When I was little I always thought the snow seemed super cool. Like, SUPER cool. And snowboarding or skiing, in my childlike estimation, were akin to going to space or exploring the Marianas Trench. Basically, I thought snow sports were badass.
But once you’re an adult you can actually go and do those things you were in awe of as a child, and they’re usually not quite as glorified as you expected. They are, however, a lot funnier and sillier.
This July I booked a trip with Ski Kaos and headed down to Thredbo to get in some quality pow pow. Although, because this is Australia, it was less pow pow and more slippery ice interspersed with rocks and grass…. but you take what you can get. Here are some of the funny little stories that came out of my week away.
1. Driving all night
Ski Kaos is this company that offer very cheap ski packages where they pick you up from Central, drive you down to the slopes, organise your accommodation, gear hire, lessons, organise a few events, and drive you back. In all fairness, can also choose to drive yourself (but there’s no discount for this), and the gear hire and lessons are optional paid extras.
You turn up at Central, and get assigned rooms with groups of other people, get instructions on how to access your accommodation, get your name ticked off – very reminiscent of going on a school camp – and then you jump on the bus.
And this is the part that feels, well, wrong. Why?
Here’s the deal: you get there at around 9:30pm, you’re meant to leave at 10pm, you don’t actually leave till 11pm, then you drive for a few hours, get to a petrol station, pile out of the bus while the driver takes his legally required half an hour break, pile back into the bus, drive some more, get out at 4am at the gear hire place (even if you’re not hiring gear), get your gear sorted, jump back on the bus, get out again at 8am at Jindabyne to grocery shop and eat breakfast (at a little shopping centre that, btw, doesn’t have anything gluten free apart from cake – which is a shit breakfast – so that I ended up buying a few slices of ham and cheese from Woolies and eating that instead), pile back onto the bus, and finally get out at Thredbo at about 10am.
So it’s a bit rough. And I know what you’re probably thinking – that’s not really too bad. But here’s the thing. You pull in to the parking lot at Thredbo after a night of frequently disturbed sleep, and with your mouth all fuzzy and grotty, and you do not get to check into your accommodation and freshen up.
No – your bags stay on the bus, and you’re meant to carry a separate backpack with your ski clothes in it. You change into your ski clothes on the bus, then they lock up the bus and tell you to meet back there at 4.30. Your breath stinks, you have to go collect your lift pass, and you need to haul around all your gear with you – but your lift pass doesn’t actually activate till 1pm, so you bum around at bars and cafes till then, all smelly and sleepy.
Hey, snow’s still snow and skiing was still fun that day – but man, getting to finally check in at the end of the day, shower, brush my teeth, and fall into bed was an AH-MAZ-ING feeling.
2. Life in a frat
Every time I watch a movie that’s set in an American university I remember to be grateful for the fact that Australia is nothing like that and that we don’t have frat houses here. But this week I kind of got to experience what it would be like if we did.
We got put into a house with two groups of Australian Catholic University students (who eventually merged into one). None of us knew we’d be staying together before the trip, but both groups had snuck in a bunch of their friends (who hadn’t booked and weren’t paying), so we had about double the number of people in our house as there were meant to be, and people were just sleeping on the couches and floors.
Ski Kaos use these things called key safes for their doors – little boxes which open with a combination, which the key is kept inside. Anyone with the code can access the key and get in – so both our groups of fellow residents had messaged their friends with the code and when we arrived there were already a bunch of people in there partying.
I guess they didn’t realise we’d be there, but they were decent about it and got out of the room that we were meant to have to ourselves. But every single day for the entire week they would play drinking games in the evening – their favourite was one where you’d get baptised with goon – get really drunk, throw up into saucepans, keep drinking, then complain about their hangovers the next morning.
I felt like such a grandma, going to bed early and drinking sensibly. They were a pretty tame bunch of drunks though – I mean, apart from being messy it’s not like they were getting up to any funny antics or mischief. There weren’t drunken hookups or adventures, no trespassing or pulling any stunts. They did start stealing Sky Vodka bar mats though…. until the police told them off for trying to run off with a whole bunch of them at once. Not the best thieves.
On the second day one of the toilets clogged up….and then drunk guys kept peeing in it so that it was full to the brim with excrement and bodily fluids. We messaged Ski Kaos and they said a plumber would be over, but day after day after day there was no plumber. Eventually, one of the guys decided to take one for the team, found a plunger, put on some gloves (that the ACU students had bought with them to create vodka and goon filled ‘tits’ to drink from), braved the smell of the 3 day old shit cocktail, and cleared it out. Good timing too, because that evening the pipe under the sink in the other toilet broke and rendered that one temporarily out of use.
