Well, we're back from Thredbo and it was good.
After getting up at 3:45am, and over six hours for the drive including breakfast at Cooma, we arrived before midday and I got my buns up on the hill asap.
Conditions were as follows:
Friday - "ice-cream headache cold" with some breeze about and a little snow up high on the Friday afternoon; I skied a few hours in the afternoon off the Snowgums chair (aka "Slowgums") as the Kosi chair wasn't operating for skiers until the weekend.
Saturday - raining and wet down low, wet snow at mid levels, snow falling up high; skiing slushy, sugary, man-made snow ('Thredbo powder') turning to bumps later in the day; real thigh-burning conditions; the rain at lower levels turned to snow by mid-afternoon and the hill got better and better as the temperature dropped; cold & numb hands, gloves wet through, zip on my jacket isn't 100% waterproof but my bright new pants are great, smiles all round.
Saturday night it puked with light, fluffy snow for a few hours - inches of it were gathering in no time at all.
Sunday - the cold weather in combination with the groomers turned the slopes to 'edge-able hardpack' and any powder on piste was quickly scraped to the side to form nice soft bumps; off piste conditions were wonderful, provided you understood there was no base underneath the powder and were careful where you went; it snowed on-and-off all day.
Monday - a back-and-forth mixture of rain and snow in the Village for Monday morning, but it was still snowing up high; as we drove out of the mountains it looked like another snow-bearing system was giving up the goods in the late afternoon and evening.
Snow is forecast to continue through to Thursday, with another system about to land.
Oh, and I managed to demo eighteen pairs of skis, bouncing up and down the hill like a yo-yo
Here are some shots dragged from a Thredbo newsletter. I'll sort out my own stuff shortly.
Here's the old front departing and the new front on its way.
Edit - here's one shot from the weekend, showing the demo tents sitting above the Gunbarrel base station. This was the Sunday (Saturday was not a day for dragging out the camera) and there were two extra tents on the Saturday. Volkl and dps didn't reappear for a second day, so I missed out on trying the new RTM series. Given the sketch snow leading into the weekend we didn't get the usual number of ski brands demoing; Nordica, Blizzard and Rossignol weren't there for instance.
Ooof, I had both South America and Australia/NewZealand in my sights. Guess I clicked on the wrong one.
So here's what it looks like from the top
The base area is the rectangular bit at the bottom and the three spots are the crowds.
And the view down all of 48 pulleys - 1.5km (.9miles) of rope tow
It was the first time on a rope tow in years, but as far as rope tows go this one seemed to be a pretty easy ride (on skis - hats off to the boarders that make it to the top - not sure that I'd want to do that). The loading is easy, the rope was pretty gentle and the pulleys seem to be designed and set so that the rope stays on. You can see from the picture how crowded it gets.
And one more because it was a spectacular day for it.
The snow was pretty good for early season. It alternated between a bit of a wind crust and powder (sort of the consistency that I've found at Jackson Hole) - so not hero snow, you had to stay on top of things and actively maintain fore-aft balance - but it was spectacularly good fun.
What you can't see from the photos is how wide the face is - it has to be a couple of km or more of constant pitch face, apart from a couple of big natural half pipes that run down the slope - and that's just to the right of the tow, there's more on the other side.
Definitely be back for more
Legs were feeling pretty bad that day, feel worse today, although pretty satisfied, after four days in The Mackenzie skiing, skied till 8:30 pm Friday night at Cornonet peak then came up to Cadrona Monday to stay at the apartments here. Blew a gale Monday and Tuesday, but an awesome Blue Bird day today, less crowds and still some powder about.
Monday vs Today
Not my favourite run, but Queenstown return was open for the first time today so took this shot on the gentle green run home
Another cold front is coming in for this weekend, bringing sort of "a foot or more" of snow to the hill. Next week is looking like good timing for a ski trip.
I just bought a pair of 184cm Kendos, and I'm itching to try them out. We're not heading back until 16 August though, so I'll have to be a bit patient.
Agree, plenty of people just kick off their skis and walk 50 meters down the run to take photos, but my daughter insisted, twice! We concluded our 4 days at Cardrona and 9 days South Island skiing yesterday so are making our way back to Wellington via Timaru tonight and Christchurch tomorrow for the ferry on Sunday. Hopefully we'll get up to Mount Ruapehu at some point in August and September, generally not the same as Mainland skiing though. Wednesday and Thursday were great, particularly with the absence of crowds, although with the wind Sunday through Tuesday it has scoured much of the mountain and it needs another dump. The groomed runs are still good, but plenty of the off-trail stuff was pure ice in particular down to the Valley View lift, Arcadia chutes and near Exhibition. Even getting across from Paradise to Gin & Raspberry would have made a NHL player nervous, but Powder Keg was full of windblown powder and diving down the steep Tail Race was as fun as ever. We also had some real fun on top part of Goldrush and Sluice Box after the ski teams packed up for the day and left us near virgin snow, according to my Garmin watch I hit 72 kph at some point. Not that it's my thing but the Terrain Parks were ever popular and looking good for this weekend’s FIS Continental Cup Slopestyle. Will probably not be staying in the on Mountain apartments again, for what you pay you could get something far more spectacular in Queenstown or Wanaka and it doesn't really replicate the ski in-out experience of somewhere like Colorado. Somehow the crazy rush up and down the mountain is just part of the kiwi ski experience!
We have just returned from three days at Turoa ,after it received approx 70cms of new snow in two dumps
While Turoa requires at least 2 mts of snow to cover it reasonably well ,it currently has a 141cm base,the mountain grooming crew have done a great job with the limited snow and the time they have had to form trails
We missed out on the freshies on the Tuesday afo , Wednesday turned out bitterly cold, 40km southerly and cloud early morning .By lunch the cloud had gone the sun was out and a great day was had by all.
The Triangle and The glacier had stood up well to the cold weather and while a little firm and crunchie under foot were still great places to ski.As usual youve got acres to just about yourself.
Note to management : Please dont groom it like you did last year.It doesnt need it!!
There's plenty of base snow at the bottom of the Triangle to exit to the Nga Wai Heke chair at the moment ,but I suspect what is there now will pack down pretty quick and we'll need to see another dump there shortly to cover the rocks
As I said the grooming crew did a great job in the limited time they had ,and for those that like the grroomers,Snowbird,Vertigo,Big Bowl and Main Trunk to Elevator Shaft runs at the top stood up well to the relatively low number of people there
Conditions stayed pretty much the same for Thursday and Friday ,both being a lot warmer and blue bird days
One great added bonus was the ski demo day they had up there
I tried a couple of truly awsesome skis made by a local guy They are called C6 skis and I tried out the Apollo and The Judge .They are made using Carbon fibre technology http://www.c6skiing.com/
I really dont think Ive ever had a ski on anything so incredibly light yet stiff and still flexible when needed.
They even sound different from normal skis
I'm going to save my pennies and get a pair
More snow is in the forecast for next week
Let it snow ,let it snow
Time to load up some shots from the demo weekend.
We were up and having breakfast and coffee at oh-dark-thirty on Friday, 10 July. After a couple of stops along the way we arrived in Thredbo just before 11:30am and, quick-change artist that I am, I was on a lift before midday.
Conditions looked like this; quite cold on the hill, with a bit of breeze, clear in the valley with the odd burst of snow at the top. The Kosi Express lift wasn't yet operating for skiers. The mountain crew were preparing the very topmost part of the Supertrail, off the Kosi quad, for its opening the following day. I lapped the Supertrail off the Snowgums ("Slowgums") chair - a fixed double that goes most of the way to the top. High Noon was open on the other side of the hill. While I could have gotten myself over there (on Sundowner) getting back would have been problematic as the Supertrail traverse wasn't open for business.
Over the summer months I'd snapped up a pair of Atomic Nomad Blackeye Ti and was trying them out for the first time.
There wasn't much of a crowd on the Friday, it was virtually ski-on for each lift ride. Here I'm just above the mid-station of the Slowgums chair, checking out an akia training run (must have been, based on the relaxed pose of the 'patient' and the laughter).
Around 3:30pm I stopped for a snack in Black Sallees. Here's the ceiling above a nook in the corner of the room.
On the Saturday it was wet: raining in the valley, wet snow on the lower slopes, kind-of-wet snow mid-mountain and drier snow on the upper slopes. Cold hands, gloves wet through, and not really a day for dragging out the camera. We were skiing softish, heavy bumps (Thredbo powder) on much of the hill turning to wet, sugary bumps on the lower slopes. Real thigh burning stuff. After a few years of hard pack for the demo weekend it was good to get conditions that favoured wider skis. This was the first time the Kastle MX98 has made any sense to me in local conditions. It's a lot of ski and likes to be driven into a turn 'old school' style, really loading up the tips. When you get it right they come across the fall line smartly, belying the 27m radius (in the 184cm ski).
Late in the afternoon - around 3:00pm - you could feel a step-change down in temperature and what breeze there was began dropping off. The rain in the valley turned to proper snow, which held on for a few hours. Around 7:00pm the weather really came on and it puked with snow into the early morning. Normally snow in Thredbo comes with a serious breeze but, with no breeze at all, this snow was accumulating on every surface. I'll edit this to add in some village photos shortly ...
Edit. Here are a few shots from that evening. The first couple are taken just after the snow started to come on heavily.
A bit later, here is the remains of the barbecue deck after a bit of a snowball fight.
Cars and hedge, filling up nicely.
And the next morning the hill looked like this. It's not every morning that the snow gums are filled with snow hereabouts.
Kastle FX95 hp (181). I was expecting conditions to be soft and opted for these as my first ski on the Sunday. A very interesting evolution of the old FX94, with a big sweet spot. I hadn't seen these the previous day and the guys mentioned they'd only mounted them the previous evening. So, brand new skis in every way.
Up we go. Still snowing lightly, on-and-off, with not a breath of breeze.
Once up there conditions were actually a bit harder packed than I'd thought. The sogged-up snowpack from the previous day had frozen solid with maybe 10-15cm of new snow falling on top. That new snow was quickly scraped into powdery bumps, leaving a hardpack layer that wasn't quite as smooth as you'd like ...
... which meant carving skis were back on the agenda.
Here's the Head Supershape iSpeed (177). A wonderful ski. One of my personal faves. For my taste it was just right for working with the conditions on this morning. Something like the Kastle RX12 (for instance) was more ski but also more of a handful on the slopes we were skiing.
Looking down to the Village off the Gunbarrel chair, along the line of the old Merritts chair which crosses underneath. It was just a beautiful day.
Up high the snow was in very good shape. Mid-morning on the Sunday they opened up the traverse to the Supertrail. Here I'm on that traverse looking at the top station of the Kosi Express.
Demo tents. This is the first time I've seen them set up on this side of the hill and there wasn't really a good angle for a front shot.
Shooting back down the Gunbarrel with a no-look overhead shot.
Head World Cup Rebels iRace. Fabulous skis.
Fischer RC4 Superior Pro. This is the first time I've managed to get on Fischer's carving ski lineup locally. I had one day in Europe on the RC4 World Cup RC (180) and enjoyed that. Compared with Head's Supershape series (which is a natural comparison) they seem to provide similar levels of outright grip with a lighter, more lively feel. For the most part I was skiing them in 170cm, which is at least one size shorter than I would prefer, and a size smaller than many of the Head skis I was demoing. On a separate note, I was impressed with the way the Fischer Motive 86 (176) handled conditions on the Saturday morning.
MX88. Great, great skis. And they go with my new pants really nicely
Above the Meadows, approaching mid-station on the Kosi lift.
And my favourite "coming out of mid-station onto World Cup" shot that I always post up.
Head Monster 98 (177). This one is a really good ski. Smooth and damp, with a light feel on the snow, and quite a bit better on a firm groomer than I was expecting.
Elan's new Amphibio 84 (176) with the new 4D construction. I preferred the 88 on the Saturday - it worked with the soft bumps better than the 84. On the Sunday it was pretty much a wash between the two, with each having its strengths.
Head Supershape Magnum. Just one single word - "fun".
Two shots from the traverse cat track.
And, finally, a shot of the Valley Terminal coming back down to the Village. In a normal year the demo tents would be there on the right of shot.
We're heading back down in three weeks. Yesterday I prepped four pairs of skis for the trip.
It's been snowing again this weekend and, with another big frontal system forecast (possibly) from Sunday of next weekend, we should have a good trip come mid-August.
Looking forward to it.
Nothing much new at this end. I'm still living vicariously through newsletters (photos attached) and friends' texts. Most of the text messages are along the lines of Woohoo!
Edit - kind of blizzard conditions yesterday. Lifts on wind hold all over the hill. This one dragged off a local forum.
I guess we're just past half way through our season about now. Here's the standard snow cover chart here in NSW as it sits today. The chart shows a measured snow depth rather than an aggregate of snow falls. I chose 2007 for comparison as it was a pretty standard snowfall year in recent times.
This year is looking like a fairly standard year, albeit with about a four week delay at the start. There's a little more snow forecast for mid-next week - maybe another 20-30cm - after which we might have reached our peak snow depth for the season, with high pressure systems forecast to take over. So, a delayed start, pretty standard season with lots of small snow falls, lower than average absolute depth. We've probably seen a lower than average amount of blue sky days as well, based on my daily check of the conditions.
Today saw the best coverage of the season so far. Not that I was down there or anything. We're heading back down in nine days, staying for a week.
Looking good. We'll be there in less than a week. Next week's forecast for showers is slowly morphing into snow.
[edit - sorry, have to attribute the photo ... http://www.ciau.com.au/snow/rrr.asp]
Last weekend was Thredbo's Top to Bottom race. It's a Banzai-type event, with categories going off all in one group, with a Monte Carlo start ... run up the hill a bit to get to your skis / board, click in and go.
This looks like the Men's Open Snowboard event. Someone using their noggin' for balance. Ouch!
The Golf Course Bowl, looking a picture.