Once (And Only Once!) Upon A Time In Thredbo

There are some lines in and around Thredbo best left well alone by all, even the experts.

Stanley’s Gorge just out of bounds to the north of the resort is a massive terrain trap, steep, prone to avalanche – yes, serious slides happen here, you can die – and with an ugly get out.

Dominating it’s face is a massive granite boulder. The Big Rock at Stanleys.

Maybe it had another name in the myths and folklore of the Ngarigo traditional owners, excuse our ignorance of that – hopefully kids these days get taught a whole lot more about the people who lived in the mountains for tens of thousands of years before brumbies and skiers arrived than we ever did.

But we do know more about its place in local ski bum myth and lore. It was, and remains, simply the Big Rock at Stanleys.

There is nothing quite like launching, and landing, off the rock.

One who has, and survived to tell the tale, is Dave ‘Cappo’ Tweedie, former Thredbo, Chamonix and Wanaka ski bum who is back there these days as a respectable family guy managing a lodge and importing Dahu ski boots.

Dave Tweedie goes massive off the big rock at Stanleys Gorge, Thredbo
Dave ‘Cappo’ Tweedie in flight off the Big Rock at Stanleys 1997 © Alex Guzman

In 1997, as a sponsored skier at the peak of his powers, the planets aligned and he got his shot at it. Gun lensman Alex Guzman was on hand to record things for posterity. I caught up with Dave for the downlow on the day’s exploits..

OK, we’re winding back the clock to when you were younger and a bit crazier and made the giant leap off Stanleys. What were you thinking?

Well I was thinking it’s such a good day. I’d been skiing NZ for the past couple of years before I came back to Thredbo. It had dumped for a couple of days. I was with Alex out in the Golf Course and we were doing some runs there and dropping some small rocks and having a great time there.

So we said let’s go find something else, let’s got into Stanleys and check out some lines in there.

We went over to Stanleys and set up for a photo on one of the rocks (bottom pic) and I launched off that, it was really good. Really, really good. As good as it gets anywhere. Almost like Canada or something. Knee to waist deep. Really great snow.

Then we both looked at the big rock and I said yep, I’m gonna go off there.

He said let me set up. I said you get ready, I’m gonna come off the end of that nose where it looks like there’s a bit of a landing.

To get into it I had to have a fair bit of speed to climb up the sidewall. So I got straight up to that no problem and stood on top. It’s a big nose, all covered with snow from the top of the rock to the drop off.

It’s a big rock!

I called out to Alex and he yelled he was ready. A couple of snowboarders I knew came past and they waited down underneath, and they’re like “Oh my God!” checking it out.

I was feeling really good to do it. So I took off and laid a couple of turns down the nose. It’s really quite narrow, just a couple of metres wide. So I laid probably two turns, and then the whole thing started to get a bit of slough on it.

Alex said “Go! Go!”

So I thought OK, all the snow’s coming off the rock, so to make this good I’ll go now. I just kept it going for a few more turns and laid a big turn just near the end and let all the snow come off. Then I dropped off.

And when I looked over I was like, yep, she’s pretty big.

I was prepared for it though. I just dropped off and landed and skied around to the side of him and there was a few people hooting and hollering. I was like OK, I’ve done that now. That’s about it.

And you don’t have to do it again! And you haven’t .. (we laugh).

I don’t have to do it again. But saying that, I’ve just got a brand new pair of Volkl Mantras 2022 model, and my new Dahu boots, and I’m driving to Thredbo next week for the winter. So I’ll go and have a bit of a look.

I know you’re not allowed to go in there now. I’ll go and have a look at it. I’m not going to drop it that’s for sure cause if I did it now there’d be nothing left of me ..

How many seasons had you done there before you did that?

I started in 88. Then I had 3 seasons at Treble Cone. So maybe 7 seasons I had been looking at it.

How may feet do you reckon the drop was?

Oh, maybe 30 foot.

Even from the road down below it looks huge. I would have though it was more?

For sure. But it was a pretty good snow year. So it fills in. Though not too much, it’s steep line underneath there, so you’ve still got quite a bit of a cliff to land in.

At Treble Cone there’s a few rocks like that, I was doing those with McConkey and Kreitler and they would of said 30 footer. That’s how I kind of gauged it.

But I wouldn’t recommend anyone going in there.

No, don’t do this at home folks. Or rather, don’t do this out of bounds from Thredbo!

Exactly.

PS: We are looking forward to getting out with Dave soon, no big rock replay but there is plenty more to find.. – Owain Price

The previous line above the boulder – that’s the run in and nose of it below Dave’s grab here © Alex Guzman

For another take on the Big Rock check out Randy Wieman’s tale and image from 1990 ..