Aussie Storm Promise For Ski Season Start

Mt Buller [Source: Mt Buller Facebook page]
The perceived wisdom in Australia and New Zealand is that "snow in May never stays", but the 24-27 May storm that hit the Australian ski resorts has raised spirits, generated buckets of optimism for the coming snow season and - most importantly - dumped 30-50cms of wet snow at all the resorts.

Mother Nature surprised many with temperatures staying cool enough for snow early in the storm cycle despite the source of the moisture - a warm, tropical feed from Indonesia.

Most importantly, the low temperatures fortunately kept the dreaded rain to a minimum and brought the white stuff earlier than expected.

Mt Hotham [Source: Mt Hotham Facebook page]
Some great pictures went up over the weekend on Facebook: Bourke Street at Mt Buller fully covered; Main Street at Falls Creek looking skiable; and Hotham looking stunning.

Hopefully the snow will stick around. Little snow is forecast over the next week or so meaning we will have to hope for below-zero nights where the snowmakers can add manmade cover on top of the fresh, natural snow.

This snowmaking will build up and protect the main runs and ensure there is some skiing avaiable on the opening weekend (9-11 June).


What's New at the Skifields - New Zealand & Australia 2012

Well, well, well! Welcome to Season 2012. May it be cold, snow-filled, and not too windy!

The official starts to the ski seasons in New Zealand and Australia are only about one month away, so it is as good a time as any to round up what's new for 2012 in the way of ski lifts and terrain.

Hanmer Springs skifield [Source: Hanmer Springs Ski Area website]
The short answer is not a whole lot! But there are a couple of interesting novelties to get excited about this year.

New Zealand

In the far north of the South Island, little Hanmer Springs has been installing a new beginner's rope tow to add to its main poma and the Shirtfront Rope Tow.

I've not skied at Hanmer, which is a couple of hours north of Christchurch, as it tends to close by early Spring, but it looks like a fun little area. I've heard the access road is a bit hairy though! Bring it on!

Travelling much further south from Christchurch into the Mackenzie, we have lovely Ohau which has purchased a new chairlift. Great going Ohau! The new lift line will go up to the ridge and open up a whole lot of new lifted terrain.

But don't get too excited just yet - work on the new development won't begin until summer 2012, so its really something to look forward to for season 2013.

New Mt Buller Chairlift [Source: Mt Buller Website]

At Mt Buller, a new chairlift is replacing the Burnt Hut lift which ironically burned down a few years back.

The awfully named Bonza Chair at Horse Hill/Burnt Hut has been put in at a slightly different line from the old Burnt Hut lift. You can see the new lift line in the picture.

This realignment is promising to open up some more of the intermediate tree runs that can be found in the Telecom area. It will be interesting to see what new terrain is available here and how the top station of the lift improves access to the rest of the mountain for day visitors.

I'll update with some snow conditions and outlooks in the next week or so. May you have a great Season 2012!


Journey Through Literary Japan

Picture taken at the Snow Country Museum in Echigo-Yuzawa
The train came out of the long border tunnel - and there was the snow country. The night had turned white.

I began reading my first novel by a Japanese author (in translation) on the Joetsu Shinkansen several years ago: The bullet train screamed through the long tunnel and emerged into the Snow Country of Kawabata Yasunari's classic novel.

Judging by the travel book sections of your local book store I am not alone. Travellers love to delve into something that sets the scene or provides a cultural or historical context to their trip. Since that first journey to Japan, on every subsequent ski trip I have read more Japanese literature in translation.

Kawabata's novel is unique for me in that it is one of the few I have found that is set in the winter snows of Western Japan. Snow skiers and boarders will struggle to find a lot of Japanese books that are snow-based! But this is a huge nation that has a massive body of literature in a peculiar style that has undergone such a fascinating, radical change over the last 120 years in parallel with its amazing history. Its richness has generated two Nobel prizewinners and popular contemporary writers in the West like Murakami Haruki.

For some (geeky) reason I have started compiling this map while I have been reading these books ... while I have been travelling these journeys. The map locates events in Japanese books by their setting. If you're travelling Japan, these books may be fine companions on your journeys and add a touch or magic, history or colour to your adventure.

View Journey through Literary Japan in a larger map