Things are good when your most difficult decision of the day is which restaurant to try for dinner.
And we tried a few, eating out most nights we were there. Avalanche, Fountains, The Last Run Bar, The General and Swindlers, all of which were good. My picks would be The Last Run Bar and Fountains, however points must go to The General for their over-snow pizza delivery.
The following day the weather was sunny and still, perfect for buzzing around in a Bell 206 III Jet Ranger :D
Aside from snowboarding it was fun to just walk around and be back in the snow! The above photo is a rare appearance of me and is courtesy of Toddles :)
As with last year, attempts to book a heli flight between Mt Hotham and Falls Creek were again being thwarted by the weather and I was becoming accustomed to the morning phone call from central reservations to say the heli trip was cancelled. The day started as almost a complete whiteout, beautiful in itself, then transitioned into freezing high winds which at least provided occasional blue skies.
Despite the wind it was a good day to explore some of the areas outside the patrol boundary and get a better overview of the resort.
And it was nice to get away from the often-crowded runs and chill (no pun intended) for a while.
In a season which was the worst in several years we were lucky to have reasonable snow cover. The lack of moisture was the main problem, with no moisture meaning no snow, however the consistently low overnight temperatures allowed for good snowmaking conditions. Mother nature came to the party with a few nice dustings to make things look pretty again.
The friends I was staying with at the snow were first time snowboarders, so while they were at lessons I went off and did my own thing. Learning to snowboard can be a frustrating, tiring and usually painful experience until it "clicks" and becomes natural, but at least the snow was forgiving.
Personally I improved my carving technique a lot, which felt great. It probably helped that for the first time I was riding my own board and bindings rather than rental gear; the board and bindings were so much more responsive and I could adjust things to get it feeling just right.
A few weeks later I was off again, this time to Victoria for a snowboarding holiday! Ironically there was more snow in New Zealand than Australia (this season was horrendous for the Australian resorts), but that's the way things go. As long as there's enough to make some lines, I'm happy.
From here I flew to Sydney where there was a 5 hour wait before boarding a delayed night flight to Albury. Weather and airport gate delays were to be a common influence in my air travel over the coming two weeks.
I was picked up from Albury by friends who I stayed with in Mt Beauty for a few days. This was like a holiday in itself and was a lot of fun - they're great people with plenty of interesting travel and snow stories (and are as similarly hooked on the TV shows Lost and 24 as I am), and I stayed with them for my snow trip last year as well. Mt Beauty is situated at the base of Mt Bogong near the Falls Creek snow resort, on the other side of the ridge that leads to Mt Hotham.
While I'd travelled to Mt Beauty, friends had headed for Melbourne, and after a few days we met up in Bright and went from there to Mt Hotham. Having never been to Mt Hotham before, booking accommodation ahead of time was a little tricky. The hard part was finding the right combination of location, price and facilities without knowing much about the resort and having nothing except a few tiny pictures on websites to go by, but the place we decided on was great. It was roomy and located close to the lifts while still having a fantastic view. Above is the view from the lounge; it's hard to imagine ever getting tired of waking up to a view like that. After sunset it was a good vantage point for watching the groomers and snowmakers hard at work.
The Friday after returning from New Zealand the first concert of the Australian leg of the Coldplay Twisted Logic Tour was held. Lucky for me and my brother, we had tickets! It was a fantastic concert and I'll never forget the huge and deafening intro track they played from X&Y - awesome. They also played my favourite track, Shiver, from Parachutes.
Waking up at 2 AM and with an outside temperature of -3°C it was time to catch a flight back to Australia. Through customs at Christchurch International and a short wait, then on the plane to watch the wings be de-iced. Takeoff and into the dark sky to watch a slow motion 3 hour sunrise on the way to Sydney.
I'm starting to like flying at night - I find it very relaxing (especially when you've had very little sleep), whereas flights during the day are energy-draining.
Approaching Sydney, the sun just climbing over the horizon, tiny crystals on the windows came alive as frozen orange sparks. After landing and making our way through immigration and then underground to the Domestic terminal it wasn't long before boarding started for the flight back to the bay. Having spent the holiday in the consistently cold environment of New Zealand, stepping off the plane here was like being dropped into the middle of the Sahara - it was hot, but it was nice to be back.