Learn to Love Lockdown: A Home School Season Thredbo

A home school season in Thredbo probably kicks ass versus the alternative most places.

School is by far the most social time of most of our lives. So it’s been a tough couple of years for all the kids and teenagers missing out. Lessons can be made up, or replaced by online learning. But time with your friends and peers can’t. 

Yet if you were ever going to be stuck home schooling, doing the season in Thredbo is surely about as good as it gets.

The Tweedie kids from Aireys Inlet in Victoria got to do just that this winter.

Parents Dave and Marijke Tweedie took on a lodge management job in the village for the season. Dave has history in Thredbo, having ski-bummed several seasons there last millennium – for a taste of what he used to get up to check his Once (And Only Once!) Upon A Time in Thredbo feature.

The boys were set up for distance learning in the Victorian system, so at least they weren’t caught unawares. We checked in with them for a Q & A on how it all went.

  • Ryder Tweedie, 17 @Surf Coast Secondary College Year 11
  • Sunny 15 @Lorne P-12 College Year 9
  • Tully 12  @ Lorne P-12 College Grade 6

Tweedie family skiing at Thredbo
Tully, Sunny, Ryder and Marijke Tweedie © David Tweedie

What did you miss most from normal school?
Sunny: The first couple of weeks you don’t miss much, you are just stoked to be in the mountains skiing. However as the season goes on and the main people you have to hang out with are your brothers, you miss the social interaction of school. Along with not having a teacher to give you a hand when you don’t understand something.

Ryder: Yes I agree. Not having the teachers in a class room situation to ask questions makes the communication back and forth via email a little more time consuming and not as easy. But hey, half of Australia is on-line learning, so we are getting pretty good at it!

Tully: I mostly miss my friends.

Ryder recovered from his collar bone injury off back country kicker at Dead Horse after the lifts closed for lockdown © Tweedie Family

Is it hard to focus on lessons when the snow gets good?
Ryder: Yes definitely. On good snow days I go snowboarding first and do my work in the afternoon. I feel like you’re always more motivated and clear headed to do work after a few hours of blood pumping through your body.

Sunny: It’s always distracting when you wake up to snow in the trees. On those days we just head straight up the mountain, ski until everywhere is tracked out, and then do our work.

Tully: When the snow is really good and the sun’s out all you want to do is go skiing!

What’s your normal daily routine during school days?
Sunny: A normal school day for me is: get up; have some breakfast; look at the weather forecast; then depending on the snow conditions I get stuck into my school work for the morning, or ski for a couple of hours and then do my tasks in the afternoon. But I always get onto the snow at some stage of the day.

Ryder: Snowboard straight up if conditions are good and then get my work done, I always feel more motivated after exercise.

Tully: Ski. Writing. Reading. Spelling. Maths. (In that order)

It’s good to have your priorities sorted at 12 like Tully – ski first, maths later .. © David Tweedie

Are weekends all free time so you can ski/ride as much as you want?
Ryder: Yes. However if the weather’s bad on the weekend, I get more school work done, which allows better opportunity to board when its good. It’s all a bit weather dependent in the mountains.

Sunny: Weekends are genuinely free, unless you skied all day Friday because it was epic and have some work to catch up on. Or you want to get in front because the forecast is powder on Tuesday.

Have you met any other kids similar ages living in the village to do stuff with? Or do you get a bit lonely?
Tully: I did the Torah Bright Mini Shred early on in the season and I met a kid who I saw a few times throughout the winter and we skied together. Otherwise I just ski with my family. I’m beginning to miss my friends from home now, but I haven’t felt lonely.

Ryder: I have a mate whose been in Thredbo for the season which has been great, so between him and my family there’s always someone to hang out with. Plus for most of the season we have had guests at the lodge.

Sunny: For me I haven’t met any kids the same age, but I did meet an older kid on the chairlift and we had a few really great days skiing together. It hasn’t been lonely as I’ve skied everyday with Tully my little brother. We skied 51 days before the lifts stopped running, and a few pre-season hikes. Since lockdown of the resort I’ve been talking to my friends back home more often and I’m beginning to miss it now.

