Many people will know the Windy Corner day shelter/ café/ ski hire shop above the top car park at Falls Creek. It is the ‘skiing arm’ of the YMCA operated Howmans Gap Alpine Centre, located just down the road, literally at the gateway of the resort. Both Howmans Gap and Windy Corner have undergone some major changes this season as part of an ambitious campaign to be more accessible to people, families and groups and to lift the profile of cross country skiing/ alpine recreation to people of all ages and ability levels. They are seeking to encourage a greater diversity of people to visit the resort, and also act as the base for Disabled Wintersport Australia. As part of this process the Windy Corner facility has been renamed as Falls Creek Cross Country.
This seems like a great initiative to broaden the appeal and accessibility of resorts. It seems to be working, with ski rental having increased by 300% this season. The following comes from Sandra Bucovaz.
Feature image: Team FCCC from left Ken Orr, Iris Pessey, Sally Gorman and Tony Pammer
Turning up the heat on cross country skiing
Heavy recent snows in the alpine areas has turned up the heat on the YMCA’s ambitious winter campaign to get people outdoors and connected by ramping up the client experience at Howman’s Gap Alpine Centre and at its cross country ski outlet at Falls Creek.
The YMCA is drawing on a depth of international expertise to establish Falls Creek Cross Country (FCCC) as the cross country skiing hub of Australia and to lift the profile of the sport to people of all ages and levels of ability, and from all corners of the globe.
From its chefs at Howman’s, located literally on the doorstep of Falls Creek Alpine Resort, through to its talented ski instructors, staff and managers, the operation boasts a multi-talented team with a wealth of experience working in resorts in Europe and America as well as competing on the international stage.
As part of the drive, the iconic Windy Corner is now officially known as Falls Creek Cross Country (FCCC), having been rebadged to better reflect its integral role in the snow sports activities offered at one of the country’s premier alpine resorts.
But that’s just the start …. The YMCA has recruited multiple French national champion, Iris Pessey, to its team of experienced instructors; the ski fleet has been refreshed, boosting the retail equipment options and there other initiatives such as clinics that are videoed for one-on-one evaluation and guided tours.
The pre-season makeover of the café, now offering the ‘best coffee on the mountain’, as well as the day shelter area has been a big hit among cross country and downhill skiers, snowboarders and snow players alike. The area has been opened up to allow more natural light and there’s more and funkier café seating, as well as comfortable sofas in the day shelter for those wanting to rest their aching bodies.
‘The feedback about all the changes has been really positive, ‘said Matthew Charles Jones, Manager of YMCA’s Howmans Gap Alpine Centre and FCCC. ‘Our ski rental alone has increased by 300 per cent this season.’
‘Cross country skiing is a great sport and accessible to people of all ages and levels of ability. We want it have the same profile and exposure as other snow sports at Falls Creek,’ enthused Matthew.
He hopes the campaign will also turn up the spotlight on our own talented cross country skiers and events such as the Hoppet (held out of Falls Creek on 26 August), a cross country ski marathon which is part of the World Loppet series. Many of the international visitors stay at Howmans.
The accessibility of cross country skiing is reflected by the diversity of FCCC’s client base. While big on getting families hooked, Matt is particularly keen to attract people from varying ethnic backgrounds and to offer cross country skiing as a unique and fun outdoor Australian experience, but not one typically expected.
Disabled Wintersport Australia (DWA) has been a regular client for many years, using Howman’s as its winter base. DWA offers a strong winter sports program for participants from all over Australia as well as recruiting many guides from throughout the region. Australia’s first accessible alpine accommodation is being constructed at Howman’s at a cost of $3.1 million and is due for completion in February 2018. Along with providing thousands more opportunities for people with a disability, the state-of-the art centre will also become a high performance training facility for Australia’s Winter Paralympic Games athletes..
In a quirky twist of ‘the stuff from which dreams are made’, aspiring Olympian Tang Wei Yan has travelled all the way from Malaysia to learn how to cross country ski at FCCC.
‘The ski instructors are very passionate and can teach anyone at any level. They break down all the complex movements into easy to follow steps,’ says the 23-year old who is being sponsored by the Malaysian Government and plans to be a regular at Falls in his quest for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, French champion and ski instructor Iris Pessey is thrilled to be experiencing a southern hemisphere winter, particularly after the recent heavy snowfalls.
A little daunted by all the attention, 25-year-old Iris said it was ‘easy to be fast in France because there were not many girls in cross country skiing’.
Still the first woman home in the Hotham to Dinner Plain pub-to-pub race on 5 August, Iris believes her journey has gone beyond competition. She wants to show young girls that cross country skiing, and the opportunities it can provide, was about growing as a person, meeting people and being happy rather than being faster, or worrying about body image and being skinnier than other girls.
Phil Bellingham, current Australian Cross Country champion from Mount Beauty, also calls Howman’s Gap his winter home. When not throwing his heart in to an intensive training regime, Phil turns his hand to cleaning and cheffing. Phil is carefully plotting his way through to the upcoming 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics.
For further information, please contact Sandra Bucovaz 0401 617 122