We’ve lost track just how much of Australia is COVID-closed and how much isn’t, but when restrictions hit there are few better places to be stuck in lockdown than Falls Creek.
Ski the streets, skin the deserted slopes. Instructor Abby Vogelsang filed this report on lockdown life at Falls ..
When I heard Daniel Andrews announce the start of Victoria’s fifth COVID lockdown my first thoughts were for my skis.
I dashed out the door of my staff accommodation and ran down to the shop where I’d put them in for waxing two hours earlier. I’d need them for lockdown, I thought.
Six hours later, fleeing The Man after a shortened Thursday night darts session, I found myself shuffling through the first few centimetres of the 2021 season’s first real dump.
By the time most South Australians had left the mountain (around 5 am) the dust had grown into a lovely, fluffy powder blanket.
Locals, a few determined guests, and the now out-of-work staff had it all to themselves.
The snow kept falling as I finished my last few days’ worth of housekeeping.
By the weekend, Falls Creek had peak season conditions, but no guests to experience them.
The staff, having largely caught up on their missed hours of sleep, could be seen marching up Summit on whatever snowshoes, skins or backcountry gear they could get their hands on.
With no noise coming from the lifts and no late July crowds, Fall’s terrain became as peaceful as the backcountry, minus the occasional patroller getting towed behind a skidoo (lucky ducks).
Many of us who’d been up the mountain all season got some of our first black runs that weekend – in shin-deep powder!
Every time I clipped into my downhill planks, or stacked trying to turn in deep snow, I would think longingly about my telemark skis. In my rush to get my regular skis out of the shop, I’d completely forgotten about my teles, which I’d left in the instructor locker room up at Cloud 9.
On the sunny Tuesday morning when the room was briefly unlocked a handful of fresh boot tracks could be seen in the snow between Home Trail and Cloud 9.
The instructors gathered out the front of the Halley’s Comet download just like they normally would at 10 am.
But our workplace was eerily deserted.
A large snowdrift had taken the place of the obligatory line out front of the restaurant. The ski racks, normally over-loaded with gear, were folded up and bare.
Every day from then on I had a rip on my tele skis, which are designed for fresh snow and skinning.
Although it was relaxing, the 12-day rest bite wasn’t all fun.
Blizzard-like conditions and regular hangovers kept many staff members indoors.
Rough grooming (done to keep snowfall under control and ready for re-opening, with no need to finish with the usual corduroy perfection guests are greeted with) turned the resort’s most popular runs into strips of ice blocks.
Occasional snow slides on Ruined Castle kept the Ski Patrollers on their toes.
Fortunately, COVID disaster payments allowed even the most destitute of staff members to pay their rent.
Despite a steady stream of complaints, some instructors are already starting to miss the peace and quiet.
It was great to see life-long skiers and boarders earning their turns and enjoying it, some for the first time.
At the end of the day, the guests are who we’re here for, but nice snow is always a bonus.
And on the first day after lockdown, it rained..
The 2021 season has turned awesome for those who can go.
For another lockdown resort life story check out Rob Aivotoglou’s amazing road runner experience at Buller in the 2020 season: