Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Skiing in Aus.

It has come to my attention that a few people are still interested in my life, and that I am failing to share its mundaness (it's a word, I checked) with you. So I will once again write in my blog. Please excuse the lack of wit and humor, as this is simply for your information. 

What I looked like when I first arrived
A better than average slope coverage
What the river normally looks like

"Good on ya mate."  Every time a parent calls their child darling or "dawlin" (which they do a lot here) the accent makes it sound almost exactly like they are saying my name.  This is how I know I'm in Australia!  36 hours after I left the driveway in Brigham City I rocked up to my apt. in Jindabyne.  My trip was made slightly longer thanks to the Dalia Lama whom I shared a flight with.  This year I just live with two other guys in an apt so small that the staircase is spiral and steep.  Laying on the floor I can almost touch both walls.   There is room for a sauna though!  For the first 10 days I had the place all to myself, now the other guys are here.  It was pretty nice having my own place.  It was pretty quiet around town as most of the resorts employees had yet to arrive.  Now though we are past the southern hemisphere's winter holidays, their equivalent to Christmas break, which is our busiest time of year and it's the middle of the season. Though we are still skiing on 90% man made snow, at times only 10% of the mountain has been
And what it looks like after a week of rain

open, so that's been rough.  Skiing in Aus is nothing like what us Utahns are used to. Contrary to what most people think though, it does actually snow in Australia. Even though there is not an actual town in the whole country that lies above the snow line, there are a handful of ski resorts. The biggest of these is the one I work at, called Perisher. Perisher is located just high enough to get snowed on. Though so far this season I have only witnessed two real snowstorms. For the first two weeks of this season the only snow on the ground came out of a machine. There were big round piles of snow scattered up the hill under the snow cannons,
First time I ever drove to work in snow
that were then spread up and down in a strip just wide enough to ski down. As Australians don't really know the difference, they still came in mass hordes. Even though we now have a few lifts open instead of just one, the mountain is still more crowded than any ski resort on any day that I have ever seen, and it is absolute chaos. I would guess that 20% of skiers here are really good, very devoted to the sport and possibly training for next years olympics or the X games. The other 80 though, have likely never seen snow before, but since they are good at surfing, or rugby they think they will be good at skiing too. So without any lessons or attempts on appropriate learning terrain, they load an 8 seater chairlift to the top of the hill. Here they attempt to ski down and what ensues is a large biological mass of uncontrolled humans hurtling down the hill in every imaginal fashion, except standing up on their two feet. Whizzing past with a chorus of screams, giggles, and yelps of bravado, completely oblivious that their overconfidence is about to cost them at worst a trip down the remainder of the hill in a ski patrol sled, at best their pride. It is in these crapshoot circumstances that I am to teach a group of up to 10 (or more) kittens, I mean well behaved children, what their fellow countrymen cannot figure out on there own. How to use the forces of nature against themselves to safely navigate down a hill covered in frozen granules of ice blown out of a pipe.

Just another fun weather day in Aus.
For most of the people who visit the resort, this will be the only time of the year they will need a winter coat. So besides skis and boots, the rental shops also provide coats and pants. Which makes everyone look the exact same. Even those who do own their own clothing, got it from one of the same shops as everyone else, which provide only a few variations of coats and pants. 3 of every 5 people are wearing the exact same outfit. Makes name memorization quite difficult. Once, with a group of 12 kids, another instructor and I split the 12 children into two groups based solely upon which coat they were wearing. There were 4 variations.

rare snow in Jindabyne!
The snow itself, when it does snow, is usually accompanied by very high winds. Your best chance of getting a powder turn is in a snowdrift. The radio report literally advertises “great hidden powdery snowdrifts!”. Be ready once you are out of that drift though, as the hockey rink you are about to land on is very hard. Very rarely have I seen an actual snowflake just floating straight down. The terrain is mostly just bushes and a few scattered patches of trees. Not pine or aspen trees, but gum trees. With large scattered boulders all about. So when the snow does get deep
enough, you can pretty much ski just about anywhere you want, which is actually pretty fun. There are very few runs that are actually cut through trees. You will need to know how to use the edges on your skis, as ice is usually the condition of the snow pack. And forget cushy seated chairlifts, if you are lucky to be in an area with a chairlift that is. A vast majority of the mountain is accessed by t-bars and j-bars. Surface lifts that require considerable skill and concentration to successfully navigate to the top. Teaching children to ride these thing is a whole other blog post. It gets...interesting.

View from the top of AUS
Waiting in a lift line is not a passive activity, though I will remark that Americans aren't perfect at this neither, but if you ever hope to make it to the end of the line you better be aggressive and pushy, because everyone else is. Taking turns seems to be a lost concept.

 Life outside the ski resort is pretty  basic.  I don't have a car but the town is tiny so that's not really an issue.  Just as the ski movies from the 80s and 90s suggest life in a ski town revolves around alcohol and promiscuity.  Needless to say I stay home alone a lot and watch a lot of movies.  Living in two places with predominant lifestyles at opposite extremes of each other and actually living a life somewhere right in between those lifestyles makes fitting in a difficult challenge whether I'm here or in Utah.  That said though, I'm still having a pretty good time.  The international ski bum networking here is quite fun, and very valuable!

So, for those that have asked, here ya go.  I'm alive and well down under.  Hope you are well also!

Here are some more random photos: