If 40 years of skiing in Australia has taught me anything, it’s to take your chances when conditions are good.
For so many reasons, the 2020 ski season has been pretty bad: poor snowfalls, warmer than average temperatures and rain – especially in September – and restricted access to the slopes thanks to COVID meant the skis spent much of the winter inside. A couple of weeks ago I was watching the rain steal the last of the winter snow. The snowcams were showing me more green than white. I was bummed. The season was clearly over.
But then the storms cleared and the forecasts said there was snow on the way. The predicted 30cm of snow up high might actually make a fun snow camping trip a reality! My 14 year old daughter is always keen to ski and as the days passed the forecast improved, and the weather looked perfect for her first snow camping trip. A daddy-daughter adventure at the beginning of the school holidays. Perfect!
We packed up and drove to Thredbo with plans to hike up to North Ramshead. Matilda was carrying the light stuff: my 15 year old Mont Spindrift sleeping bag, a Mont Telemark sleeping bag, sleeping mats and a big bag of lollies. While I had a 55L Mont Tanami pack with the Mont Epoch tent, food, clothes etc. The walk from the chairlift took us about three hours (a little longer than I had anticipated, but we gave ourselves plenty of time). We met groups of people coming off the mountain, all wanting to chat to the crazy one-legged guy skinning up with his daughter to camp overnight. Always great to talk to others in the backcountry as an excuse to take a breather. There were lots of people out with the same ideas as us, to make the most of what might be the last big snowfall of the season.
The conditions were fantastic and, although the hike was tough and long, we were both happy to be out. There were some signs of the thin base underneath, but it was well hidden by the new snow. We stopped to snack and drink and rest a few times. Ever notice how amazing the simplest of food tastes amazing when you work hard for it?
Matilda was awesome. I was determined to make this adventure fun and explained I was happy to camp anywhere along the route if the walk got too much. But, despite her heavy pack and the longer than expected trek, she was happy to work hard for the experience and was motivated to get to the top. We made it to our campsite at around 3pm, dropped the packs at camp and summitted minutes later, some great photos of Kosi and then a nice bumslide back to camp. We dug in and pitched the tent, heated up dinner and were in our bags by sundown, ready for the clear cold night ahead. I only had one winter mat so I was colder than I would like with the summer mat but a warm bag and down jacket on all night meant that I had a reasonable night’s sleep.
At least I will have an enduring positive memory of the 2020 winter. If a long history of skiing in Australia has taught me anything, then it is to make the most of what you get. We got an amazing and unexpected two days, and I shared a great experience with my daughter, who didn’t even whinge once.
By Michael Milton
Michael is a long serving Mont Ambassador, 6 time gold medal winning Paralympian, and Australia's fastest ever skier (213.65km/hr).
Mont Telemark Sleeping Bag
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