Other fun little things included our single shower smelling strongly of stale urine. One of the guys commented on it, ‘I vommed in there but I didn’t pee all over the place…. why does it smell like that?’ We accumulated a bunch of half drunk beer bottles in the shower too, along with a growing collection of boxer shorts.
It wasn’t actually all bad though – they were fun and lovely, even though the guys liked to spend a lot of time in their underwear and were fond of chanting ‘Fuck off UTS’ and cheering ‘ACU’ when they were drunk. At least it never got boring….
3. Ski lessons
I’d decided to take some group skiing lessons this trip because I’m not a fantastic skier and I’d never had lessons before. The first day I started off in a class that was doing green runs. The instructor told me I was doing great and it was a complete waste of time. The second day I went to a class that was doing blue runs, and got Stephen.
Stephen was AWESOME. He was this gruff old character who lived in Thredbo and was kind of sarcastic but warm. Our group, however, was a little less awesome.
Particular standouts included one woman who was vastly overwrought because her friends, in another group, were far better skiers, and she got demoted back down to ours. This was an actual conversation we had:
Her: “I just don’t get how to turn” (Keep in mind, by the way, that we’re in a group that’s doing blue runs)
Me: “You just turn your knees into the mountain”
Her: “But how?”
Me: “Put your weight on your outer ski, and bend your knees towards the mountain”
Her: “But how do I do that?”
Poor Stephen. She was one of those very loud people, who for some reason just couldn’t understand how you were meant to turn. I mean she managed to turn, obviously, but couldn’t do it ‘right’ and who struggled with every single drill we’d do.
Then there were these two guys, Nick and Angelo, who were father and son. They were literally like characters from an English comedy – the ones who bumble and fumble around with no idea about what’s happening at any point.
Angelo kept getting stuck at the gates for the lifts because he’d put his pass in the same pocket as his phone and so it wouldn’t work. Every time, Nick would get in, then Angelo would get stuck, and spend ages trying to get the pass out. Nick could of course have just gone on the lift or t-bar with someone else, but he’d wait for Angelo, so that nobody else could go. Angelo could move out of the way while he searched, but he’d just stay at the gate, and the two of them would cause a pile up. And he never learned – eventually Stephen had to ask him nicely to please keep his pass separately so that he could just ski through and not hold everyone up. They also never could figure out how to use the T-Bar, and would always let go simultaneously, then just stand there until Stephen would yell at them to move out of the way so that the next people coming up wouldn’t hit them.
Not that I’m complaining, really. I’m not a great skier, but I was a great skier compared to them, which did wonders for my (seriously lacking) confidence, and because they wouldn’t even do what Stephen was telling them and just doddered around behind us, Stephen just focused on me, let me pick our runs, and got me doing little jumps! I had lots of fun.
4. Thredbo Prices
We hadn’t done much grocery shopping – we’d thought that since we weren’t uni students, we could afford to just eat out in Thredbo and only bought eggs, milk and chorizo for brekkie, and a bunch of fruit bars, carrots, cucumbers and cheese for snacks.
We were wrong. Prices in Thredbo are insane! $22 became our standard for cheap food, $36 was the average, and there were a lot of meals that were $45 and up. Chips, generally, to give you an idea, were about $12 – and those weren’t good chips either, just your standard ones. We tried grocery shopping there, but at the Foodworks a box of tea bags was $10. Gonzo’d bought 5 teabags with him so we ended up brewing a pot per teabag, drinking some in the morning, and reheating the rest to have tea later in the evening.
Drinking, funnily enough, was much cheaper. Everywhere had ‘happy hour’ or ‘schnappy hour’ – $5 wines, beers, vodka and mixers, schnapps, and $10 cocktails. Except the pub, which was just always a bit exxy for drinks.
Ski Kaos tried organising ‘welcome drinks’ the first night, using the lure of ‘a free drink’ each. That ‘free drink’ turned out to be only VB or this specific white wine that tasted so bad that a lot of people couldn’t even get themselves to finish it.
We couldn’t get the house wine or a red wine as that ‘free drink’ – so we assumed that it must have been an awful bottle that they wanted to get rid of and we were the ones unlucky enough to get foisted with it.
We played some pool, ignored the wine, and called it an early night.
