Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Opening the Account – Skiing Australia in May

We experienced some crazy weather late last week. A bitterly cold, windy and snowy system smashed the south east of Australia. Up in the mountains, we received our first major snowfalls of the year.

Snowy Perisher car park

All shut up at the Parks office

My buddy James was fortuitously in town for work and we planned our first turns for the season for Saturday morning.

After spending a long time trying to find my gear, we were off up the hill to Perisher. The roads are very poorly managed outside of the official ski season, sections of bullet proof ice and snow drifts were common. We also came across a number of cars off the road and some that had been abandoned. At one stage we passed the Fire Brigade 4WD coming down a hill towards us, sideways. The fellas in the car reminded me of laughing clowns from a town fair.

Road carnage

Icy roads and abandoned car at Smiggin Holes

Although the road hadn’t been cleared we continued past Perisher village up to Mt Perisher. We went for a quick ski up Towers from the Mt Perisher base station. When the resort is opened, I like to ski Towers as fast as possible. Sadly, despite the 30cm of fresh snow, the lack of base meant that any turn could leave you tangled in up in errant shrubbery preventing speeds greater than granny pace. Indeed, it was a good test for my Dynafit bindings as one such bush stopped my skis dead leading to a double ejection over the handle bars into my first face plant for the season.

Not the best skiing

James on Towers run Mt Perisher

After our run down Towers it was back to the car. The road still hadn’t been cleared and we soon got stuck trying to drive back down to Perisher Village. James had some chains which we fitted and got out of there.

A few dramas after our crappy ski
That night, while enjoying a raging hot vindaloo curry, we planned our activities for Sunday. The weather was forecast to improve, and if the roads had been cleared we decided to hit the Main Range for some proper touring.

A bacon and egg roll and a coffee cleared the lingering cobwebs from the beers consumed the previous night. Driving up the hill, the weather was much improved, clear skies and heaps of snow.

Looking good on the Main Range

Unfortunately, the road still had not been cleared and chains were again needed.

Roads still not cleared

James was getting good at putting the chains on

Eventually we reached a point where we couldn’t get through even with the chains. We parked the car got our gear together and began the long trek out to the Main Range. We first negotiated the only just covered walking track down to the Snowy River.

Survival skiing over the pavers to the Snowy River
The Snowy was frozen and we took great care on the stepping stones not to fall in. James crossed effortlessly while I dropped my skis in the water and crawled on hands on knees on a couple of the more awkward stones.

Snowy River crossing

Skins were put on and the familiar touring gait assumed after months on the back burner as we made our way out to Mt Northcote.

Heading out to Mt Northcote

Me admiring the Carruthers chutes

We climbed up Mt Clark from the Club Lake Creek and we greeted with our first view over the range to the west. We could see the snow on Mt Bogong, around 100km away

Mt Bogong shows itself over the clouds from Mt Clarke

I watched James score some nice turns for the first 50m or so and then heard an all too familiar sound out in the Australian BC, ice. Somehow, despite the stable cold temperatures over the weather event, many aspects had become horribly icy.

James, first real turns for the season

My first turns, good to be back into it

Another quick break and it we were back on the climb heading up to Mt Lee.

The slog up Mt Lee
We had planned a run on Mt Lee but it looked too icy so we continued onto Carruthers hoping to at least enjoy the view from Australia’s third highest peak if the skiing was to be no good.

Heading towards Carruthers Peak
And what a view it is! The clouds rolling in added extra drama to the already dramatic crags of the western faces.

Best view in Australia?

We spent some time taking photos and enjoying the view. It was so nice up on the peak, I felt like having a nap. Usually it would be a great ski with 300m of vertical and then around 3km gentle rolling country back to the Snowy River but it was not to be, the ice awaited. We battled our way back taking the odd turn in the wind blown snow whenever we could.

The climb back up to the car, around 100m or so of vertical, was painful for my shell shocked feet. It wasn’t too long before they were released from their plastic prisons and we were off back down the finally cleared road.


  1. Nice photos! Our ski season is pretty much over here. Except for Mt. Hood - they ski nearly year round at Timberline ski area.

  2. Hi Linda, would love to ski Oregon one day. Had a great ski at Mt Baker last year!

    Thanks Ozgirl!

  3. Thanks Jeremy. Nice work getting the packraft onto Bondi, there must have been quite a few confused tourists!