Tag Archives: Perisher

The Snow Job – Friday Fictioneers.

The instant Inge saw the ad, she leaped at the chance to work on the Australian ski fields. Skiing was in her blood. Yet, although her parents had met at the Nagano Olympics and ran the ski school in Grosser Arber, Inge hadn’t claimed it as her own. Rather, it took crossing that vast expanse of desert they called “the Nullarboring”, to get a sense of who she was and claim skiing as her own.

However, as the bus headed into Perisher, something was wrong. Where were the mountains? What about the snow?

All she wanted was a white Christmas.

——-

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields The photo prompt for this week was kindly provided by © Dale Rogerson.

I have crossed the Nullarbor by car, train and plane and personally, I find something inspirational in that vast expanse of seeming nothingness. It reminds me of Jesus going out into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. There’s so much space, that your thoughts can just keep going and going and going without being pinned in by concrete and steel.

The Nullarbor Plain (/ˈnʌlərbɔːr/ NUL-ər-bor; Latin: nullus, “no”, and arbor, “tree”[1]) is part of the area of flat, almost treeless, arid or semi-arid country of southern Australia, located on the Great Australian Bight coast with the Great Victoria Desert to its north. It is the world’s largest single exposure of limestone bedrock, and occupies an area of about 200,000 square kilometres (77,000 sq mi).[2] At its widest point, it stretches about 1,100 kilometres (684 mi) from east to west across the border between South Australia and Western Australia -Wikipaedia.

BTW thought you might appreciate reading my Valentine’s Day post about the snow bear’s search for love Snowy…A Valentine’s Day Hopeful.

xx Rowena

 

 

Miscellaneous Mutterings

Since I’ve been doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, I’ve developed some kind of additional neurosis…some kind of mutation, which has been completely overlooked by the DSM Manual, otherwise known as “the psychologists’ Bible”.

M is for Monkey

M is for Monkey

Every morning, no sooner than I’ve inhaled my kick-starting coffee, it all begins. I start jibber-jabbering away to myself and all sorts of words start cycling and recycling through my clunky head as I try to pick my word to go with the day’s letter. You see, I am now halfway through the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and with each passing day, the jibber-jabbering is only getting worse…the proverbial broken record.

Being a new recruit to the challenge, I didn’t realise until it all got underway that people generally write to a theme and turn it into quite a project. That’s right. This challenge goes way beyond simply reciting the alphabet and writing about “A is for apple”. My theme has ended up being “A few of my favourite things” and I’ve also been following the challenge on other blogs where I’ve been blown away by the amount of research involved and have learned so much!!

M is for Monster

M is for Monster

While I have written a list of topics for each letter, some days I’ve revisited it and changed my mind.

For some reason, trying to pick something for M today has had me muttering more than usual.

Mummy

Mummy

In a sense, M has to be Mummy, which I guess could also be M for Me. However, the trouble with writing about my journey as a Mum or about myself as “Mummy” is to come up with an angle that isn’t sickly sweet and sugar-coated or isn’t some never-ending whinge to end all whinges, leaving you all wondering why I ever had kids and thinking I don’t deserve them.

Next.

I did consider M for Manual, as in receiving a parenting manual when you give birth so you know what to do. After all, here in Australia, you have to sit a tough written test to get your Learner’s Permit before you can even start learning to drive a car Yet, when it comes to becoming a parent and leaving the hospital with your bundle of joy, there is no test. No licence required. You’re just left on your “pat malone” with what often turns out to be, quite a complex little bundle.

However, once I explored the manual concept further, I actually decided that I really didn’t want a manual or any kind of prescription telling me how to parent my kids. After all, being a bit of a free-thinking, creative type whose journey pretty much goes off road well beyond the road less traveled, I don’t want to create a pair of robots and I really don’t want to become a robot myself. I do try to have a routine during term time but come school holidays, I really do like to mix it up a bit, go away and explore something new but also just hang out. We all need to recharge a bit for another school term.

So, before I’d even written a word, I’d eliminated Mummy, motherhood, parenting manual and if you knew me in real time, you’d know that minimalist isn’t me. No, it’s definitely not me at all although I do appreciate those that fastidiously declutter their homes. They drop all sorts of fascinating treasures off at the op shop, which I snap and re-house. After all, treasure should never be homeless. We just need to get a bigger home or open a museum.

G'day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can't even remember their best friend's name.

G’day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can’t even remember their best friend’s name.

