Written by K2 Advocate Lachlan Short
Ski resorts barely quivered to life in 2020 with our dear arch-nemesis COVID-19.
That didn’t stop Lachlan Short, a Brisbane-based outdoor education teacher who spends 200+ days a year working and recreating in the outdoors from itching to get down in the early winter June-July school holidays for a rip at Thredbo and the backcountry surrounding the Main Range region.
He found out first-hand what it’s like to make the mission down to the Snowy Mountains only to be shut down by COVID-19.
Thredbo Ski Trip Report
There I had it.
Early Winter had arrived.
Three weeks off.
Backcountry touring and ripping around on any ski run that might be open at Thredbo resort in preparation for my upcoming September mission: Hit the main range for 7-9 days. Spring ski touring trip attempting to hit some of the iconic lines that might be in condition! Get in shape, meet some of the local backcountry crew, and live the ski dream for twenty or so days before heading back to my regular dream job as an outdoor education teacher in Brisbane. See how COVID-19 affects the trip. Hope for the best. Expect the worst!
The Week Before:
Ski boots packed.
Ski touring skins reglued.
Just 15+ hours’ drive and we are there.
The team at K2 Base Camp, the local Brissie outdoor adventure shop helped me out with some new Outdoor Research Alti Gloves™, (the old ones were totally shredded), a new Outdoor Research Refuge Men’s Insulated Hooded Jacket (My old one had a busted zip, holes beyond recognition and was ready to be sent off to repair), and some new ski socks!
My Thredbo accommodation options were already booked out three weeks before holidays. Half of Sydney must have been going to Thredbo. For $60 per night at the Thredbo YMCA, which goes up to $100 per night once NSW School holidays start, the decision was made. “You’re sleeping in a tent” and it’s only $6.50 paid to Parks NSW.
Ten minutes from Thredbo sits Ngarigo Diggings, aptly named after the local traditional folks in the area, the Ngarigo people. On the first night it gets down to -7 degrees and I run into my good friend, Rob Springer, a doctor who works as an emergency physician and has numerous first descent canyons to boot throughout Victoria.
He is here to hit a release on the Snowy River below the Jindabyne Dam. Solid Class III to IV whitewater kayaking. Rob and I paddled in New Zealand but he’s taken things to another level. I’m impressed!
In the evening we drink wine around the fire and catch up on life whilst a possum (un)knowingly steals our finest cheese. It’s always nice meeting old friends in unexpected places!
Skiing at Thredbo
Next morning the tent and ground are both frozen. It is not warm. The forecast is for one or two days of a fine weather window followed by two days of terrifying conditions (warming temperatures with rain up to 60mm). To top off the forecast a fine weather window and a dusting of snow has potential in five or so days’ time.
My Thredbo Ski Days
Day 1: First day on Ski’s
I make my way over to Thredbo. Skins out, boots in touring mode, big hill, only one way up. Over the next two hours I ascend up through Thredbo resort on my touring skis as the snow quickly becomes crunchy. A ski instructor calls out. “Lift tickets too expensive today mate?” I smile and keep on trucking uphill in first gear. As the elevation continues, the snow solidifies into that classic icy top layer often found in the Australian alpine environment. Ain’t no powder day today.
Thanks to COVID, It’s been sixteen months since I’ve been on a pair of skis and the muscles are feeling it. Up top, the views are absolutely mind blowing. I decide at this moment that all of it was totally worth it. It’s a sunny day with not a person in sight. Not bad.
I transition into downhill mode, make a few turns and pull off my first stack of the season after-post
holing through a 5cm ice sliding crust, almost breaking my thumb.
Come on, it’s been eighteen months!
My ego bruised, I slide down into the resort, open up with a few small turns on the groomers which are now also iced over. Beer at the Local Thredbo Pub never felt better.
Day 2: Foggy Day on the Hill
It’s already foggy and the visibility is challenging with that bad weather coming in earlier than forecast. COVID cases are on the rise in Sydney, and I patiently hit a few laps of the resort in foggy conditions. My ski goggles fog a little and I make the most of a lift ticket. It’s windy with 60km/hr+ gusts. They place the main chairlift on wind-hold by 1:30pm. Might be time to go home soon with all those COVID cases.
