Your weekly ski and snowboard round-up.
Peak season in Australia and things are, well, peaking. Smart money is the season snow depth is likely top out this week at Spencers Creek (1830m) at somewhere close to 1.5 metres. Below average, but still leaving plenty enough for a decent spring.
Weather watchers are however starting to take note of the next expected system due in about a week or so, the two words at this early stage unfortunately being wet and warm. There’s plenty of time for it to turn around but consider yourself tipped off.
While the verdict isn’t out on the end of August weather there’s some good things going on off the slopes during that time. It’s great to see the alpine music scene gathering some momentum again in the Snowy Mountains.
In Jindabyne there’s the Snowtunes festival on Saturday – a seven hour open air party that features electronic duo Hermitude and a bevy of other bands while next Thursday Mt Hotham’s Swindlers will host ARIA favourites Bliss n Eso.
In ticketing news Thredbo has started its early bird season pass for 2016 with the 365 pass priced at $799 while the winter one is $699. They can be secured with a $99 deposit.
VONN TRAPPED IN NZ?
Still on something of a comeback trail after missing the 2014 Winter Olympics, the greatest ever women’s alpine skier and notable ex-girlfriend of Tiger Woods Lindsey Vonn, has been quite active in New Zealand in recent weeks. Vonn has been training with US team members across the ditch and has posted a number of shots on her Instagram account of her travails.
Most recent ones came from Coronet Peak, just out of Queenstown, a popular base for North American skiers during their summer. This all begs the question though will the Olympic gold medal winner, two-time World Champion and 67-World Cup race winner make it here?
Given Vail is her home/sponsored resort and said company now owns Perisher it would make perfect sense. And we’d also heard that there was going to be some Vail types in town next week. We put this very question to Perisher but, while not completely ruling it out, they weren’t exactly confirming either.
Then again another Vail Resorts athlete, Shaun White, popped up here in October 2013 so you just never know.
Ace in base: Not every new idea is better when it comes to snow gear. There was a reason our skiing forefathers clad themselves in wool: it was warm, it breathed and it didn’t smell like off Gouda after a few days and nights on the piste.
With cotton a disaster on the slopes (it is hopeless when wet) and synthetic materials offering warmth but little by way of breathability, wool remains the best option in terms of a baselayer – the first thing that touches your skin when you are dressing for the slopes.
“People should look at it as an important part of the kit, like a good pair of boots and jacket,” says Chris Vanderkolk from Icebreaker, a Kiwi company that specialises in base and mid layers for action sports.
The Icebreaker gear is not especially cheap – expect to pay around $99 for a long sleeve crew top – but Vanderkolk says you can get away with wearing one for a full week trip and even use it as a main layer for running or cycling in the spring months. Web: au.icebreaker.com
DEALING WITH IT
Spring – when a young man’s fancy turns to Mt Ruapehu. Or so it should. The big volcano on New Zealand’s North Island frequently offers the best late September/October riding in the world. If you are looking to stay at the feeder town of Ohakune (about 30 mins from the base) you could do worse than the $NZ120 twin rooms on offer at the centrally located Kings. Web: www.kingsohakune.co.nz for more details.
CONDITIONS APPLY – WITH WEATHER GURU PETE `THE FROG’ TAYLOR
The weekend is looking like one of the best of the season with more top ups from the start of the week easing to fine weather. A little snow is possible on Sunday before some more clear weather. It doesn’t look completely over in terms of precipitation either – it’s just a question whether it will be white or clear snow in about a week or so, perhaps before El Nino conditions then take hold.
The Kiwis look like getting some minor top ups but The Frog is holding firm on a sting in the tail across the ditch with some significant late season falls when the Aussie snow eases off. The Southern Lakes ski resorts already have the best of the Australasian conditions this year and could be a good option for the September school holidays.
For The Frog’s up-to-date weather forecasts: www.snowatch.com.au
LAST RESORT – A LOOK AT AUSTRALASIA’S FORGOTTEN ALPINE AREAS
Portillo, Chile: The Snow Gauge is again suffering from geographical amnesia this week but after an extraordinary month of snow in South America it would be remiss no to include some Latino lines. While relatively unknown in Australia, Portillo is a significant player in the South American snow scene and was rated by ski movie mogul Warren Miller as one of his top ten resorts.
About two hours from the capital Santiago, Portillo offers ski-in ski-out accommodation, has four lifts, a vertical drop of 762 metres, around 7.5 metres of snow each season and serves up plenty of terrain, particularly for strong riders. It is considered amongst the more international of the South American resorts.
Conditions can vary wildly – after a snowless June and early July Portillo has been hit by two massive storms and locals are suggesting it now has some of the best snow it has seen in a decade. It’s not the greatest resort for snowboarders as there are many flat spots on the mountain and no park and pipe facilities. But it’s a fun option for the two-planked brigade.