I had originally been intending to write about miracles, which ties into what became something of a life mission to “turn my mountain around”. You see, I have an auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis as well as a neurological condition, hydrocephalus, which both give me some mobility challenges. In 2012, our family went on our first trip to the snow and although the rest of the family was going skiing, I didn’t think I could do it. Instead, I bought a pair of snow boots and intended to photograph the snow instead. However, on arrival, we spotted the Paraolympic ski team, who were out zooming down the slopes on sit skis.  This sowed a seed of doubt and I started to wonder whether I, too, could ski. We had a chat with them and they introduced me to the Disabled Winter Sports Association. We couldn’t get organised in time for that trip but I set myself a goal for the following year to ski down the mountain and in effect, turn my mountain around. In what really was quite a miracle, although it also took a fairly large dose of courage and encouragement from the family and my ski instructor, I made it down the mountain and turned my mountain around going down instead of up the mountain.

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby Published by Templar Publishing

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby
Published by Templar Publishing

I was so excited and on such a high, that I forgot all about the laws of physics and that what goes up, must come down.

Before we’d even left the skifields, I developed the first signs of a chest infection, which despite preventative measures, turned into a life-threatening bout of pneumonia and my auto-immune disease flared up and was attacking my lungs. Before I knew it, my life was flashing before my eyes and instead of being on top of the world, I was having chemo and fighting for my life.

Of course, this totally flipped my mountain back around and in the process it turned dark, stormy and very foreboding.

This wasn’t how my story, the motivational book I was working towards, was supposed to end up. This wasn’t the plot I’d worked out. No, it was anything but. I put the book writing plans on hold. Indeed, I was so sick that I didn’t have a choice.

You can read about my ski challenge here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/turning-my-mountain-around/

However, if you know anything about Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey, you’ll know that any journey has it’s complications or challenges but that doesn’t mean that’s where the journey ends. No, instead, we’re supposed to tackle those complications and work them  out and ultimately reach that perfect happy ending. We just need to make sure we don’t give up half way before things start turning around and starting to work out. Moreover, once we reach that happy state we need to end that journey before another journey begins, taking us to a completely new destination with a whole new set of complications, challenges and rewards.

While at first thought, it might seem desirable to get rid of all the mountains in our way to make the road smooth, without these mountains, we would never be stretched and grow to take on tougher challenges. We’d never find out what we are made of. This would be a serious loss because, through my own journey, I’ve truly come to appreciate that each of us is truly capable of doing and being way more than we ever thought possible.

Indeed, each of us is a living, breathing human miracle.

We just need to believe.

It seems that I should have had a bit more faith in my miscellaneous mutterings. It’s been quite an interesting journey and I actually found a destination after all.

Indeed, it could even be motivational.

xx Rowena

PS Geoff was doing a few miscellaneous mutterings of his own today after driving the kids all the way to their Scout Camp and finding out our daughter;’s daypack had been left behind. Unfortunately, she’d put most of her essentials inside and so a very loving Dad is driving all the way back to Nelson Bay to drop it off again tomorrow. Mutter…mutter…mutter!

PPS: Bilbo, our Border Collie, has added his howls to the mutterings tonight. Somehow, he managed to fall in the swimming pool. I had a friend over for dinner and we heard a splash follow by a few more splashes and the poor boy was desperately trying to pull himself out. I am so relieved I was within ear shot. Poor Bilbo. He doesn’t even like to get his paws wet so this was really quite an ordeal!!

Skiing Like A Banana

Just to recap, I am skiing down at Perisher with my husband and two kids. While the rest of the family are good skiers, I have a muscle wasting disease which also affects my lungs as well as a neurological condition. I have joined the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association (DWA) and am having daily lessons with a private ski instructor who has adaptive ski training credentials. Last year, I managed to ski down Perisher’s Front Valley and after subsequently being severely ill, I am trying to ski down the mountain again…turn my mountain around. This is my personal challenge and it’s definitely not a piece of cake!

Welcome to Day 3.

I was seriously intending to tackle the mountain today but I was feeling quite unsteady on my feet and giddy getting my ski boots on. I was also a bit short of breath. Decided to play it safe and spend another day on the magic carpet…the beginners run. Don’t want weird medical stuff happening out there on the mountain. No nasty surprises.

At the same time, this being day 3 and I was still on the magic carpet, I was starting to wonder. Was I playing it too safe? Why couldn’t I just catapult myself out there and do it? I knew I could do it so what was holding me back?

In retrospect, timing is everything. The time has to be right and like an egg about to hatch, the chick inside has to be ready to come out. A yolk is never going to survive. It’s way too early and it has to wait.

Of course, this kind of thinking goes quite against the grain in our modern fast-paced automatic world. Everything has to be instant…immediate. When there isn’t the time for things to ripen naturally, we blast it with chemical sprays or other accelerants and make it happen now…ready or not.

