The One Meter Party

Dispatch from Australia's record deep winter

The author skiing the Shelf at Mount Buller. PHOTO: Jock Gunn
The author skiing the Shelf at Mount Buller. PHOTO: Jock Gunn

WORDS: Watkin McLennan

Antarctic low-pressure systems are whipping across the southern regions of Australia, blasting the mountains with a wet slab of snow and leaving a regular train of early season powder days throughout July—the equivalent of December for all of you Northern Hemisphere skiers. The trees are left slumping from the weight of the snow and ice. The buildings, fitted with hurricane proof glass, pulsate as the wind gusts over 80mph. On a powder day, the ice builds up on chair lifts and delays ski resort openings.

There’s nothing majestic about an Australian snowstorm, but these monster storms are giving us one of the best seasons in decades. As soon as the lifts start spinning, skiers are eating up their fair share of rare Australian pow.

At my home mountain, Mount Buller, a three hour drive northeast from Melbourne, a small amount of snow has a huge effect on the skiable terrain. The wet snow forms a solid base that covers rocks and flattens bushes. Six inches base is enough to cover most of the intermediate terrain and 20 inches, the average snowpack, opens the entire resort. After 40 inches—one meter—well, the whole mountain changes.

Lines like the rocky Shelf, the diving-board air called McConkey’s, and the 30-foot cliff, Pig Face, have all ripened and come into condition. Skiers talk up these airs and lines at the bar, but usually we ski around them or ride chair lifts over them. It’s easy to point to conditions for an excuse, but not this year. It’s finally time to ski the lines we’ve been talking about.

As I write I have a faint tremor. My eyes divert to the blizzard outside and I am reminded that tomorrow there are no excuses. It is time to go big and ski hard. It is time for the one-meter party.

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