Words: Mark Catsburg
Images: Andrew Bibby
As an everyday citizen, having long ago traded the seasons for the city, i am now probably whats considered a punter, a weekend warrior, and in turn my wallet is now an absolute target for the ski industry. Theres just so much to do in order to prepare for a “quick trip” to the slopes in Aus if you are from a metropolitan area. The board, boots, bindings, pants, jackets, goggles, gloves, beanie checklist is a handful already, and add to that the 3.5 hour drive, the gas, accomodations, the 72 hour COVID negative test, the road toll to park in a carpark miles from civilisation and the taxi from said carpark to the actual resort area and all of a sudden a couple of beers at the local skatepark starts to sound a whole lot more enticing. Do not fucking get me started on the absolute rort that is the mandatory chain carry/hire fiasco. If you ever want to know what it feels like to light a $50 note on fire go hire some chains and pretend to take notice of the guy showing you how to fit them while you both know full well the likeliness of that scenario coming to reality is about as rare as catching a one legged pegasus.
Line up, line up line up.
Recently a brief window opened up in between lockdowns, which is also very rare if you live in
Melbourne. Also rare is that one of Australia’s most original snowboarding personalities, Marc
Baker was back from Los Angeles for a stint and seeing as we hadn’t snowboarded together
since Utah over a decade ago, when we were both a whole lot more limber, sponsored and much
less bitter, we thought we had better make an effort of some sort. The weather report was grim,
wind and rain on the menu for 3 days, but we were determined to get some turns, even if it meant getting soaked. We managed to scrape together some gear last minute (thankyou Chunk!) and after a night of setting up boards, trying to remember how wide our stances were and what they should probably be these days, while an age appropriate Mack Dawg soundtrack tickled some of the familiar excitement out of our soggy old bones. Lights went out and were flicked back on soon after at some ungodly hour and we were on the road.
I will say that generally any road trip is a good one, and a road trip to the mountain is undoubtedly a top tier experience. Pulling up to the base as the clouds dissipate to reveal a windless, bluebird day with a bonus couple centimetres of fresh white powder and you can bet your bottom dollar our hooting turned to hollering and the opening song from technical difficulties got cranked up a few notches.
We didn’t exactly blast through the gates. We were stopped, lined up, COVID negative checked,
blindly waved credit cards at a machine, and commenced the slow trawl to carpark 8, which may as well be the end of the train line. We then piled into a bus which we had to pay for to wait in line for passes and by this stage felt like I needed a classic 9am beer.
Now all of this is necessary in some way or another, there are business to be run, jobs to be kept and public safety is paramount. I get it, but i can’t help but feel it could be streamlined, as if the customer experience was more than an afterthought. I couldn’t shake the idea that if i was a complete rookie, or had never seen the snow, the magic of the whole experience by now would be wearing pretty thin. Chuck a couple of kids in the mix on what is supposed to be a memorable family holiday and I think the tantrums wouldn’t just be coming from the back seats, and a return trip would be completely off the cards.
But we were there, we had made it, 2 old pals on a chairlift in the middle of Victoria on the top of a mountain on the best day of the season. This was about to be the most fun we’d had in ages.
And just like that, it was. Drop in, a couple of slashes, a side hit, an edge catch and a bunch of
laughs and the weariness of the trip and all of the slightly draining details were completely gone.
Also nowhere to be found were thoughts of the entire 200 days spent in and out of lockdowns, reminders of the pandemic and its long lasting mental and financial effects replaced with tree bashes and chairlift banter. Catching laps with Jackson Allen and another white rabbit, A child free Robbie Walker matched with a few lunchtime beers and we were literally and figuratively on top of the goddamn COVID ridden world.
Just like that, it was worth it. more than worth it, I’d do it again every single week if we were
allowed to leave our 5km radius. The actual act of snowboarding is a ton of fun, but cruising laps with good friends in the sunshine in the mountains with an endless view is seriously special. We got lucky. But really, anyone who gets to experience the snow here is lucky, its not attainable for everyone and some people will go their whole lives without feeling the chill of some slush down the buttcrack of their jeans for the first time.
Don’t get me wrong Im not trying to revolutionise the industry, or even share the chairlift with a bunch of kooks, but after being demoted from semi pro to regular joe I can respect the plight of the common man, and would love to see the mountain more easily accessible while we still have the luxury of snow. At the very least more welcoming, because who knows? One of those kids who’s old man chucked a wobbly on the bus and swore never to come back could’ve been our next Scotty James, and instead of gold medals and international accolades just has a memory of a wet bum and a mad dad.