I can’t operate like that. I have to take it slow…inch by painstaking inch. Being slow, isn’t something that wins you many medals. At least not upfront but the rewards are there in the long run. You are still standing to collect your medal at the end of the race. Just ask Winter Olympic Gold Medal Skater, David Bradbury.

I christened myself the “Queen of the Carpet” half in pride, as a bit of a joke but there was also an undercurrent of sadness. I wanted to be a real skier and get out there on the big slopes. Get out of the nest. Surrounded by kids and parents wielding cameras, iphones, ipads and anything they could to capture their little darlings for eternity, I had clearly outgrown the nest.

At the same time, I was working hard on my techniques and was developing the skills that would get me down the mountain upright on two skis feeling positive about the experience instead of being scared out of my wits and or crashing all the way downhill and vowing never to ski again. For me, having that positive experience is way more important than collecting notches on my ski pole.

However, although I was merely going up and down the beginner’s carpet, I was focusing on improving my techniques and was really improving. It was a definite case of slow and steady wins the race but I was still in the nest and to win the race, you have to compete.

I don’t know what most skiers aim to achieve at the snow. Whether it’s a matter of actually learning how to ski and understanding what’s involved and working on your technique or whether they just want to get down the mountain anyway they can… as long as it’s not in a box.

It probably depends on how long you’re staying and whether you’ve caught “the bug”. We go down for 5 day blocks and find that really enables us to not only pick up where we left off last year but also to extend ourselves. Skiing is a dangerous sport and even if you’re being cautious, you can still get mowed down by someone else and pay the ultimate price.

This more cautious approach is quite different from skiing down a run and ticking it off your list. Our son told us that one of the boys in ski school had gone down an advanced black run and he was very impressed. However, when we quizzed him further, it turned out that the boy fell down the whole way and that didn’t count.

So here I was on Day 3 back on the magic carpet yet again but this time with my new instructor, Mark.

After living and breathing through my big toe yesterday, today Mark was teaching me to ski like a banana. Of course, I didn’t have to dress up like B1 or B2 from Bananas in Pyjamas. All I had to do was lean over my downhill ski like a banana.

I’m not too proud to admit that I found all this banana talk very helpful. It was something I could picture immediately and understand. At the same time, leaning over my downhill ski felt all wrong and back to front. After all, shouldn’t I be leaning uphill, away from the slope? Leaning downhill made no sense at all. Wouldn’t I fall over? Then again, I’ve never been good at physics.

In addition to learning to ski like a banana, Mark introduced me to the Eiffel Tower, this time as a how NOT to ski. This is where you ski with your legs wide apart and you’re body is in an A-frame, like the Eiffel Tower. Instead, I needed to ski with my legs together keeping my skis parallel.

There was motive in all this Eiffel Tower and banana talk. The plan was to improve my turning so I could use turning to stop and slow down instead of relying on snowploughing, which is really tough on your legs. Considering that my legs experience noticeable muscle weakness, I particularly need to be strategic and take advantage of any strategies I can to save my strength. That’s not simply being lazy but strategic. However, skiing without snowplowing felt like riding a bike down a steep hill without brakes…unnerving if not outright terrifying. However, my skiing had improved and it was time to leave the brakes behind and move on…onward and upward!

At the same time, leaving snowploughing behind felt really strange because it’s really hammered into you as a rank beginner. Like many other skills, you often have to unlearn what you know to progress to the next level…as strange as that might feel at the time.

We all have to graduate and leave the nest.

Indeed, that was the next thing on the agenda. How was I going to get down the mountain? Instead of skiing down Front Valley like I did last year which is fairly steep and very scary, the new plan was for me to try Happy Valley. I’d never been down there but at least the name sounded right. The plan was for me to get towed across to the Quad Chair. Get off at Mid-Station and ski down Happy Valley and then take the Happy Valley T-Bar back up to Mid-Station and then for me to somehow get my skis back down without me while I take the Quad Chair back down as a foot passenger.

The usual thing is to ski down Happy Valley and take the Happy Valley T-Bar up and then to ski down Front Valley. This was too much for me in one hit and so we needed to cut a few corners. However, as you can see, there’s a small hitch to the plan…

How do my skis get back down without me?

Hmm, interesting challenges ahead.

That night, the family went out for dinner and I asked Geoff and the kids for their advice. We had quite a long family discussion about how I should proceed. As much as I had outgrown the beginner’s magic carpet, it was quite awkward to get me to the next level…to take on mountains other than Front Valley.

