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Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Snowy Mountains

If there's one thing I didn't expect to be doing in Australia it was snowboarding. Where exactly would you go snowboarding on the world's driest continent? Surfing certainly, there's a fair bit of coastline, but snow was not amongst my thoughts when I moved here. But snow there is. Atop the imaginitively titled "Snowy Mountains" sits a layer of skiiable snow for two months a year...


"Look Bruce, mountains."
"Stone me they're beautiful Bruce. What's that white stuff on the top of 'em?"
"Well I guess that would be snow mate."
"What the bloody hell shall we call these snow capped mountains mate?"
"Well, we need something descriptive but original. Something distinctive that encapsulates our pragmatic national character, our utilitariam literalism, doggedness and frontier spirit."
"Er...how about Oowoga Loonga Wooratoowa."
"...You weren't listening to me, were you Bruce."
"Sorry mate, I was thinking about beer. How about ...The Snowy Mountains."
"Good on yer."

The Snowy Mountains are a fair bit lower than the European mountains I've been to, top station on Mount Perisher is only 2,014 metres ("It's bastard cold up here Bruce, what shall we call this perishing cold mountain?"). The mountains are also a bit flatter with more of a bowl effect to them which means that the marked pistes only denote groomed snow, you can go across pretty much any bit of the mountain. The snow was a bit slushy because of the absolutely blazing sunshine. In retrospect I should have put some sunscreen on in the morning as by lunchtime I was crisping up nicely. Panda eyes are not a great look, red panda eyes even less so.

Perisher was less technical than European mountains but there are a lot of trees and some fairly sizeable "unmarked obstacles", or bloody enourmous rocks to give them their full name. This does mean that there are some pretty tidy little bouncy jumps to have a go at all the way down the mountain. Your average run would have you haring down the hill dodging trees and keeping a little wide on the track to find the bumps to jump off and then having to hold your speed accross a wide flat section to reach a steeper narrow section leading back to the lifts. The runs are not very long but they are good fun.

The lifts by comparison were bloody awful. Not one of them had footrests meaning that by the end of the day your left leg felt somewhat longer than the right. If the wind started to blow the board caught in it and started dragging you under the restraining bar, if there was one. One lift we went on looked like it had been constructed by sawing narrow park benches in two and welding poles to them. These didn't just lack a footrest but also a restraining bar. In place of this was a piece of light steel hawser that had a socket clip on the other side of the chair, it was a very long way from reasssuring. It wasn't a great option but the alternative was the longest, steepest most painful T-bar it has been my misfortune to experience.

For those who have never tried snowboarding try to imagine being given a roughly T-shaped rod and, standing on your board being dragged up the mountain by hooking this inside your front thigh. Needless to say it isn't my favourite way to travel. The picture makes this look pretty easy and for the first three times you do it in a day it is, then it begins to ache a little and then it begins to really hurt until finally you consider purchasing a team of huskies and learning to drive them simply to avoid having to do it again. Actually, that's not a bad idea...hmmmm....husky boarding eh?....

At the bottom of the mountain there was a fair bit of wildlife, much of it roadkill but much more of it alive and weird. We saw wombat and a lot of roo (collective noun: mob or troop). Wombats are very strange things, like someone was trying to breed a footrest to go with their sofa. Apparently they scarper pretty quickly if you walk towards them, I can't say they look like they're capable of anything other than lumbering. "...of course they're all called wally..." said our septegenarian driver. Of course they are.