bright, Zali Steggall can all thank the Australian conditions for making them the champions they are today. If you can ski the worst day of an Australian season and do it in style then you can ski the world.