Decided to have a chat with them at the booking desk tomorrow to see what they recommend. Despite all my procrastination, I really am needing to leave the nest and venture onto some “grown-up” slopes.

Moving onward and upward…I hope!

Beware of the Big Ski Toe!

“…the wind began to moan and groan:

away off in the distance she seemed to hear

a voice crying –

“Who’s got my hairy toe?

Who’s got my hairy toe”

So there I was out on the magic carpet on Day 2. Initially, we were going to ski across to the quad chair and head over to Happy Valley. However, my lesson was at 3.00 and so I’d done an hour of practice that morning and my legs were tired and almost out of action. That meant that we stayed on the carpet to improve my technique instead.

While this might seem less challenging than taking on the mountain, it was hard work. We were almost moving in slow motion to improve my technique and my muscles were working hard. Ursina addressed this directly. By working on my technique and how I positioned my weight and my body, the aim was to ski more efficiently. In particular, the plan was to snowplough less and to use my turns to slow me down which put much less pressure on my legs. Of course, I felt quite awkward trying to get my body and my brain to work together when they were both feeling equally awkward and jerky. I really had to switch my brain into high gear and it was jolting in protest all the way.

Not unsurprisingly, I’ve never been an athlete and aside from my violin lessons (yes, playing the violin is physical as much as musical), I haven’t given much thought to which body part you stick where to maximise performance. I’m not that into physics or how things work either. I just like to press a button and everything goes! It just goes!!

While I had been a bit apprehensive about having a different instructor, the lesson went really well and I was comfortable straight away. Indeed, I had 3 different instructors during the week and this turned out really well. They were all adaptive ski instructors, which means they are specially trained to teach people with disabilities and serious illness. Yet, what I found particularly beneficial was that each of my instructors had their own perspective or box of tricks and this really helped to consolidate my technique and I improved so much. Of course, it was also very beneficial to have private lessons so we could work intimately on my technique one-on-one. This meant that we were focusing on exactly what I needed to change to improve. That’s the benefit of having a private lesson and thanks to the special rates for DWA members, the lessons were half price. I also found that while each instructor had their own approach, they briefed each other really well so my lessons fitted seamlessly together, building up my performance brick by brick. I was really impressed at how it all came together and so was Tom when he came back. I wasn’t an expert but I was in the flow.

Confession time. I'm heading up for a hot chocolate not to ski.

Confession time. I’m heading up for a hot chocolate not to ski.

Getting back to my big toe, when was the last time you seriously thought about what your big toe was doing? I mean, don’t you just shove a sock on it and hide it in a shoe?!! Okay, so I admit that I occasionally cut my toe nails and might scream and hop about when I drop something bang right on top of it but otherwise my big toe is the very much neglected thing at the end of my foot.

That all changed in this ski lesson where I had to focus all my energy on putting my weight on my big toe.

Well, I’m sure my lesson involved more than my big toe but that was the focus. I know she explained the theory at the time but now that I’m back home in front of my lap top, the explanations aren’t coming back to me. That’s probably because I filed it somewhere under “physics” and I’m much better with things filed under “p” for “photography” and “poetry” instead. There’s actually a lot of physics involved in skiing. However, I’ll cheat and consult my in-house physics expert. I promise to keep the physics lesson short and sweet. That way neither of us will turn into geeks.

Actually, Geoff was otherwise occupied watching the last lap of his car race so I resorted to Google.

Just as well I did Google those big ski toes. Turns out that you only put your weight on your big toe to turn. If I hadn’t checked that out, you could have been skiing turning round and round in eternal circles getting dizzy. Obviously, I am not a certified or otherwise ski instructor. I’m still an awkward, fumbling beginner. Now, I remember that I had to straighten myself up in between turns and have my skis parallel. I think that’s how it went. As I said, physics isn’t my thing and I have a memory like a goldfish but I still remember that verse from primary school:

“Who’s got my hairy toe?

Who’s got my hairy toe”

For some strange reason, every time my instructor mentioned my big toe, I heard those words echo in my head.

No doubt you’ve heard this poem/story at school or beside camp fire. As much as this haunting verse used to scare the begeebies out of me, I absolutely loved it…especially the ending where the narrator shouts out: “You’ve got it!!!” and you totally leap out of your skin and then laugh your head off. For some strange reason, there’s something about scary stories that makes kids laugh. Weird!

Anyway, enough of big toes, hairy toes and scary monsters.

I still had to get myself off the magic carpet and down a mountain.That’s been my challenge all along.

Not only getting back up that big, bad scary mountain but also skiing all the way down.

