There’s a facebook photo album of the trip here >> http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=290676&id=854415283&l=714272549c

Despite the marginal season, I enjoyed a relaxing 3 days up at the Aussie Alps last week with my mate Mr X (who must remain anonymous for legal reasons).

After spending June & July agonising over a stream of unreliable weather forecasts, It was time to bite the bullet & hope for the best. The Frog had been predicting snow all week (& he just happened to be in Thredbo during this time) but alas, it amounted to nothing much. I suspect I used up all my allocated snow-luck in Europe earlier this year, where I scored fresh snow & sunny days for 2 weeks, so mustn’t grumble!

Before heading off for my first Aussie snow mission for 2009, some last-minute maintenance was required – I had to rebuild a broken binding (I snapped the heel on 2 left-foot bindings while in Europe – no idea how!). I also discovered I have an enormous stash of redundant snowboard paraphernalia.
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The monday evening drive down to the Alps was a bit on the warm side, & on Tuesday morning we awoke to bucketing rain at the lodge. It was all too easy to roll over & go back to sleep… When I woke, some lodge members said it was raining on the hill. I should know better than to listen to what the average lodge punter says – 90% of them have only been 1/2 way up the hill & are strictly fair-weather skiers. Later I learned that conditions were quite good higher up the mountain, with a few cm of new snow, plenty of windblown, & other than the early downpour, it was only spitting in the village… Anyway, I was easily convinced to spend a day chilling at the lodge, & went for a little bush-walk around the property, then chilled with a book by the fireplace – very civilised!

New cabins at the lodge
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View from the top of the hill behind the lodge
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Border of the lodge’s property
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Wednesday morning the report was lame again – 2cm of new snow on the peaks, drizzle down lower. We did a few runs on the Super Trail which had a nice dusting on the top section, with perfect groomer action lower down. The border-cross down “Meadows” (next to World cup) was fast & fun. I braved the planet Hoth conditions at Basin/Karels (while Mr X went to solve his fogged up goggle problem) & was rewarded with 6 laps in untracked windblown! Very nice. Visibility was variable, but there was just enough definition from the rocks to see which way was down. The trickiest bit was hopping through the gaps in the rocks on the ridge – I came badly unstuck there when I slammed a huge boulder that I couldn’t see until it was 2m in front of me – I could easily have broken some bones, so was quite pleased to get off lightly with a sprained finger & ankle, & minimal board damage.

there must be a pot of gold under the till at the not-so-cheap-anymore Thredbo Bakery…
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The Basin aka Planet Hoth
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The snow on the upper mountain was starting to get warm & tending to ice-cream consistency, & the lower mountain was a giant slurpee by now, which is actually a lot of fun, so we slapped the slush around on Bushranger & the nice front-side hits on Bunny Walk. Lunch at the not-so-cheap-anymore Bakery, then a few afternoon laps of the (now soupy) Super Trail & we headed back to the cosy lodge early.

Mr X scores first tracks
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After learning that Charlottes Pass scored 8cm (I know – big whoopee – but beggars cant be choosers!) the day before, we figured that we might as well check it out, as both Mr X & I had always wondered what it was like, so why not check it out when it’s crap everywhere else anyway. So Thursday morning we drove around to Perisher & hopped straight onto a caterpillar bus to Charlottes Pass. The snow was so slushy that the cat could hardly grip it – we slipped around the place often treading water (literally!) in low gear! It was like driving on melted gelato. The bus also vibrates intensely, which has the pleasing effect of a massage chair, so we blissed out on that for the whole 30min drive – looxury ;)

The slusherpillar bus
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On arrival at Charlottes Pass, I was struck by the sheer cuteness of the place. It’s just so unlike the usual skiing in Australia experience. The village is tiny & clustered around the single pub/restaurant, & everything is right next to the ski lifts. There are hardly any people around – mostly families with small kids. It’s very quiet – no cars of course – just the occasional caterpillar bus or skidoo to break the silence. I would love to take the whole family there for a week one season -it’s ideal for small kids.

The Charlotte Pass secret space-rocket launching facility
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I just love these caterpillar tracks
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The whole area was shrouded in fog, so visibility was seriously limited, but we managed to pick our way down from the double chair finding a few choice boulders to drop on the next run. The snow was soft & largely untracked at the top, gradually turning to sticky ice-cream 1/2 way down, so you had to keep on the trails to maintain any sort of speed. We explored the main area within an hour, & soon found the fastest snow was right down the t-bar & poma lines. In most resorts, you get a sound spanking from ski patrol if you ride the lift lines – but in Charlotte Pass, we actually asked the lifties if it was ok, & they all said “Ride where you like, as long as you don’t hit anyone”. So we proceeded to session the t-bar lines most of the day, catching untracked ice-cream & rock-drops at the top, then blasting in & out of the faster snow to the bottom. It was like some of the t-bar areas at Persisher-Bliue, bit steeper overall, & with much more interesting terrain.

Gradually the fog lifted, revealing some nice trees right off to skiers left which looked like they would be well worth exploring on a powder day. By this time I had a nice little jump circuit worked out, & was pleased to find that despite lack of practice I can still throw a 360 (backside & frontside switch) off a reasonable sized lump :)

Charlotte Pass panoramas (click to enlarge)
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All the staff were mellow & friendly, & told us you can easily get fresh tracks for 2 days after a dump. Given how quiet the place was, & the fact that its 99% beginners & families, I’m sure this is true. I’ll be back next powder day for sure :)

In the interests of getting home at a reasonable hour, we headed back to the lodge early, had a civilised shower then an easy drive home via the Cooma food factory, according to LPL tradition :)

The rest of August is looking distinctly un-wintery, so fingers & toes crossed for a cold blast in September…