The snow roadtrip. Most snow and mountain obsessed Australians end up traveling overseas to explore and ride bigger mountains and deeper snow. And while the destination might be the mountains, the roadtrip to get there is sometimes equally essential to the experience.
Japan by van, the Powder Highway in BC, doing the circuit of the resorts from Park City to Cedar City in Utah are all standout trips. Last January I spent a month doing backcountry trips in central Colorado. The hut system is fantastic, the skiing was mind blowing, and the road trip, a big loop from Vail to Salida, to Crested Butte and Ouray and then north to Grand Junction and Aspen, was a huge part of the fun.
No matter how many days you get in ‘on snow’, winter never seems complete without a decent road trip. I was just locking in the details on my 2017 trip: central VIC to the Snowy Mountains, coming back via Mt Bogong, Falls Creek, an avalanche course at Harrietville, and world tele day at Hotham. Thinking about stop overs and camping places of course I thought of that amazing doss spot at the Geehi bridge (where the Swampy Plain and Geehi Rivers join) on the road between Khancoban and Thredbo. On my first big winter roadtrip at 17, my buddy Mark and I pushed his old Holden station wagon over Dead Horse Gap in the dark, snow filling our vision as we struggled up the winding roads. Jethro Tull on the tapedeck because we were super cool aspiring dirt bags, getting ready for our first summer of mountaineering in New Zealand. We drove to Guthega, skied into Blue Lake in a blizzard and thankfully found a snow cave, which we stayed in for several nights. Ice climbed at Blue Lake, climbed and skied some of the ridges to the west of the lake, got hassled for sleeping in a tourist shelter at Guthega, and eventually headed towards home. We crossed back over through Dead Horse Gap and camped at the Geehi River. Waking up on those flats on a frosty morning, as kangaroos graze and the famed western slopes of the Snowies rise above you, has to be one of the quintessential winter experiences of the Australian Alps.
I just saw a copy of Chillfactor magazine, which has a feature on road tripping. The magazine’s tagline is ‘celebrating ski culture’ and I think they do it well. Lot’s of local stories of average people getting out amongst it. And Chillfactor has long had a vision of skiing that looks beyond resort boundaries, with regular stories of backcountry missions (this one features the Razorback and the Twin Valleys, near Thredbo). Editor Reggie Ellis introduces the edition with his memories of his first skiing road trip, from Thredbo to Hotham, with a slightly epic detour through Omeo.
Resorts are fun. And so is the back and side country. But so are those wonderful long journeys through the Alps, from mountain to mountain. And those cold starry nights, by the Thredbo River, at Geehi, or Mountain Creek under Bogong, with a few mates and a couple of beers, are some of the memories I treasure most from my years of skiing. Hope it’s the same for you.