The 2019 season has started with a bang! The first winter storm of the season has been relentless, bringing with it 82cm of new snow since last Wednesday..
And it’s not stopping there either. Pete the Frog Taylor from Snowatch is predicting another 10 cm over the next 10 days.
Joss McAlpin, Perisher, reports ‘six days of freezing temperatures, heavy snowfalls and strong winds have provided sensational early season conditions. So much so, that this weekend we are opening 32 lifts, across all four ski areas.
Thursday – Blue Cow open for the season featuring the Ridge and Summit Quad Chairlifts
Friday – Mt Perisher open for the season with the Mt Perisher Triple and Double Chairlifts
Saturday – Guthega opening including the Freedom Quad Chairlift”
Perisher’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Brulisauer, echoed Joss’ comments, indicating “the early season conditions are the best he’s seen since 2000”.
We’ve had it up to our eyeballs! Why? Well, as you might be aware, social media juggernaut, Facebook, recently changed the way it decides whether a post SHOULD or SHOULD NOT appear in your news feed. Yep, they decide, not you.
We just can’t keep up. First Facebook decided it liked photos, then it changed it’s mind and gave preferences to videos until that went out of style. Then it got all excited about live posts until that too became passé. Finally, they’ve decided anything is OK, but if you want to reach your followers you’d better be prepared to pay.
It is all part of Facebook’s new social responsibility thingy, or if we were more cynical, their efforts to restore some modicum of credibility after stealing your data for years before (most likely) selling it to the Russians. Only kidding Mark Z! Honest!
Facebook has gone all warm and fuzzy as it tries to restore the love between friends, lovers, family and neighbours. What that means for YOU is your news feed will now be filled with posts from friends and family (which is cool), and advertising (not cool) from companies that can afford to pay. So, prepare to be inundated with posts from your Aunt Berril and the likes of Coca Cola and Pepsi.
While the latter is what’s really getting our goat (we like Aunt Berril, really!), we also reckon plenty of you would still (albeit occasionally) like to hear from us, a poor volunteer organisation, just trying to bring you the latest snow industry news, and the occasional rad video clip of skiiers and snowboarders hucking cliffs and riding neck deep powder.
Are we right?
If so, there’s something you can do. Simply go to our Facebook page, click on ‘follow’, then change the ‘default’ setting to the ‘see first’ setting. Ignore what it’d says. You wont see evening we publish at the top of your news feed. No – Facebook would never allow that.
What it does mean though is that our post will now have a snowflakes chance in hell (pun intended) of appearing somewhere on your page, from time to time. And we reckon that’s OK.
At SRA our team of volunteers work hard to bring you this stuff. We don’t get paid, so it would be great if you could at least see the results of our efforts, from time to time, or even at all.
Good afternoon from Perisher, where the lifts have started spinning for the 2018 winter season!
The mountain operations team fired up the Village 8 Express chairlift at 1pm to allow skiers and snowboarders their first runs and turns for the season.
A Perisher spokesperson said he and his team are excited to celebrate the arrival of the June long weekend, which will see the Village 8 Express chair and a ski conveyer on offer, providing skiing and snowboarding to beginner and intermediate terrain,whilst Perisher’s Snowsports School will offer lessons.
The June long weekend is a celebration to welcome winter with plenty of activities for the whole family; including the “Rail Rampage” rail jam in the Perisher Terrain Park, massive fireworks display and the PEAK music festival.
I can hear the sighs form here. Yep, turns out your dream partner doesn’t ski or snowboard after all. So much for the famous speed dating meme huh…
However, I am here to tell you it’s not the end of the world. I’ve taken my wife skiing a few times. She didn’t hate it, nor did she love it – she’s just not a snow loving maniac like I am.
After doing three successive boy’s trips in as many years, I asked my wife if she join me on a trip to Japan, along with our two children. The whole experience – as it turned out – was pretty amazing. I went skiing with he boys, and she enjoyed a well deserved break. A win-win, so to speak.
When we returned, she asked if she could pen a few words about her most recent experience; what she enjoyed about the trip and her recommendations for other non-skiing partners. This is what she said:
“I couldn’t go on a ski holiday, I don’t ski, what would I do?”