The Australian Alps

The Australian Alps

That’s right. Turning my mountain around for a second time. I was getting close. So very close and yet…

My goodness!

I could feel one hell of a headache coming on!!

The ski journey continues…

xx Rowena

Dipping My Toe in the Snow.

Wow! After more than seven long hours of driving and spending our first night in Jindabyne, we arrived bright and early in Perisher, otherwise known as “the snow”.

As I looked around soaking it up, I felt like I’d landed in a huge tub of cheap, whiter-than-white, vanilla ice cream. You know the stuff that’s pure white and not one of the better, creamy vanilla ice creams. The snow was deliciously thick and the skiers out on the slopes looked like those miniature figures you stick on top of birthday cakes. All we were missing was the candles, a match and Happy Birthday!

The weather wasn’t the best on our first morning. It had rained a lot the day before and the mountain was shrouded in mist. You couldn’t even see mid-station, let alone the summit. Visibility is a good thing when you’re skiing. By midday, the mist had lifted clearing the way for azure blue skies, which we enjoyed for the rest of the week. It was serious beach weather and all that was missing was the water. However, despite the balmy sunshine, it was still only 6-8°C out there and definitely NOT bikini weather…even for our daughter!!

Sun shining through the Snow Gums, Perisher.

Sun shining through the Snow Gums, Perisher.

While our kids went straight to ski school and my husband headed out to the slopes as soon as he could get the rest of us organised, I’d booked an adaptive ski lesson at 11.30 and had a bit of a wait. I am a member of the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association and I receive lift tickets and ski instruction half-price. We also received some much appreciated financial assistance under the Flexi-Rest program.

My instructor helping me on the Magic Carpet last year. I didn't need that hand this year. Could get up the carpet myself.

My instructor helping me on the Magic Carpet last year. I didn’t need that hand this year. Could get up the carpet myself.

I was stoked to book a lesson in with Tom, my ski instructor from last year. Tom is a specially-trained, adaptive ski instructor. He’s mean on two skis but I’ve heard that he’s also a legend in a sit chair. While it’s an achievement to be able to ski at this level, it is such an inspiration to see someone use their physical strength and expertise for good and to help people who are experiencing a few extra challenges, achieve their dream of skiing. This not only takes exceptional skiing ability but also a detailed understanding of the subtleties of so many different disabilities, treating people with respect and knowing when and how to encourage while bearing real and potentially risky limitations in mind. I was going to say that this is a gift, a talent but it’s no doubt taken a lot of hard work, a good set of listening ears and a real passion and empathy for helping people with disabilities to reach their potential.

I can’t tell you what this has meant to me and our family. It really is a terrible thing when you can’t go on a family holiday and do things together. That one member of the family is shut out and excluded when with a bit of patient, qualified assistance, they could be taking part. While I always appreciate a bit of “me-time” and having a break, it’s quite something else to be shut out of family activities. Through Tom’s help, the bird was set free from her cage and truly able to soar!!

Last year, Tom actually skied backwards down the mountain for me. That’s right. Tom skied backwards down the mountain so I could ski forwards feeling safe yet encouraged. This was much the same way as you see a parent encourage their toddler to walk beyond their first few tentative steps. How many people can say that anyone’s done that for them? Not many, I’m sure!! But Tom did that for me. Being a ski instructor, skiing backwards down a mountain wasn’t a big deal for him but it made a huge difference to a completely freaked out, panic-stricken me. There I was gobsmacked, perched on the very edge of the world holding my breath as I looked down, down, down. Perisher Village had shrunk into nothing more than a handful of dots. It was such a long, long way down and I was held in the very grip of fear. Indeed, I was frozen to the spot until I fell over. As much as I wanted a skidoo to come to my rescue, Tom went backwards down the steepest part at the top of the mountain holding my hands to encourage me down. I’m surprised that he wasn’t needing to dangle chocolate in front of me to lure me down, I was that frightened. At the same time, I desperately wanted to pull off this challenge. It had been in the pipeline for an entire year and I wanted to ski down this blasted mountain and turn my personal mountain around. I wanted to ring that victory bell!!!!

So having reached the bottom of the mountain, you can understand why Tom is my hero and has earned my respect. Oh please! I’m not some shameless, gushing cougar. No, I’m a skier! Tom and I discuss life, philosophy, writing, books and of course skiing while we’re out on the slopes. You do get to have a bit of a chat while you’re on the magic carpet. It takes awhile to crank you up even a small slope.

