Grizzly Day

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Harsh reminder about frigging around under cornices and not seeing that big-ass tree in the middle of your line…

Three die in snowfields

Ben Cubby and Kerry Coleman
August 18, 2008

AN AVALANCHE in the Snowy Mountains killed one man, and two others died in skiing accidents on a day of tragedy at the NSW snowfields yesterday.

A skier was buried under several metres of snow and ice near Mount Kosciuszko about 1pm, triggering a large search and rescue operation. In separate incidents two other skiers hit trees on slopes at Perisher Blue.

The avalanche victim was a 22-year-old from Wentworth Falls. He had been skiing with four others in a remote area five kilometres from Charlotte Pass in the Kosciuszko National Park, and was caught under a collapsing cornice, or overhanging crest of hardened snow.

His companions escaped and raised the alarm about 1.30pm. Police co-ordinating the rescue called on emergency teams on snowmobiles and a rescue helicopter was brought in from Sydney.

Earlier yesterday, a 59-year-old man from St Ives, skiing a run called Outer Limits at Blue Cow, slammed into a tree and died at the scene. And as emergency personnel rushed to rescue the avalanche victim, another man died in Sun Valley at Perisher. The 48-year-old Jindabyne man had negotiated the Olympic run, regarded as challenging for experienced skiers, but lost control at the bottom and struck a tree.

By 5.45pm, the search teams had found the body of the avalanche victim where it had been buried in snow for more than four hours. “The body of a man has been found in Kosciuszko National Park following an extensive search and rescue operation this afternoon,” a police spokesman said.

The avalanche happened near Blue Lake, in a ridge area favoured by ice climbers. The temperature plunged below zero late yesterday, and rescuers had to contend with snowdrifts of up to 10 metres, said Gary Grant, the general manager of Perisher Blue.

State Emergency Service volunteers and park rangers had prepared to stay overnight at the site of the avalanche, where temperatures were expected to drop to between 5 and 10 degrees below zero.

“They’re much further out than we are and the high snowfalls we have been experiencing in the past two weeks mean search patrollers … have to deal with a lot of snow, on top of cold temperatures,” Mr Grant said.

The deaths stunned the close-knit alpine community. “Usually we only get one death in a season, but three in one day is unheard of,” a Perisher resort worker, Scott Carle, said.

Police were still trying to contact relatives of one of the dead skiers last night. It was the first time there had been multiple skiing fatalities at an Australian resort on the same day. The accidents happened in clear sunny conditions and with good snow cover.

Meanwhile, four of the six Australian climbers rescued after being trapped by heavy snow on New Zealand’s highest peak for 36 hours have arrived in Sydney.

Terry Cole, Melissa Clerke, Gerald Osman and Jennie Landon were rescued on Saturday morning after being trapped in a blizzard on Mount Cook.

Ms Clerke’s parents were critical of the lack of response from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The family had to call NZ authorities to obtain information about their daughter.

Banking on Freshies

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Lads at top of Golf Course Bowl

Apparently the Bank holiday weekend is usually the busiest of the year. Perhaps all the public servants in Canberra get the Monday off? Or maybe every bank employee in NSW hits the slopes to spend their huge dividends? Not sure, but either way I was glad I managed to catch an overnight ride to the snow on Thursday night with Matt, Phil & Dan, to get at least one day of riding in before the masses arrived.

We arrived in Thredbo carpark at 9.30am to heavy rain… uh-oh… where was the blizzard? Gradually the rain turned to sleet, & then snow! A bit soggy but smiling, we headed for the chairlifts, & although we stayed slightly damp all day, the mountain was basically empty & the fresh tracks just got deeper as the day progressed. We hooked up with 4 of Matt’s other mates, & had some awesome runs off the bluff with 7 of us racing each other back to the lift, leaving tracks like a swarm of hungry ants. Dan was having his 2nd day snowboarding ever, & was happy to mess about at Merrits all day.

Matt points out the sick freshies next to Fridays Flat

Owen rolled up from the South Coast in the evening, & met us for a thorough over-stuffing at “The Bowlo”. Saturday morning brought us blue skies & the report that 45cm of snow had fallen in the past 24hrs. Woot! Merrily we chugged up the Alpine Way, only to become stuck in a huge traffic jam 3km before the National Park gates. Noooo! It turned out there was a fatal car accident just after the gates, claiming the life of a young female ski instructor. Tragic, especially because she wasnt wearing a seatbelt – the 2 male lifties in the car walked away from the accident (they did have seat-belts on). Just goes to show you cant be too careful on those alpine roads…

Watch for that black ice, kids

Going on (erroneous) reports that the road would be closed for 4hrs+, we headed back up the road to Perisher Blue. Blue Cow & Guthega were surprisingly quiet, & after some fast freshies off the Ridge chair, we did several runs over the back of Mt. Blue Cow down to the Guthega Road, which was awesome – only 3 other tracks, nice pitch, interesting glades, rocks & trees to navigate. Guthega was also a total blast, with fast fresh lines full of wind-lips & hits that I hadnt ridden in years.

Top of the Guthega Road run

And the bottom

A tall roadside snow-wall for Oz

Anarchy in the Ski-tube

After a few drinks that night, we were reminded of how rubbish Jindabyne nightlife is, & retired to the lodge for some wine & dubstep off the laptop to send us off to sleep.

Sunday presented another cracking bluebird day, & Thredbo was oddly quiet, so we ravaged the scraps of powder near the groomers before seeking out the mythical charms of the Black Forest… This area rarely disappoints – we were greeted by completely untracked, deep, dry powder! Matt & Phil both loved it, & coped uncomplainingly with the junglist-stlyee exit ;) We scoured the rest of the resort for a few spots of fresh, but the jelly-legs soon took over & an early return orbit to space-station Sydney was launched at 3pm, with our crew of happy blizzardnauts glad to be back at mission control by 10pm.

Phil in the Phorest

Matt communing with nature

“Where’s my 9-iron?”

By Al Ferg.

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