Many of my friends have said this to me in the past. As for me, I like skiing and I’m ok at it, but it isn’t a passion for me like it is for my husband. You see, I married into the hobby. I knew before we got married that he skied. We went on a few skiing holidays early on in our relationship but I didn’t realise how much it would feature in our lives.
Fast forward quite a few years and a couple of kids later. The family ski holiday my husband had been dreaming of was upon us. We packed the family onto a couple of planes, trains and a bus, and headed off for the ski fields of Japan, Madarao to be exact.
Madarao is a smaller ski village, which is fast growing. There are hotels, places to eat (traditional Japanese food and Western), a few small bars, a convenience store and all things ski related (hire, instructors etc).
Most people have different definitions of a good holiday – some are ‘action people’, some are ‘relax by the pool enjoying a cocktail and reading a book kind of people’, and then there are the ‘in between’ people. I am an in between person who loves to relax with a bit of sightseeing thrown in. If you are too, then a ski holiday could also work for you.
How do you enjoy a ski holiday, share the joy with your family but also enjoy yourself doing other things?
My day would begin skiing with my kids and husband, when I needed a break I would wonder back to our hotel. Along the way I enjoyed the environment around me and loved taking photos. Not necessarily professional quality photos but fun photos. With the solitude and the head space, I found myself really looking at the things around me (I just don’t get time at home). I’d then head back to the accommodation to read my book and write.
Next to me was a window through which was a most breathtaking scene of white mountains and trees, looking at it was just blissful. I’d sit at that window and feel quite inspired. I could imagine other people sitting, reflecting, painting, doing a craft, jigsaw puzzle, anything really….. gazing out over that view.
At lunchtime I enjoyed walking along the snow covered cat tracks to meet up at a restaurant with my family. Along the way I really enjoyed taking photographs and just loved the solitude and serenity of my environment. When the kids and my husband finished up for the day, we’d all go to dinner together, share in the adventures of the day whilst enjoying a drink or two. The kids would then be happily occupied with the in-house pool table, fuse ball table, darts and PS4 (thanks Active Life Madarao).
Prior to Japan, I also visited larger resorts. There I also enjoyed going to the day spas, visiting book and clothing shops (mostly winter, ski related clothes). I didn’t miss the day spa or shops on this holiday, I found the quieter environment uplifting and soul filling. I loved seeing the smiling faces on my children at the end of the day as they mastered the skill of skiing. But, mostly I felt happy seeing my husband have his dream fulfilled.
This weekend marks the beginning of ALDI Australia’s annual snow gear sale.
Every year, thousands of shoppers flock (some in a civil fashion, others not so) to one of ALDI’s 500+ retail outlets, in search of a so-called snow gear bargain.
The ALDI ski sale is highly emotive: it causes fierce arguments, fights, and receives main-stream media attention, including satirical pieces poking fun at ski industry fashionistas (privileged rich folk who turn their noses up at every day punters).
All this got us thinking. Is ALDI snow gear really all it’s cracked up to be, and is the dollar value of its product (measured typically in tens not hundreds of dollars) really buying you a quality product? And for those who care, what is its impact on our local retail industry?
Before we talk dollars ($$), let’s get a few things straight: comparing ALDI with other brands is not ‘an apples with apples comparison’, and the retail playing field is far from even.
So – as we put on our Teflon coats and strap ourselves in for the inevitable sh*t flinging to come, let us take a closer look.
The playing field is far from even
Like most markets, the snow industry has its global giants and its smaller niche businesses. It also has those addicted to bargain-basement prices, while others love to support local, no matter what.
The Australian snow retail industry is very small. We can count on one hand the number of specialist snow retailers in each of the major capital cities. Retailers stock a range of products from lesser known discount lines to high-end well-known products, like Spyder, North Face and Descente.
In terms of Australian-owned or locally manufactured gear, the list is even smaller again. If you were to think Billabong and Quicksilver, you’d be wrong – both are foreign owned and have been for some time. XTM and Rip Curl, on the other hand, are 100% Australian owned.
