Anyone who knows me well knows that my favourite place in the world isnt actually any given city in the United States of America (despite my frequent trips there!) but someone a little closer to home: the high country of the NSW Snowy Mountains.
My family has such an affinity for the high country and it’s definitely rubbedoffon me. I’ve been going down for as long as I can remember, and probably longer still, and over the years, I’ve been lucky to have some of the best experiences of my life down there, from bluebird skiing days to memorable Easter camping trips spent down near Island Bend Dam on the Guthega Road.
I’ll happily jump at any chance to spend some time down there regardless of how long, and I’m pleased to report that since we’ve become good mates in the last 6-8 years, Trev has caught the fever. He’s basically a Kitchener now, when you think about how much he loves both the high country and bush-bashing when there are perfectly good trails.
(I love that two of my best mates have fallen in love with the high country)
We were always headed to Canberra, then my cousin announced that she was working in Thredbo this winter, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to head down and visit her, as well as do a little touristy stuff. It’s been a while since I’ve been down in winter and not skied, so I knew it would be an interesting day.
Actually, it was more than that. The weather was obscenely good -0lue skies, sunshine, no winds and rather warm, hovering around 8 degrees all day – which, of course, makes things much better – and we set off from Canberra just after 6:00am into the teeth of a serious Monaro frost so thick in places that it looked like snow, and an absolutely magical sunrise – the photos just don’t do it justice.
A few days after a major storm, with the forecast of perfect weather on the last Saturday of the July school holidays, it was always going to be busy. There was plenty of traffic (and more than a few police patrols, too), but no major delays until we got into Jindabyne.
Even coming into Jindabyne on the Barry Way (after taking the spectacular Maffra Road and Snowy River Way from out from Cooma via Dalgety) there were cars backed up, waiting to merge with other traffic on the Koscuiszko Road out of Jindabyne. Happily, we dived into the Old Town Centre at Jindy for breakfast – at the excellent Sugar Patisserie and Bakery – and by the time we were done, the traffic had subsided, and we headed up to Bullock’s Flat.
The rack-and-pinion Ski Tube train that links Bullock’s Flat on the Alpine Way to Thredbo with Perisher Valley and Mt Blue Cow is a marvel of engineering, not just because of the way the train climbs upward at such a steep angle, but because of the giant tunnel blasted through the mountain in preparation for the train.
It can be a busy and hellish place when you’re jammed in with a hundred other people, everyone clutching – or trying to! – skis, snowboards, poles and other paraphernalia. But even on a busy Saturday, the 10:40am train from Bullock’s was peaceful and the ride really turned the clock back for me. I don’t think I’ve ridden the Tube more than two or three times since the early 90’s, when it seemed to be our preferred method for getting to the slopes.
Mt Blue Cow is great because you arrive at the platform and basically you’re there. You go through two sets of sliding doors and your feet are on the snow. The top end of the Terminal Quad is straight ahead up a hill and if you look left past the terminal building, you see the beginner’s area – and the Summit further afield. It’s one of the best views in the mountains.
I was a little disappointed to not be skiing in such wonderful conditions, but I quickly forgot that as Trev and I started traipsing about the resort. The panoramic look-out behind the terminal building has great views of Guthega and the Main Range, and there’s great fun to be had scrambling across rocks and through untouched snow drifts near the Terminal Quad. Take it from me, walking in the snow is hard work. And the sunshine made it warm enough that I didn’t need gloves, and spent the day with my parka unzipped. It was almost spring skiing conditions.
Because the weather was so damn good, Blue Cow’s deck was very popular, with an outdoor bar, BBQ hut and live performances from a pretty-good singer and a very-good clown performing tricks amongst the eating masses. I had a great kransky roll and washed it down with a Carlton Dry – one of the most memorable beers I can remember.
After lunch, we took the Tube back to Perisher, and went up on the Perisher Quad Express after waiting in a fairly long queue. At least Trev got to know what it’s like to stand and wait for a lift.
Because there wasn’t a breath of wind about, the chairlift was incredibly pleasant. We stopped at mid station and I was glad to discover that they still do a mean hot chocolate. I was less glad to discover that still they charge an arm and a leg. Oh well. It tasted good!
From Mid Station we rode to the top of the quad and got off. Straight up the bank behind the chairlift is a series of rocks, and beyond that is an excellent panorama of the Main Range. It was worth the sometimes uncertain footing – ice was a real problem – for the view we got.
We came down the Ski Tube with the masses and drove into Jindabyne, passing a couple of cars that’d come undone during Wednesday’s big snow storm, witnessing a spectacular sunset.
Catching up with my cousin at Mario’s Mineshaft (a great Italian eatery tucked up behind Nugget’s Crossing Shopping Centre in Jindy) for dinner allowed me to visit a place I’d gone to a few times on our annual skiing weekend, back in the days when they’d had a buffet going.
The place is as warm as a blast furnace, and the food is delicious and plentiful. They show old Warren Miller films on big TVs and the atmosphere is fantastic. I can definitely and highly recommend
Back to Canberra after dinner. It’s always a shame to leave, but I’m sure I’ll be back soon!