So there I was (along with Geoff who wanted to see how I went) a year later meeting Tom for my lesson on day 1. It was great to catch up but at the same time, I was apprehensive. How was I going to go after getting through pneumonia, a flare up of my auto-immune disease (which attacks and destroys my muscles by the way) and chemo? This savage trifecta might have knocked me down and tried its best to wipe me out but I’d got up again. Not just on my own strength but because effective treatment is available and also through the power of prayer. God wasn’t sleeping on the job either.

When it came to getting back onto the snow again, that’s where having a qualified instructor really made a difference. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have known quite how to get myself back onto the snow. However, Tom had me moving my legs back and forwards to get used to gliding and we did a few other bits and pieces and my ski legs almost came straight back to me. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat amazed.

In no time at all, I was back up on the magic carpet and we were both seriously impressed. I had pretty much picked up where I’d left off last time. I was fairly smooth aside from some serious jolts and wobbles getting on the magic carpet. We did some snowploughs, turns and once again he drew the `S’ in the snow with his pole to illustrate turning. It all went so well…almost uneventful, which was pretty hard to believe after everything I’d been through. Last year, Tom even had to remind me to breathe on my first couple of days. Talk about progress!

It turned out that Tom was going to be away for a few days and so I’d be having some different instructors. I was initially very wary because Tom knew me so well and I hate having to explain my issues over and over again. Tom had also been quite literally my tower of strength last year. I am quite tall and when I fall over, it can be quite difficult for me to get myself up again even on land let alone on slippery skis in the snow. I knew Tom could do that. It really helps when you know someone knows you in this way and can help you.

Yet, while Tom and I are great mates, it was good for me to go with the other instructors because they each brought something new or emphasized a different element and so I developed quite a lot of depth to my skiing. It also meant that I came to rely more on my own strength and appreciate that it was me and not just Tom that was bringing about my success. I was practicing for an hour every day in addition to my lesson so I’d made quite a commitment to improving my skiing and was working as hard as I could. While practice might make perfect and it is tempting to try to get value for your ski pass, I do have a “smaller engine” and I really had to pace myself to get through the day. Two hours of skiing for me was my limit.

Close up a snow gum. They are so tenacious, enduring often extreme conditions yet so beautiful.

Close up a snow gum. They are so tenacious, enduring often extreme conditions yet so beautiful.

While my first day of skiing went exceptionally well, I hit an unexpected snag. Someone took my skis. Everyone stacks their skis on the racks provided and given that it’s mostly hired gear, you can understand people getting their skis mixed up. However, I had been using Geoff’s own poles and these were clearly labelled in not one but three places. At first, we spotted a pair of similar skis near where I’d left mine and thought there had been a mix up. Night skiing was on so people were still hanging around at the end of the day waiting to go out again so there were still quite a lot of skis out there. Soon those skis had been claimed and things were looking bad. Geoff rang through to the ski hire company and fortunately, someone had dropped my skis back to a ski hire place in Jindabyne. It turned out their skis were a different colour to mine on a different rack so you’ve really got to wonder what they were thinking. There I was with all sorts of memory issues from chemo brain yet someone else mixed their skis up and took mine!! You could say it takes brains.

That night, Geoff logged in and check out our ski stats. While my altitude metres were pretty woeful and that included my trip up to mid station as a walker to get my hot chocolate, I did actually score the most lift rides for the day. That’s the advantage of taking the magic carpet. It’s short and sweet.

The easy way to get down the mountain.

The easy way to get down the mountain.

As pleased as I was with my progress, the mountain was still looming ahead. How would I work up the courage to get down the mountain again?

I still didn’t know.

Stayed tuned for further installments!

xx Rowena

The Snow…An Australian Story.

Before I launch into a grand account of our ski trip, I thought I’d better introduce my overseas guests to what we Australians call (please pause and wait for the drum roll)…

“The Snow!”

No doubt, it comes as no surprise that we get very little snow in Australia and snowing itself is a rare, very exciting and even memorable event. Indeed, each and every snowflake is precious… so very, very precious!!

 

Most of our snow, at least on the Australian mainland, is concentrated in the Snowy Mountains, which are part of the Great Dividing Range on Australia’s East coast south of Canberra. As most of our snow falls in this region, it is colloquially known as “The Snow”. You see, there isn’t much snow anywhere else apart from the odd freak dump and that usually isn’t skiable. It’s only good for snow fights and bragging rights. Yes, snow is so rare in Australia that being able to say you’ve touched or even seen real snow is something for kids to show off about.

This lack of snow also explains our comparatively poor performances at the Winter Olympics. Although we first competed in 1936, we didn’t receive our first medal until 1998. As a nation of sporting champions, that speaks volumes. We simply don’t have sufficient access to snow to participate en masse, let alone compete.