ALDI is huge – let’s not kid anyone. German-owned ALDI is the common brand of two discount supermarket chains with over 10,000 stores in 20 countries, with an estimated combined annual turnover of more than €50 billion. Presently it has more than 500 stores in Australia with more opening all the time. So when it comes to competitive advantage in manufacturing, marketing and bulk-purchasing power, ALDI hold all the aces.
The entry of a global giant to the market – with enormous purchasing power and the ability to discount their product – puts pressure on local ski shops, which already operate in a knife edge industry. Revenue has declined, gear rental has dropped off, and unfortunately a number of stores have closed their doors.
Then there’s the question of ethics. Reputable brands publish their social responsibility policies on their websites. Aussie owned XTM and Rip Curl, for example, use a number of internationally recognised standards to ensure their factories meet ethical standards. That means fair remuneration, protection for young workers and environmentally sustainable practices. In addition, XTM’s community program, ‘Heat the Homeless’, has collected over 14,000 jackets that would otherwise have ended up as landfill, donating them to those that need them most – people sleeping rough on our streets. Their business has also been carbon neutral for ten years.
It’s not an ‘apples with apples’ comparison
Let’s start with a simple comparison of technical specs:
ALDI’s range of ski jackets have water / wind proofing ratings of 20k/20k to 12k/10k respectively, and range in price from $199 to $59. For kids, water / wind proofing is static at 12k/10k. Jackets are priced at $39.
By comparison, XTM’s adult range of ski jackets have water / wind proofing ratings of 20k/15k to 15k/10k respectively, and range in price from $399 to $199. For kids, water / wind proofing ranges from 15k/15k to 15k/10k and range in price from $169 to $149 respectively.
Rip Curls’ adult range of ski jackets start at water / wind proofing ratings of 40k/30k gm to 10k/10k respectively. With higher technical ratings, come slightly higher prices. Jackets range in price from $549 to $499, or $299 in the case of the 10k/10k product. For kids, the water / wind proofing is set at 10k/10k, but the sleeves and pant legs are extendable by 2-3 cm, so you can use it for years to come. The kids’ gear ranges from $199 to $179.
But are we comparing apples with apples?
First of all, numbers can be deceiving. While a garment may be made of 20,000 mm water resistant material, a garment is also only as water resistant as its seams and zips (the main entry point for water) i.e. a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
As any of us – and particularly those of us with kids – know, it’s the qualities of the zips and seams, quality of the stitching, the insulation and the amount of stretch in the fabric that ultimately determine how durable your jacket is and how long it will last (and just as importantly, how cold and wet you and your kids will be at the end of the day!).
There’s also the attention to detail, like the quality of the pocket zips and the zip toggles (quality toggles make it easy to zip and unzip your jacket while wearing gloves).
So there’s far more to it than a simple comparison of prices and the reported level of water proofing.
We agree ALDI make products for a particular niche market – and furthermore, that they do it well. Heck, they have even been credited as being good for the ski industry by making snow sports more accessible.
However, the retort is that while the ‘premium’ ALDI products may have similar water proofing and breathability ratings to higher end products, there is more to it than that.
In Australia, we are lucky to have quality brands XTM and Rip Curl with ranges to suit everyone from first timers to elite athletes – that are both affordable and of exceptional high quality!
For example, the design team at XTM work closely with the athletes, and travel the world sourcing the best materials to ensure their garments last. It’s also true that XTM work with world leading companies like Goretex and Primaloft [which really just means their gear is really warm and lasts] and have kitted out the Australian Winter Olympic team for the last three Games. It also has impeccable ethics, and every year engages in a campaign to help the homeless.
So the question is. Are you just in the market for a cheap jacket or are you looking for a high-quality local supplier who genuinely cares about the local snow industry and the environment?
Both are worth considering next time you head to the checkout. We’ll leave it to you – the well informed customer – to decide which of the buyers you represent.
