It cuts against the grain of this blog to mention that I hate winter. I really do. I can’t stand being cold and struggle more than most to get warm. Fortunately, I have lived most of my life in climates that suited my preferences. Since it is situated in a desert, Alice Springs can pull together a few bitterly cold days but these are usually accompanied by clear skies and rarely last for more than a few weeks. Central Queensland was comparatively mild. Neither of those places quite prepared me for what Melbourne had in store. There is no exaggeration in the claim that Melbourne can see four seasons in one day – I remember multiple times it blew a gale, hailed, rained and then cleared to sunny skies within the duration of a few hours. The unpredictability is one thing, but the endless grey, dreary, damp, miserable days in winter are enough to have this northerner wondering why she ever moved here. It certainly wasn’t for the weather.
Still, in an effort the make the most of my surroundings, I decided I may as well find a reason to appreciate the cold weather and take up a hobby that I would never have dreamed of in my previous locations: snowboarding. I had never even seen snow in real life until I made a trip to New Zealand in my twenties. Even then, the weather was so adverse that we couldn’t actually make it up any mountains to get amongst it and I had to satisfy myself with some dirty, melting blobs on the side of Desert Rd. It wasn’t until later that year I joined my colleagues’ annual, weekend ski trip and finally discovered some snow!
An overwhelming majority of people I spoke to recommended that I learn to snowboard rather than ski. They say skiing is easier to pick up but snowboarding is easier to master. I took their word for it and while I never tried skiing, it’s safe to say I found another one of my favourite things to do. It may seem a little crazy for someone who so vehemently avoids being cold but with all the snow gear and intense physical activity, it’s really not so bad. I now go out of my way to spend at least one weekend a year ‘hitting the slopes’ at Mount Buller. By the end of the day, as I watch the skiers hobble around the village, I also appreciate that I’m wearing snowboarding boots instead of ski boots.
There are a few advantages of having a little group of snowboarding buddies too. Sometimes we hire a house together half way up the mountain and stay for a few nights. It is a relatively easy day trip from Melbourne though so sometimes we just go up as early as we can manage and head home once the ski lifts stop running. We also bought a lot of our gear in bulk from America and had it shipped over. I managed to get a board, bindings and boots for just over $300. Our order was so large that it attracted the attention of customs and we ended up having to pay some extra taxes but it still worked out cheaper than buying it here. It was worth it to not have to hire the equipment every time we head up to the mountain.
Recently, I had another, more successful snow trip in New Zealand. I travelled through Wanaka to Queenstown and decided to give Cardrona a go. It was an interesting drive up the unsealed road with no barriers between us and the side of the mountain. Visibility was so low that a lot of people had already given up and were heading back down the mountain by the time we were heading up. In fact, a lasting memory was a family driving down the side of the mountain with the kids in the back of the ute. You’re crazy, New Zealand. I could hardly see the chair in front of us going up the lift or the ground at my feet while boarding. Still, I made the most of it and got a few runs in for the afternoon.
Snowboarding in and of itself is fun, regardless of visibility. Once you get the hang of it (and don’t fall over every few metres) and you gain a bit of speed, it’s quite exhilarating. However, I think one of my favourite parts is sitting on the snow, on top of a mountain, looking out across the ranges and valleys. There is such a stillness and serenity to taking in the beauty of snow capped mountains. I don’t even mind a long chair lift ride when it affords a better view of the landscape. You really do get the sense that you’re ‘on top of the world’.
I also love the atmosphere in the village, especially at Mount Buller. There is always such buzz around the Village Square with people everywhere, ranging from sight-seers to beginner skiers to seasoned snowboarders. You can leave your gear in the racks outside the cafés without fear of anyone else touching it. There is aroma of hot donuts coming from a little stand tuck away beneath some stairs. Kids are dragging toboggans over to the family play area. Sometimes there is even live music playing from a stage in the middle of the square. It’s such a special little community of snow-seekers.
So while the winter weather can sometimes get me down in every day life, I am thankful it creates the opportunity to enjoy one of my new favourite pastimes. Hopefully in the next few seasons we’ll get to try some other slopes. My local friends plan to make the slightly longer journey to Mount Hotham soon and my cousin in Queenstown wants me to join her at The Remarkables. Eventually, I’d love to visit my friend in Switzerland and try some “real” ski runs. Apparently they will ruin me for our little Aussie slopes forever.