Destinations

The Snow Gauge: what’s new on the slopes

Glenn Cullen - AAP

Your weekly ski and snowboard roundup.

FIRST TRACKS

It was deep and it was meaningful. Expect about 70 centimetres to have fallen by the time the third instalment of the white goods delivery ends some time on Friday. It is a desperately needed dump for all resorts in NSW and Victoria who’d essentially been relying on synthetic snow until that point.

Check your local resort websites for new lift and run openings as there’s bound to be further developments before what will be the weekend of the year to date. The Snow Gauge heard a rumour that Antons and Sponars at Thredbo could be happening.

While the big snow is welcome news, it’d pay to still be careful out there, particularly if venturing off-piste on what’s tipped to be a clear few days. The new snow is effectively the only base and there’s likely to be a few nasties just below the surface on some runs.

As head ski patroller at Mt Hotham, Bill Barker, noted: “Our busiest days are usually sunny, good snow days. People tend to stay out there longer and get tired.”

SNOW WAR NOT OVER

If you thought that skiers and snowboarders lived in one great big harmonious snow utopia these days, you’d be a touch wrong. While there’s little of the `80s and `90s angst on the slopes between the disciplines these days, Alta Ski Area is doing its best to keep fanning the flames.

Lawyers for the resort find themselves at a federal appeals court defending the ski area’s stance of not allowing snowboarders to use its facilities. The Wasatch Equality group claimed it was their constitutional right to ride the slopes of the famed Utah resort, which has now been in operation as a skier-only playground for 78 years.

“Quite simply, the constitution neither recognises nor protects a right to snowboard,” lawyers for the resort wrote in court documents, also citing safety issues with boarders.

The case had already been dismissed by a district judge but Wasatch Equality want to push the matter as far as they can. A further date is expected so the parties can present oral arguments. Wasatch this space!

Winner Jye Kearney flies over the Cattleman's stairs_source Robbie Warden (1)
Winner Jye Kearney flies over the Cattleman’s stairs. Source Robbie Warden

TOP GEAR

Binding agreement: In the skiing world bindings seem to be about as sexy as big undies. Everyone likes to show off their new planks, but the things that hold your boots in place aren’t exactly conversation starters on chairlifts. Funnily enough, it’s not without reason.

“A good ski can make or break a $10,000 ski holiday,” says Richard Ross from the Aussie Skier store in Melbourne and online. “But a binding only has a minor effect – you only tend to notice them when something goes wrong.”

Richard says the DIN setting – at what point they will release you from the ski – is the key factor in construction and then pricing. Things such as skier height, weight, age, ability and ski style are considered before determining what DIN setting you’re likely to need.

Beginner/intermediate bindings will start from the low-$200s mark; a top set (say for someone who likes to hit the park and pipe, and get 6 metres of air) about $500. If anything is bringing sexy back in the category, it’s touring bindings, which work normally in resort, but release the heel to allow easier movements across the snow when hiking to the backcountry.

Expect to pay from about $400 for them. Web: www.aussieskier.com

CONDITIONS APPLY – WITH WEATHER GURU PETE `THE FROG’ TAYLOR

The tail end of the first major snow event of the season peters out, giving way to some fine conditions over the weekend for much of the Australian alps. The next event looks to be brewing around this time next week, with perhaps some pre-frontal rain giving way to about 5-10cm of snow.

The Frog says there is some scope for this to intensify and even double, but either way, the charts suggest it’ll be over and out reasonably quickly.

Meanwhile, New Zealand has had a quieter spell – it’s actually pretty typical that when we are getting significant storms, they don’t. But they’re just about to put the chilly back in chilly bin, with a low-lying polar blast set to hit on Saturday.

It looks like a Kiwi cracker too, with snow down to almost sea level around Christchurch and potentially in the 20-30cm range around their ski resorts. Down south won’t see quite as much, but there’ll be some decent top-ups. For The Frog’s daily updates, go to: www.snowatch.com.au.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

LAST RESORT – A LOOK AT AUSTRALASIA’S FORGOTTEN ALPINE AREAS

Broken River: During my first ride of a New Zealand club fields nutcracker lift system, I was so intent on not falling off that I forgot I was carrying my ski poles with the same hand I was holding the ropetow.

Things got particularly interesting when I reached the pulley wheel. “Mate, I would have picked up your pole,” said a helpful local as I exited the ride. “Except I could only reach one of the pieces.”

After putting the broken back into Broken River I did end up having a good time. The facilities may be basic, but under the right conditions the riding can be sensational. Three ropetows access about 400m of vertical (more if you hike). There’s a day lodge, some rare-for-Kiwis on-mountain accommodation and a cool, laid-back attitude.

Day passes are $75 and $60 for members. Located about 100 kilometres west of Christchurch, Broken River links up with another great club resort, Craigieburn. Web: www.brokenriver.co.nz

DEALING WITH IT

Broken River does an Aussie special package (if you’re not, just pretend bro). For $NZ750 ($A670), it includes a seven-day lift pass, six nights accommodation, three group lessons, and breakfast and dinner each night. Take me to the River! Website as above.

Facebook.com/thesnowgauge.net

Twitter: @thesnowgauge


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