Thursday, July 10, 2008

Escaping the Village

It might be 70 and sunny out today, but in the Southern Hemisphere winter is quickly getting underway. Telemark instructor and guide Tom Gellie sent us this trip report from a recent tour in Australia to enjoy…

Charlotte Pass Village is a small alpine resort located in the heart of the Snowy Mountains, Australia. The village is completely snowbound during winter and only accessible by oversnow transport. It is surrounded by gnarly looking snowguns and at its peak can accommodate 600 guests. It’s the perfect place to work if you like that real community feel, and it’s my home during the Australian winter – only a stones throw away from what I believe is the best backcountry terrain in Australia.

(Tom Gellie heads out on the first tour of the year. Photos courtesy of Tom Gellie.)

I teach telemark and alpine skiing here and wash dishes to help with the airfare back to Canada each year. Last weekend my good friend Olivier and I managed to escape the village and head out for our first tour of the season. It has been a slow start for snow down here and earlier in the week we finally got 50cm so were keen to get out there. The weather on Saturday was bluebird with only a few clouds rolling in. We rolled out of bed, put the skins on and were off to ski Mt Clarke and Mt Northcote.

Mt Clarke has some nice steep, granite flanked chutes that are always great to get the adrenaline going. The snow looked very firm and wind packed from the storm but was surprisingly fantastic... almost spring-like. We both dropped in and enjoyed our first decent turns for the winter. One of the biggest differences with touring in Oz as opposed to most other countries is the low avalanche danger. We have a very stable snow pack due to the common above-zero daytime temps and below-zero night temps. This doesn’t come without a cost though as the snow conditions often become very icy.

(Snow starting to fill in the terrain.)

With the first run under our belts it was time to enjoy a ham and cheese sandwich and fresh fruit in the warmth of the Australian sun. From Clarke we skinned up the ridge and through Moraine Pass to Mt Northcote. There were some difficult spots along the way where we experienced some very icy sections. I’m sure we must have looked more like Bambi learning to walk rather than competent skiers.

(Oliver dropping in.)

On top of Northcote you get a great view back to the southern state of Victoria, still green with no snow cover, and the rest of the Main Range all white and treeless. We both smiled and agreed it was well worth the hike and nice to have escaped the village. The Northcote bowl is wide, open and asks to be skied fast. Leaving nothing but a couple of ski tracks, we made our way back to Charlotte Pass to enjoy ourselves a cold Aussie beer. It was great to be back skiing the Main Range of Australia, the place it all started for me, and I can’t wait for next weekend. I hear there’s a half-meter forecasted!

(Tom threads it through the granite.)

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