The boys at Capital Brewing Co. aren’t phony marketing gurus, they really live the adventure lifestyle. When we saw this sweet film about their winter backcountry skiing trip, complete with a stove-equipped teepee tent, we couldn’t help but ask for the backcountry backstory. Dan lifted the lid on the festivities.
Christmas-In-July is somewhat of a ritual for us. Good mates, good brews, and a big feast somewhere on the main range. With a side of skiing. With the opening of our brewery just under a month away, this was going to have to be a quick overnighter. Not quite the usual long-weekend affair.
There’s something magical about the Australian backcountry. Mountainsides of fresh lines through snowgums. Unbelievable scenery at every turn. Listening to the sounds of a babbling mountain stream a kilometre away, carried over the snow on a dead still and super crisp winter’s evening that’s lit up like daylight by the full moon reflecting off of every surface.
Sure, it can be a little more challenging than a walk to the shops. It can get proper cold. And the speed of weather changes has caught many an explorer out, as the names of several high country huts attest. But with a little prep, a little sensibility and some decent kit, it can pay off… in spades.
A Quick Trip
With only one night up our sleeves and the desire for maximum chill time with mates, we headed just a few k’s out from Guthega ski resort. Over-snow travel can be slow, especially with big packs and big hills. Slabs of good beer, five course meals, plus a tipi with its own firebox, were considered essential kit for our trip.
We loaded up our packs and a sled (great for hauling those big ticket items) and hugged contours along the Snowy River until we found a little clearing on the edge of the tree line overlooking the main range. After a quick ski down the Paralyser, hors d’oeuvres were served laid out on a ski platter with snow-chilled cans of Trail Pale Ale while we set up the tipi.
Our own private ski-in-ski-out lodge. With no-one else even remotely in sight.
There’s not many options for huts with fireplaces at these elevations. Lots of them are above the tree line. If you want somewhere warm to hang out with your mates at night, a tipi’s a great option. We cooked right on top of the firebox as it warmed our space; allowing nine of us to crush tinnies, muscat, whisky and a few jazz cigarettes into the wee hours, oblivious to the minus 9 temps outside.
Without such a glorious thing, you’d be cuddling up in your tent many hours earlier to stay warm – not necessarily a bad option as long as you’ve got a good tent mate!
Earning Our Turns
After a lazy breakfast we left our now-somewhat-lighter packs at camp, and skiied down to Illawong Suspension Bridge – the iconic gateway to the backcountry. With climbing skins on, we gained Australia’s third highest mountain, Mt Tywnham, by lunch.
Earning your turns gives you a greater appreciation for the downhill run and we lapped it up the whole way back to Illawong, leaving nothing but several kilometres of fresh tracks. All that was left to do was collect the sled for the quick ski back and a celebratory bevvie on the deck of the Guthega Inn, gazing back at our lines through the powder.
Christmas doesn’t get much merrier!