Australia, July 2015 Perisher the thought

I tried to care about rugby league but failed. I mean, there was a brief moment when New South Wales looked like scoring a try and they were shit and some good defence from Queensland stopped them from getting anything but other than that it was a load of egg-chasing nonsense. I did manage to care enough about the Ashes to be angry that we went to lunch (and I to bed) at 40-odd for 3 though. Gah.

Back at the room Kevin was watching a particularly awful Jet Li/Jason Statham film and I didn't really take much notice of it, preferring instead to get angry with myself for missing out what I believe was my one chance to change my flights home to something better. Never mind.

Slept pretty well considering, and was up and at 'em along with everyone else at the crack of 6.45am or whatever the hell stupid time it was. It was time to go get some snow. I made a vague attempt at pretending the weather was going to be cold by putting on a long sleeve shirt that is a bit thick, purchased for me by bro on the day I arrived. It'll do the trick.

Driving out of Canberra is an easy virtually straight line only made confusing by our literally instant wrong turn immediately outside the hotel. Other than that it's a dull and featureless landscape next to a tran line and following the border of ACT and NSW. Maybe that's a bit harsh - occasionally there are features such as clouds and small mountains and odd sculptures in fields and vast amounts of kangaroo and wombat roadkill. There are also 2 live kangaroos who bound across the road in what proves to be the highlight of the first half of this drive.

Low cloud and much frost.

We stop for breakfast in a truck-stop town named Cooma, where every shop has a waving snowman on its roof. Breakfast is in a greasy spoon and the sausages are nice. The route to the toilets is through what seems to be a warehouse and the air is freezing. Even I am feeling the cold and for just the tiniest amount of time I consider buying some warmer clothes from the shop we parked outside of, but this thought dissipates the second I am out of the shade outside.

Anyway I'm hardly complaining. I came to Australia in July for several good reasons, the main one being I could escape what is typcally one of the hottest weeks of the year in England. To ram the point home Kevin had arranged for us to go see some snow and much as I don't like snow, I like it more than burning heat.

On we press, past villages with seemingly single figures of houses but also a microbrewery and aromatic healing centre. There are only about 3 villages in 100km, the next thing approaching anything town-like being Jindabyne - big enough to have an East Jindabyne, and next to Lake Jindabyne which is a significant improvement on Lake George because it's full of fucking water.

Just beyond the Jindabynes is the awesomely named Crackenback. Try saying that without prefixing it with "sack". And then, just before the entrance to a national park I can neither pronounce nor spell, the Skitube - a railway below the typical snowfall altitudes which, using Australia's longest tunnel, goes up through a mountain and lands us in Perisher.

Hello, snow.

I've never been to a ski resort before and it's a pretty impressive place. But Alex and Harry have never seen real life snow before. I had been quizzed for a lot of the journey about what it's like and we'd already set out the 2 teams we would fall into for a snowman bulding contest (we end up not building any, but Alex and I so would've won hands down).

The tickets we have are for day trips which grant us one ride up and down the 4-person chairlift, and the clothing and equipment to get some serious toboganning action in. After wandering around being generally bemused by, well, snow, we eventually learn that the chairlift is the one with all the boarders and skiiers - it has provision for foot traffic only. We queue, go through the gates, and jump on the 4 person chair in a hurry.

This is pretty fucking cool. Up above a whole load of boarders and skiiers on the easier slopes to the resort's ... left, the kids are loving it and I'm clinging onto the handrail only a tiny bit too tight for dear life. At the middle station we have to get off and Harry nearly causes disaster by not letting go of the rail, while Alex drops a nonchalant "Hi, Rikki" at Rikki the station assistant. We think she's being precocious but actually they know each other - Rikki worked until a few days ago at her after school club care thing. That's pretty crazy, that a 6yo would run into someone she knows at her first time in the snow, a 5 hour drive from home.