Mount Kosciuszko01Oct06.JPG

Mt Kosciuszko looking like a an innocuous garden-variety knoll. Should we enhance Australia’s tallest mountain or perhaps we should adopt a mountain some place else? I’m actually wondering whether the magic carpet is actually steeper than this old fellow…

The Snowies culminate in Australia’s tallest mountain, Mt Kosciusko, which is something of a national embarrassment as far as tallest mountains are concerned. Looking more like a pancake than a jagged mountain peak, Mt Kosciusko clocks in at 2,228 metres above sea level. Obviously, this makes “Kozzy” little more than a pimple on the side of Mt Everest, which stands at a towering 8,848 m.

Yet, despite being so vertically challenged, some bright spark has decided to re-brand the Snowies as “The Australian Alps”. As a marketing person myself with considerable imaginative flair, I can appreciate a bit of hyperbole. However, when it comes to describing the Snowies as “alps”, somebody seriously needs to get their eyesight checked. Although our alps do have snow in winter, they’re nothing more than big hills. Actually, dressing our Snowies up as “alps” reminds me of a pre-pubescent teen strutting around in an F-cup bra with sport’s socks shoved down their front. For better or worse (depending on how steep you actually like your mountains), it’s going to take a lot more than a pair of football socks to turn the “Australian Alps” into anything like the kind of mountains Heidi calls home. No, that would take serious earth-moving equipment and even more dirt than you’d find in a British tabloid.

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I’m more than happy with our Snowies. As the saying goes, more than a handful is a waste and I certainly found even our relatively gentle ski slopes Everest enough. They are what they are. We don’t need to call them Alps just to attract tourists. After all, not every skier wants to fly before they can crawl!

Welcome to Perisher!

Welcome to Perisher!

While there are a number of different ski resorts to choose from in both New South Wales, Victoria and also Tasmania, we ski at Perisher resort, which has a huge mass of lifts and trails sprawling in between Guthega, Blue Cow, Smiggins and Perisher itself. Most of the time, I stuck to the Magic Carpet although I skied at Blue Cow about 12 years ago and absolutely loved it. I have also skied down Perisher’s Front and Happy Valleys. I have never skied in Thredbo but understand it has steeper slopes and hence doesn’t have quite so many young kids or rank beginners on the slopes. While I met a few people who flitted between Thredbo and Perisher, we find in easier to plant ourselves at Perisher. We save money buying 5 day lift passes in advance online and we get ourselves lockers for absolutely everything so we’re not lugging stuff to and from the car every day and can juggle things like cameras, snacks and walking shoes while we’re out on the slopes.

Geoff who is obviously a much better and more experienced skier than me, loves Perisher because there is so much variety and you can ski around the resort trying different runs and says there is so much to explore. There are also 47 lifts, which makes a huge difference in being able to access a real variety of different runs. I imagine that this would be very desirable to more advanced skiers who don’t share my love affair with the magic carpet down below and actually venture out.

Snow Gums at Mid-Station, Perisher.

Snow Gums at Mid-Station, Perisher.

What the Australian ski fields might lack in altitude, we more than compensate for in beauty and unique character. You see, our snowfields are home to the snow gum, a very tenacious yet beautiful tree which somehow manages to thrive in very adverse conditions and is so different to the firs you might experience overseas. I have to admit, however, that I didn’t take in much of the scenery while I was out skiing. I was too focused on my instructor’s skis and was deliberately not looking down. I didn’t want to freak myself out!

Close-up of the beautiful colours running through snow gum bark . What a beautiful palette!

Close-up of the beautiful colours running through snow gum bark . What a beautiful palette!

I don’t know if this is unique to our ski fields and we were also lucky with the weather but even in the very depths of winter, we can have deep azure blue skies and glorious warm sunshine. It is hard to believe but it was so hot and balmy we could have been at the beach. That is, as long as we had our ski gear on. Of course, it cooled down significantly after sunset but by day we had some truly glorious weather!!

Kangaroo eating a carrot, Jindabyne.

Kangaroo eating a carrot, Jindabyne.

If you are looking for skiing kangaroos, I haven’t come across any as yet but I have definitely seen critter prints in the snow which might suggest they head out after dark. There are certainly plenty of kangaroos around the ski fields. Where we usually stay in Jindabyne, there are resident mobs of kangaroos which we’ve hand fed before heading out for a day’s skiing. They’re a real treat.