Days 3 and 4: Raining Cats and Dogs
It rains cats and dogs. The Thredbo River almost floods my campground and I pack up my camp. Some of the locals offer for me to stay at their house, which I gladly accept. COVID cases are growing in inner-Sydney. Has half the snow melted? Those who go skiing are soaked, no longer bone dry. It is not a good idea to go skiing in the rain.
Day 5: What I Came For.
Temperatures drop and with it, 2-4 cm of snow dusts Thredbo. I head out for a rip and am surprised with what I find. Up high in the resort, 5cm of snow covers the ground. The rain hasn’t washed much away! It’s the first day where I really feel I can go for a proper ski and make the most of the entire day out on the mountain. I savour every moment, finding small little powder stashes in wind drifts. For two hours it is snowing at the top of the chair lift and raining at the bottom with the variation in temps. COVID cases are exploding in Sydney, and I’m just stoked to be here!
Day 6: Calling It
It’s cloudy with low visibility. Low winds up top. I head out for a snowshoe but then get the call from the parents; QLD Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk is calling for the border with NSW to be closed and advises all Queenslanders to return home. Well, it was coming. Time to bail. I pack my stuff that afternoon and get going. Only 15 hours or so back to Brisbane. The worst bit is driving home with a perfect three-day weather window opening the next day. Not cool.
The drive home turns into a blur.
Eat food, drive, listen to Joe Rogan rant, listen to house music, turn on Triple J, turn off Triple J, listen to more Joe Rogan. I feel queasy.
Eventually, I arrive back in Brisbane 5PM the next evening, all clear from lockdowns and head straight to Urban Climb Milton to hang with my close friends to catch up.
Good. Well, I made it home. Ski trip and stomach line collapsed. It’s all gone to shit. Literally.
I think I’ve got food poisoning. I get a cautious COVID test. Negative. Phew.
Three days later I stumble out of my room. Empty stomach. Barely functioning. Housemates feeding me. We’re now in a midst of a four day lockdown in QLD. Ah well. I’m still recovering from this food poisoning. Best rest.
I look through all the photos flooding Instagram of the incredible snow. Perfect conditions in the backcountry with some powder stashes to boot if you know where to look. I self-diagnose myself with #FOMO, Fear of Missing Out and it’s worse than the food poisoning. Why can’t I be skiing right now! This sucks. Tough life hey!
A few more days pass and I’m feeling much better. Food poisoning and FOMO-free and I get back into the swing of South East Queensland. I’ve still had one week in the school holidays so I decide that some photo/film editing accompanied with a strong week of training is in order.
It’s great to be home for winter and I make the most of the local outdoor scene. I hit Urban Climb for some gym training and endurance lead sessions, scramble/run a lap on the caves route at Mount Tibrogargon and go for some mountain biking at Mount Cotton, Little Mountain and Caloundra to keep the cardio strong. It’s good to be home and to catch up with everyone. The boys and I go for a Kangaroo Point session, and I try my hand at Cucumber Castle. Second session and it still eludes me! Sunday, I climb Frog and catch up with the local trad climbers. Winter back home is the best time to be outdoors in Southeast QLD.
I remind myself that I’m so lucky to have even been down to the snow this year, sometimes you have all these plans but really the ultimate plan is the one life carves out for you. Hopefully, I’ll be back for the snow soon. The few turns I got in were certainly worth it.
Gear List for Ski Touring and Snow shoeing (Day trip)
- Collapsible Black Diamond Ski Touring Poles (Wide Baskets essential)
- Black Diamond Route 95 Touring Skis with Marker Bindings
- G3 Skins
- Ski Touring Boots (Technica Zero G Tour Pro)
- Thermal leggings
- Thermal top long sleeve
- Outdoor Research Refuge Men’s Insulated Hooded Jacket
- RAB Men’s microlight down jacket
- Outdoor Research Alti Gloves (They have inners which also act as thin finger gloves)
- Thin finger gloves for ski touring transitions and as a spare set
- Duct tape
- 2 x long Voile ski straps
- Cable ties
- Ski waxer
Other things I should have had in my repair kit
- Pole basket
- Skin tips
- Bit driver and spare binding hardware
- Skin wax
- GPS (Essential if lost in whiteout)
- Local Perisher Valley topographic map
- Mountain Sports Collective main range ski touring map (Essential)