My wife and I went down to the “snowies” (short for the Snowy Mountains) last Thursday to meet up with some friends and we came back on Sunday. We enjoy spring skiing because the weather is usually much clearer and better behaved, plus the snow is a bit easier for poor skiers like us.
It usually comes as a surprise to people from the northern hemisphere that Australia has ski fields. As matter of fact, the three contiguous national parks (Kosciusko National Park NSW, Namadgi National Park ACT and Alpine National Park Victoria) that make up the snowies cover an area of about 14200 square kilometres (about 5500 square miles). Although we have enough snow to ski on for about 4 months a year it’s not what most experienced skiers would call quality snow. To tell the truth the snow here is mostly either, ice or sloppy crap, but it’s all we have so we make do.
Most of my friends and I avoid the resorts with ski lifts like the plague and we use heavy touring skis with telemark bindings to go out into the less infested parts of Kosciusko National Park.
The only reason why we get any snow at all on the mainland of Australia is because of the altitude of the (laughably named) “Australian Alps” (should be called hills, even if it is the highest part of the country). Since much of the park is at about 2000m (about 6500ft) only the most hardy of plants can survive the harsh conditions of freezing cold winters with high winds and hot dry summers with bushfires. In the winter, snow covers the low heath and the only trees that one tends to see are battered and twisted Snow Gums.
Even the incredibly tough Snow gums have a hard time coping with the conditions. Large areas of Kosciusko National Park were burnt in bush fires a couple of years ago leaving these stark remnants behind.