After the excitement that generally coincides with an imminent ski season, followed by the disappointment of no snow falling at Buller due to the most recent storm’s SE orientation, it was finally time to head up to the mountain.
We arrived at a reasonable hour on Friday night and the cats were out madly pushing the snowmaking whales around to get Bourke St open for the weekend. The snow on Bourke St was essentially the result of two nights’ worth of snowmaking, and in typical Buller fashion the hardworking crews were able to make something out of virtually nothing & get some skiing happening on Opening Weekend, though I can’t lie and say that there wasn’t any envy when seeing the pics roll in from the other resorts.
Drinks at The Whitt, then Grimus and finally Kooroora was the order of the evening, the Friday of opening weekend is my most enjoyable of the season, catching up with friends and hearing about their summer adventures without the critical mass of feral crowds you get the following night.
This is all that really needs to be said:
After a late night we weren’t really tempted by the skiing on Bourke St so we spent the morning at the lodge recovering but finally went on a search for coffee & had a bit of a look around:
Another night out followed but a little less crazy, and it was finally time to ski this afternoon.
Bourke St is what it is, and it was fun to be on skis again, but the big news was testing the new RFID system. For those who have skied overseas the system is familiar & works well. I was told that the gates contain readers on both sides of the gates so the ticket doesn’t necessarily be on the left of the body – this was welcome after encountering some RFID gates in Japan where you essentially had to dry-hump the reader to get through.
The system worked smoothly and I think it’s a great addition – not only does it mean that skiers can totally avoid a ticket office for their season, but the data generated by the company will assist them in making good decisions with lift upgrades in the future etc. Also there is an element of revenue protection which is good too, it’s nice to know that as a holder of the most expensive season pass in the country that the freeloader element will be greatly reduced.
We also used some of the $200 credit loaded on our pass at ABOM for afternoon tea, again the system works well.
We got a little carried away having fun on Bourke St with our niece and nephew and missed the opening ceremony for the new chairlift. So we didn’t get to ride it but there was still plenty of light left so we went for a hike to look around.
Along with the new lift there has been the addition of new automated snowmaking – as Shakey Knees has conclusively proven, snowmaking is viable on the Northside of the mountain, and it also showed that removing a ski lift from being over the middle of the run transforms it, so it is great to see this logic now being applied to the Burnt Hut area. The temporary carpets that were used on Burnt Hut while waiting for DSE permission on the new lift have now been relocated, one replacing the old Dam Rope Tow, and another replacing the Trainer T-Bar.
The sum total of these works are in my opinion a great addition for beginner skiers at Mt Buller. The key to this area will be the snowmaking, as being on the sunny aspect natural snow can’t be guaranteed, but as I mentioned earlier Shakey Knees has proven over the last few seasons that this is a realistic outcome.
The irony of Mt Buller’history and how it was developed that the best area to learn skiing is currently where the buses park and having a ski school halfway up a mountain is far from ideal. There is a lot of beginner and pedestrian traffic currently in the village that would be far better served over in the Horse Hill/Burnt Hut area. Naturally the reliability woes of the Horse Hill chair over the last few years have added to this, but overall these changes I think are great to get a volume of beginner skiing traffic into an area that is far better suited to their needs.
It started snowing lightly as we walked back go the village but this was short lived unfortunately, however I just got a message from a blog reader that the snowmaking has just started tonight on Bourke St.
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