It's pretty nippy up here. We go into the big restaurant and I grab chairs while everyone else grabs pastry. Kevin's pie is shit and not what he ordered anyway, having been gazumped by Harry - who in the end does not finish anywhere near all of her own sausage roll. My frankfurter roll is clearly the winner. Back outside we stand on the balcony posing and admiring the action below.

Then back to middle station for a scoot up to the top station - which is kinda shut but kinda not, because there's virtually fuck all snow - without stopping. Back down and things start to get a bit hairy. I am pretty terrfied of this, because heading down hill just feels so much worse than going up. The view is of a vast hill that would kill me to fall down and on the way up I couldn't see that so it wasn't there even though it was obviously there.

Alex shows no fear. Harry briefly says she doesn't like it but then says she loves it, in keeping with her normal attitude ("Mum, I'm cold. Can I have an ice cream? I meant I'm not cold."). I grip the handrail and my hands almost freeze to it while Kevin flails around with his camera. Don't get me wrong - I wasn't totally terrified, and I'd do it again, but still, not my favourite thing in the world.


Back down the bottom, we augment the clothes and boots we'd hired for the girls earlier with a couple of toboggans beause fuck yeah toboggans. Away from the skis and boards there's a dedicated area. Some carrying teamwork results in us making very slow progress so eventually Harry lets me carry her toboggan alone.

With some trepidation, Alex sits on her tray and grabs the steering rope and is set off down the smallest slope and WHEEEEEEEEE THIS IS AWESOME. Harry has more trepidation and on her run swipes straight into two careless lads, yet loves the experience even more, finishing with a monstrously cute dance and cries of AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN! This repeats for ages and does not get boring for any of us.

Harry hill.

The lighting is ropey but from the bottom I take a few videos and stills. Then with sign language of manic waving I inform Kevin to shift over to the big fuck off hill next door. Stayng at the bottom while he accompanies them, in the end Harry turns back without her toboggan and stands with me, complaining that she no longer has her toboggan and why doesn't she have her toboggan and she wants her toboggan.

A couple of minutes later Alex does the huge run, falling off and to a halt half way down but dusting herself off to complete it before the helpers can help. I ask if she enjoyed it, the answer is no. Kevin disappears and I keep thinking he must be attempting to walk back down before this bearded lunatic laden with bags skids his way down the nearside of the run and covers himself in snow kicked up from his shoes. Nutter.

This would be Kevin.

Back on the top end of the small run, the girls do a few more descents, each in turn coming back without their toboggan and so we send them down in randem to go fetch the missing one. Then someone asks if Uncle Darren can have a go.

Good fucking lord. i sit on the thing, wait until the coast seems clear-ish, and set off... at significant speed. People clear out of my way like extras in an action movie (those I narrowly miss), bowling pins (those I narrowly hit), or just don't clear (the lad at the end I pile into, who reacts by shouting FUCK but says he's OK when I ask). My inability to steer properly combines with futile attempts to steady myself with bare hand on packed snow and ice, and it kinda hurts a bit, and I'm a bit wet through my non-winter clothing in a ski resort for fucks sake, and THAT WAS PRETTY FUCKING AWESOME. AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN! Sorta kinda wish I was more appropriately dressed and had my own toboggan.

But I'm not and i don't. One last race for the girls and then we have to leave, giving the clothes and equipment back and buying donuts at the Skitube station. The donuts arrive 15 seconds before the train, which is absolutely rammed and considerably more boring than the ride up, with anticipation giving way to impatience.

20 minutes later we are in the car and reversing the mornng's route, with more kangaroos being around at dusk and a gorgeous sunset turning a boring landscape into something really quite pretty. We are able to make the entire drive back to Canberra without any loo breaks - seriously, this is qute an achievement. 90 minutes of madness ensues with two tired and hungry children going full crazy until suddenly, they are in bed and I am in the bar. Now why aren't they showing the Ashes?

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