About Snowriders Australia
SRA is run by a team of volunteer snow sports enthusiasts based across Australia. The crew at SRA is passionate about the snow sports industry and campaigns hard in the protection of alpine environments and by raising awareness of the dangers of climate change, and its impact to our sport. SRA exists to serve and support recreational skiers and boarders by encouraging skiing and snowboarding as a healthy and fun activity; by sharing snow related news / media and through the production of original written content, including reviews, editorials & interviews with ski industry personalities.
EPA has announced it will ban snowmaking after scientists revealed man-made snow contains high concentrations of a chemical known as di-hydrogen monoxide (or DHMO).
Widespread but little known, DHMO is lethal when inhaled, corrodes metal and may form blistering vapours when heated.
“These findings are extremely alarming”, said University spokesman, Dr Alan Rainmaker. “The use of DHMO – which consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom – is unfortunately commonplace in the snow-sports industry, with some resorts using concentrations as high as 100%”.
“It’s no wonder people’s edges rust during the off season”, he added.
Independent investigations by Snowriders Australia confirm DHMO is a colourless molecule, which freezes at precisely zero degrees C – making it highly suitable for use in modern snow-making devices.
Somewhat more concerning is that upon melting, DHMO enters alpine streams and underground water tables, before being incorporated to food chains and root systems where it remains for years. DHMO is also commonly used as a fire-retardant. Shocking!
Today’s announcement is a significant blow to the ski industry, which relies heavily on snowmaking. “Yeah, obviously it’s not ideal”, said Snow Australia CEO, Nigel Sosnowski, “DHMO is used under the strictest safety conditions; all our technicians wear gloves and take great care not come into direct contact with the product – I mean, that shit’s really cold” he added further.
EPA is conducting further investigations into the use of DHMO in the snow-sports industry and is expected to make a further statement at noon today.
If like the SRA directors, you’re over 40, you’ll know what it’s like nursing aching limbs after a full day of snowriding. Yeah, yeah, we hear you. You’re thinking nothing a bit of Ibuprofen or a tall glass of red cant fix, right? You’re partly right.
All those things help, and we’ve certainly used them ourselves – still do in fact. But there are plenty of other things you can do without turning to drugs:
1. Train hard before you go
You’re all busy we get it. But trust us, nothing prepares you better for skiing and snowboarding than training. Leg strength and core strength are key. For leg strength, find yourself a good set of stairs and climb them. Regularly.
Go slowly and (if you can) take double steps. If your thighs (on the way up) and calves (on the way down) are burning, you’re probably doing it right.
If you live in Western Australia, ‘Jacobs Ladder’ is a great place to start – just go easy at first. We train at Jacobs once or twice a week for 5-6 weeks in the lead up to skiing and it’s been really beneficial. The coffee in Subiaco afterwards makes it all worthwhile. Disclaimer if you have existing knee or back problems check with your physio, chiropractor or doctor before launching into it.
2. Drop a few kilograms
For those that ski in the northern hemisphere, snow holidays typically follow the Christmas period. Let’s face it, after the festive season, we could all lose a few kilograms (well most of us). Losing weight makes a big difference.
Think of it this way. If you were your legs, would you rather carry the version of you right now, or a better version at 5-10 kg lighter? Your body will thank you for it. You’ll be less fatigued, your legs wont burn out by lunch time, and most importantly you’ll be that much lighter in the fresh pow. Winning all round.
3. Buy new equipment
This is not a sales push to get you to support our sponsors. Well, it is kind of. But you don’t need convincing anyway, do you. Everybody loves new ski kit.
What we’re talking about is boots, skis and boards. Ski boots particularly have a use by date or mileage limit, what ever comes sooner. Simply speaking, they wear out. Boots particularly lose their stiffness and eventually stop supporting our ankles and feet the way they used to. If your boots are more than 10 years old, get new ones. The new custom fit technology is pretty standard across brands now too, so you can say good riddance to sore feet and numb toes.
Skis and boards are another story. They don’t wear out as much as they become obsolete. Ski technology in particular has moved ahead in leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. If you haven’t heard of rocker, reverse camber and variable ski geometry, then it’s time you checked it out. We’ve been skiing the DPS wailer in recent years and they’ve been an absolute revolution. We’re skiing better now than we were in our 20’s.