Yet, although seriously outnumbered by just about every other sport in existence, Australia too has its mad, completely obsessed skiers. However, in Australia this obsession with skiing itself is almost superseded by a fixation with the snow reports and how many centimetres and hopefully metres have fallen. This is a very serious business and every skier tries to time their ski trip at precisely the right moment to experience optimum conditions. However, there seems to be no pattern from season to season. It’s all pot luck. This feels like a serious gamble when you have to fork out big money for accommodation months in advance and there are enough short seasons where you could easily blow your dough. Yet, these wrangles with the weather are no different to booking a summer beach holiday where there’s the usual threat of rain.

Even the Cheshire Cat was out there!

Even the Cheshire Cat was out there!

While I have been talking about skiing, I must admit that there is another creature on the slopes and I’m not talking about all the cows, giraffes and other onesies lolling about.

Wild Zebra Spotted on the slopes.

Wild Zebra Spotted on the slopes.

 

No. I’m talking about snowboarders or “boarders”. As a skier and a beginner skier at that, I’m unable to elaborate much about them except to say that I’ve spotted boarders parked under trees and even grazing in the middle of “ski” runs. There are significant “hostilities” between skiers and boarders on the slopes, which I haven’t bought into. I am too busy focusing on my own skis and checking up and down the slope for hazards to get into anything peripheral.

My main gripe is with the behaviour of doting parents on the magic carpet. The magic carpet is Perisher’s beginner ski run and you take the carpet up the top which is easier for beginners to manage than the t-bar or chair lift. The magic carpet is an area for all beginners, not just kids and certainly is not a reserved area for parents photographing their absolutely gorgeously cute beyond all measure little cherub with their state-of-the-art camera phones. I’m sure even royal photographers are less intrusive and don’t feel they have an ordained right to knock down learner skiers in their quest for the perfect shot. After ski school finishes, these parents gather at the bottom of the slope and I mean on the slope watching their little darlings and blocking other skiers from having a run. I was actually having a lesson during all this chaos and had three runs ruined by thoughtless parents and when you are paying potentially more than $3.00 a minute, you are understandably annoyed especially as some of these parents haven’t even paid for lift passes.

Last year, we even saw a father photographing his 1 year old toddler in the middle of the magic carpet. This was really dangerous because even beginners can pick up a bit of speed but we can really struggle to stop and have trouble controlling direction. When you see a small child in your path, your natural instincts tell you to stay away. Not to hit it. For an adult to run over a child feels really, really bad even on the snowfields and even when the child’s very own parents have put them at risk. Yet, so many parents don’t seem to share my concern about the inherent risks. For some reason they become so one-eyed about their child, that they can’t see anything else. As I said, that can be very dangerous on the ski fields and even more so in the beginner’s area. Remember this is where the rank beginners are learning and while we might be able to ski down the hill, there are no guarantees we are going to stop. Skiing is a risky and dangerous sport and as much as I love photography, you do need to question whether a shot is worth the risk. Such tunnel vision has no place on a ski slope.

There are also other activities peculiar to the “mountain”. While many might associate skiing with inhaling all that beautiful fresh mountain air and increasingly your physical fitness, smoking is an activity in its own right. I seriously struggled to breathe at times with the clouds of cigarette smoke looming in outdoor areas. Some smokers were courteous, but one bloke was pointing his cigarette away from his mates and practically stuck it in my mouth. I was young once myself and had the odd cigarette but these days I feel we all have a right to clean air.

In keeping with this healthy snowstyle, you also seem to be able to fill up on beer as early as 10.30AM which is otherwise known as “beer o’clock”. These early starts aren’t just restricted to beer drinkers either. An older guy well into his 60s or 70s sat opposite me and pulled out a hip flask of whiskey around a similar time much to his wife’s horror. If you are a wife or perhaps it’s even your own father who stubbornly refuses to tow the line, but I’m you’ll appreciate just how difficult it can be to manage a naughty husband!

My budget hot chocolate with a mountain of cream to rival Mt Kosciusko.

My budget hot chocolate with a mountain of cream to rival Mt Kosciusko.

While I might be sounding like some holier than thou prude, I wasn’t much better. Beer and cigarettes weren’t my thing but I had my own poison. No matter what, I always made it up to mid-station before 10.30AM for my budget $2.50 Hot Chocolate with its luscious swirl of thick, whipped cream and two molten marshmallows. It might not give you lung cancer but it could certainly block a few arteries. So you see, I’m not such a health freak after all!

With hedonism of all kinds alive and well halfway up the mountain, who has any energy left for the après-ski?

Sounds like a hot shower or even a long soak in the tub is in order along with an early night.

Oops! That’s right. It’s only 10.30AM and I haven’t even got started yet!