Sunny waist deep during the ‘Best Day Ever’ earn-your-turns only pow session in August © Tweedie Family

Ryder you broke your collar bone in the park and missed 6 weeks. That must have been tough. Did you miss school and mates more then?
Ryder: It’s never a good time to break a bone, but yeah 11 days into a snow season was pretty disappointing. What can you do except try your best to stay positive. I kept telling myself I’d be better for the back end of the season and just got stuck into doing school work. Bush walking, re-hab in the pool, insulated my Van and basically kept myself busy. There were a few really good days I missed. I’ve made a full recovery and am loving being back on my snowboard again now. 

Injuries aside, has doing a season improved your skiing/riding much? 
Sunny: I think if you put someone that had never skied before on the slopes and they skied 50 plus days, they’d get pretty good and be able to ski most of the runs at Thredbo. I definitely think I’ve improved. But more importantly I’ve had loads of fun.

After the lifts closed early August it’s been earn your turns or nothing. Bit of a shock to the system. But you seem to have adapted okay?
Ryder: It’s a lot of work walking up in snowboard boots, carrying your gear. But it’s awesome how quiet it is. We have scored a few really amazing days.

Sunny: You very much earn-your-turns! Thankfully Dad picked up some touring skis and bindings – SHOUT OUT & THANKS TO HARROS SNOW SPORTS LAKE CRACKENBACK! – which are fantastic. However it’s still tough going compared to riding the lifts. Having the lifts shut really makes you appreciate them so much more.

Luckily for everyone in Thredbo it dumped, which made the walk up so worth it! I skied one of the best days I’ve ever had with no competition and fresh lines from top to bottom.

Overall how do you rate doing a snow season instead of school and would you like to be back next year?
Ryder: Even with all the ebbs & flows of this winter I’d 100% do it all again! Minus the collar bone part of course. It’s such an awesome experience which I’m super grateful to be experiencing.

Tully: 10/10! I’ve had a great winter, yes I would come back. I prefer it when the lifts are running.

Sunny: Overall I have loved it!

Such a great experience and I’m so grateful to have parents that do things like this. There are a few ups and downs, especially with school, but I do believe I learn a lot being up here and get to enjoy doing what I love.

Ryder, Sunny and Dave skinning and hiking up in August © Tweedie family

Thanks Owain for giving us the opportunity to share our snow season story with people. – Kindest regards Sunny.

No mate, thank you for sharing! Hope you make it back next year and lockdowns are over so we get to do some runs with dad and you guys.

Speaking of the parents, over to your side of the story Dave and Marijke..

Did you have any qualms about taking the kids out of school to do this?
Yes. Of course the boys’ schooling is very important and a huge consideration. Due to a lot of on-line learning our decision was made a little easier, because everyone, be it in education or the work place, are currently so much more open and adaptable. We have always lived by the motto of if an opportunity presents itself and feels right you should just go for it! This one being in the snow was very easy to except.

We also believe in a university of life which offers and allows our children lots of different experiences to grow and develop into happy, kind and healthy young adults.

This lifestyle choice has most certainly had a fantastic impact on them all, in a very positive way.

What is the toughest thing from your point of view?

Life is always a juggling act between work and family. It’s sometimes hard being caught up with guests and trying to help out the boys with their school work. I’d have to say you need a lot of trust in your children that they will independently get their school work done. 

They do say the family that skis together stays together. Are they right?

Absolutely! That’s the best thing about skiing, it’s such a wonderful thing to do as a family. We have so many fantastic memories of days on the mountain together which we will talk and laugh about in years to come.

If you love the snow and are considering doing a season with your family we’d all agree you should stop thinking about it and just do it!

– Marijke and David Tweedie

The family that skis together stays together. The family that skins together even more so © Tweedie Family