It had been 8 weeks since we had skied, and that was enough.
My Autumn had been ruined with a back injury sustained picking up my ski bag at the airport on our return from Europe, usually this period of settled, cool weather is best spent on the golf course, but I had only ventured out for an abortive 9 holes a fortnight ago, followed by 18 last weekend. Having spent 10 years at Mt Buller teaching in the rain I don’t tend to elect to spend my leisure time doing the same, so when I woke up yesterday morning to single digit temperatures and rain on the roof, golf was promptly cancelled.
However when I jumped on the net that morning the webcams looked white, and there were some reports filtering in that Baw Baw and Lake Mountain had received 20-30cm of snow. This is not at all unusual when the storms track in from the south west, and given our recent acquisitions of touring gear I began to hatch a plan. Andrew had just moved back south from Brisbane, and I knew he had a full XC kit so I thought why not head up to Lake Mountain for Sunday? Andrew was keen, he hadn’t XC skied in 5 years, so we decided to meet in the morning and check things out.
May has proven to be the most elusive month for skiing, generally in the US we were well and truly ready to get off the snow by mid-April, and it was only in 2009 that we skied in May for the first time when Buller had a 50cm dump and opened the lifts for the weekend of the 2nd of May.
Lake Mountain is an easy 120km drive from home, which took us a little over 2 hours with stops for petrol, food, coffee etc. We also dropped into the Mystic Mountains Ski Hire in Narbethong to have a chat to Rosemary about the conditions. She kindly offered Nicole and I some XC skis but the reports were that the snow was deep and unconsolidated so we thought we might stick to our wider, but heavier touring setup. To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect, we had low expectations of ‘glorified snowplay’ but there was snow on the ground so we knew we would have fun.
As the road ascended we rose into the mist, a scene which as Buller skiers we are all too familiar, and made it to the car park, where we got changed and into our gear. Given the poor weather and visibility, plus complete unfamiliarity with our surroundings we all overdressed terribly – with visions of former State Government Minister Tim Holding in our minds – but we were not far up the trail where we realised that we needn’t have bothered. Our packs were weighed down with all the extra layers we brought but the effects of hypothermia had been well drilled into us over the years.
We were pleasantly surprised with what we found. A reasonable amount of skier traffic had set the trails well, despite the lingering wet mist the temperatures were around freezing and quite pleasant, and the snow was soft without being slow and gluggy. Everything was well signposted and we met some lovely people around the trails. As we didn’t know our way around, everyone was most helpful in providing tips on where to go.
We ended up doing a large counter-clockwise circuit of the trails on the mountain, Andrew had his cycling GPS watch on, and it measured our total distance at 10.5km. Certain body parts began hurting at about the 6km mark, but we decided to do the ‘Panorama Loop’. I’m not sure why, as all we saw was a panorama of the fog while in quite a bit of pain. It was around that point that we really regretted not trading our touring gear for more lightweight XC stuff, but we were not out to set records, and it was great to spend a day on the snow amongst friends.
We covered the 10km loop in a pretty leisurely pace of a little over 3 hours, including stops for rest, food, chatting etc, and returned to the car exhausted. Overall it was a very worthwhile day and good to get some elusive May skiing in.