Unbeknownst to us, it was uni week at Thredbo! That was a pleasant surprise – they had heaps of free activities every night, including a performance by Hayden James and a Full Moon Party. Gonzo and I would start each day with the best of intentions, excited for the night ahead – but after a day of skiing, we’d peel of our wet, sweaty clothes, have a nice long shower, eat dinner, chill in front of the fire, check the time and realise that whatever activity we wanted to do was still hours away, do some reading to pass the time, then get really sleepy and go to bed.
But one night there was zorbing – which was exciting enough for us to push through and make an effort. We were the first ones there, but then we wasted ages lining up at the office, only to be told that we had to line up where they were setting up the zorb balls, and so ended up behind a bunch of other people. They were only taking the first 40 sign ups, and we made it in at 19 and 20. Some of our housemates popped by later, and got on the waiting list.
We’d assumed it’d be fast and hadn’t dressed super warmly, which was a mistake. I was in jeans and a short sleeved shirt with my jacket on top and no gloves, and I remember getting legitimately concerned that I would suffer from frostbite. It was lively when we got there, with people excited to watch and the music pumping and an outdoor fire crackling merrily away.
But it took two hours for us to get our go, and by that time everyone had left except for the people zorbing. It was dark and cold and forbidding, and it took a fair amount of mental fortitude to last the two hours in the wind as my body slowly went from being able to differentiate sensations to just feeling a dull, biting ache all over. ‘Just think of how much fun it will be,’ I kept reminding myself.
And it was. They were putting two people in a ball at once, and you’d jump in and get strapped up incredibly securely, which I thought was overkill at the start. They pushed us down the slope and instead of rolling, we just slid down – which was fun for me because I was just suspended upside down, watching the world pass by beneath me. The guys running it were super apologetic though and dragged us back up the hill (still in the zorb ball), and rolled us down again – and this time I understood why we were strapped up like that. We went fast, and when we hit the barrier and bounced off – it hurt.
So, lesson learnt – if you’re getting in a zorb ball, try not to let it crash into anything at high speeds.
They hadn’t really told anyone where to line up or when they’d be going, so heaps of people who’d signed up ended up not showing… and nobody on the waiting list had known what to do either, so in the end, if anyone had been around, they could have jumped in and had a go. But nobody had known to wait! I asked Gonzo if we should tell our housemates so they could come and have a go. ‘Nope’ he said. He liked the guys running it too much and they were all cold and exhausted and so close to being done…. we felt like we owed it to them to just let them go home.
6. Torrential Rains
There’d been a meter of snowfall before we got there – and thank goodness there was, because after the first day we had rain on and off. And it was unseasonably warm – like, beach weather warm.
I was fully waterproofed so the rain didn’t stop me from skiing but it didn’t improve the experience either, especially when I was also overheating. It was definitely good that were staying in Thredbo, because it meant we could go back to our house when the rain was particularly heavy, wait it out, then go back out – and we could go in and dry off when we were done.
However, on the last day we had to pack and check out by 8.30am, put our things in the bus where they’d get locked up, go ski, and come back to the bus at 4.30pm. And it was raining torrentially. I took one look out of the window in the morning and decided I’d rather spend my day reading in a cafe.
Gonzo was adamant that he was going to ski regardless, and left me for the slopes. He came back a little later fully soaked and looking very unimpressed, admitted that he’d made a mistake, and spent the rest of the afternoon drying off.
Thredbo, unfortunately, does not offer much in the way of entertainment when it’s raining. All the cafes and bars were full to the brim, and after I’d read all the books I’d bought with me I thought I was going to go slowly insane waiting for the bus home – until we discovered that the Alpine Lodge was still relatively empty, had a DJ spinning tunes, and a large fire that we could gather around.
We spent most of our day in there, enjoying some very chilled music, lounging about feeling toasty, and watching the weather go from bad to worse outside the window. It got so windy that almost all the lifts stopped operating, and as we watched the river got higher and higher until it broke it’s banks and flooded, closing the roads.
It was exciting to watch! Mother nature at work! Hey, if I can’t ski, I do at least want the weather to be dramatic. We got our last little bit of excitement on the way home – our bus driver convinced the police to let us through because we didn’t have anywhere to sleep that night and they acquiesced, wishing us ‘good luck’. We all held our breath as we got to the flooded road, but we managed to make it through without any incidents – the benefits of being in a large and very weighted down coach!
And that was my ski trip in a nutshell.
Would I go with Ski Kaos again? Yes, because they’re cheap AF, but next time I’d definitely go with a bigger group of my own friends, pack a toothbrush in my backpack, try to pick a week when it wasn’t raining, and ask not to be roomed with any uni students.