4. Stay hydrated
Of all the things we’ve listed so far, this is the easiest. It’s really easy to become dehydrated in the snow. In fact, it’s part of the reason yellow snow looks so yellow – generally because those doing it are probably dehydrated.
It’s also likely you’re dehydrated before you begin. Coffee and dry air-conditioning (from the flight) or over heating in ski lodges all contribute to an unhealthy amount of dehydration. So drink a pint of water before you head out for the day.
Once on the hill, we use a range of ‘camel back’ style back packs (the ones with installed water bladders and a hose to your mouth). Add electrolyte powder to improve muscle function and make it a bit more palatable (because drinking large amounts of water can get tedious). Although it’s cold outside, it surprising how much you perspire under your gear. If you’re hydrated everything works better: your brain your muscles, your organs. Believe us, you need water.
5. Skip lunch, but snack often
We’re not sure how this advice sits with nutritionists, but we’ve trialed this concept with great success. Long lunches kill your mojo. Simple. As much as it’s nice to stop for a big lunch and a beer (and we’ve certainly enjoyed a few of those), we found it just gave our bodies the opportunity to stew in lactic acid and then seize up. Invariably we’d return to the snow at about 1:30 – 2:00 o’clock only to find our legs were blown. Typically we were good for one of two more runs but that was it (it just became too dangerous to continue).
So our advice is to have a big breakfast (lots of carbs), drink lots of water and snack as often as you can: chocolate is great for a quick shot of energy but the effect is short lived. Better to instead snack on things like nuts, good quality energy bars (not sugary ones) and even simple things like peanut butter sandwiches. Stopping off for a quick dumpling and a coffee helps too. Using this approach we’ve increased our skiing time by 1-2 hours a day. As an added bonus, you get the hill to yourself when everyone else goes in for lunch.
6. Take regular onsens (or hot baths)
Last but not least, if you’re in Japan hit the onsens as often as you can. If you’re not in Japan, and you have access to a bath or even a hot spa, we recommend that too. There’s nothing like a really hot bath to relax the muscles and help them recover in time for the next day. Warning: In Japan, onsens equal seeing your friends and family completely naked. We have no tips to prepare you for that.
Wayno lies on a single futon on the third story of his staff accommodation block. Wearing nothing more than a stained pair of bonds and a three day growth, he stirs, lets out an audible fart, and rolls over.
Wayne – or Wayno – as he’s know to his mates, is an Australia Day bogan, a not so elusive creature, but one which peaks one day a year.
With a dry mouth, a bourbon aftertaste and half a mongrel, he opens one eye. He makes a dry smacking noise with his mouth, and reaches for his iphone.
Then it dawns on him. A smirk appears on his mouth. It’s Australia day, the one day a year when red blooded Australians, brimming with nationalistic pride, get to celebrate their white, middle classed ‘Aussieness’.
He emerges. Squinting, he surveys his surroundings. It’s cold. Snowing. The air ordinarily crisp and clean, is broken only by the acrid stench of his morning cigarette. Dressed in best koala onsie, he trudges to the bus stop.
The bus is full. Not deterred, he climbs on but only to be met with jeers from other Aussies, all dressed in onesies too. There’s a giraffe, a giant banana and strangely, several other koalas, one holding a inflatable doll, mouth gaping, draped in red lipstick
There are no seats. Perched on an arm rest, he reaches for his hip flask. “Hair of the dog”, he announces loudly, as he chugs it back. The giraffe, the banana and the numerous koalas cheer in chorus.
15 minutes later the crowd emerge at the top of the ski run. Some sober but most still too pissed to legally drive, they set of. It’s a Cannonball run. First to the bottom wins. Winner is first to the bottom and first to scull a pint of VB. Wayno is in his element. Yep. It’s Australia day in the mountains…If you’re not Australian “you’d better run, you’d better take cover”. Stay safe out there folks, and if you’re an Australian in the mountains, have fun and try not to piss too many people off 🙂
While Europe, Japan and parts of North America continue to receive massive, and let’s face it, near-dangerous snow falls, our friends in Colorado, Western USA, are experiencing one of the leanest winters on record! So, what in Ullr’s name is going on?