Seems like things are finally about to happen. The news is out … Slalom Gully opens on Wednesday, the final day of June 2010!

I was chatting with ski patrol yesterday (Monday), as they were heading down to check out the cover in the valley … they’ve been really keen to get things open as there’s such a lot of strain with just 3 lifts running: Sun Run (Upper Playground twin chair), Summit Trainer poma and Big D quad chair. It’s meant a fairly constant stream of people riding these lifts, though to their credit the lifties have been doing a great job matching up singles and keeping it all flowing. I’ve not waited longer than five minutes in a queue, even at the busiest of times.

After the great start on Queen’s Birthday weekend which saw really lovely snow, the follow-up weekend was really quite disappointing. The dreaded “R” word (it’s almost painful to speak of it *) played havoc with the cover. Nevertheless, Hotham’s snowmaking crew worked tirelessly (I heard of well over 80 hour weeks) to ensure that what base we had was preserved, and they built upon that. Perfect snowmaking conditions have meant that although the cover across the general resort has suffered, the major runs have been constantly maintained. We’ve also had a couple of natural snowfalls – on Saturday the snow was on the hills around Omeo and on the road from a few km out of town, with snowfall from Cobungra upwards, and steady falls at the Hotham Airport. Very cold temperatures this past few days have also helped; today was -4 with a high wind chill factor that made it feel considerably colder than this, while yesterday was -6. Today’s gloomy cloud veil was also good to help conditions moving forwards, as sunny days at this point in time will do little to assist snow conditions.

I’ve been skiing Sun Run (Upper Playground twin chair) and The Basin this last week. Early in the day the conditions have been great. On Monday they ran the snowmaking through the day – I heard for 26 hours straight! This meant a huge accumulation of snow. In patches it became quite hard-packed and icy, particularly near the snowmaking machines; while in others, especially at the base of the run, it was a pile of fluffy icing sugar (thankfully not slush as it was so cold). The Basin was certainly the pick run as it saw considerably less traffic than Sun Run … of course you had to walk from the Playground Chair to The Basin to ski there! Even late in the day it was terrific. And the cat track around the the Playground Chair is in really good nick.

Mt Hotham Racing Squad – training on Swiss balls

It’s been a busy week for the race club, with regular programs plus school holiday groups operating. With minimal terrain available this has meant carefully planned staggering of dryland and on-snow training, thereby putting less strain on the resources and allowing the public easier access to lifts. The coaches have been getting amazing results from the athletes. Drills on one ski with medicine balls to improve balance and edging, hours in the gym doing plyos to build explosive energy and lots of core and strength work. The highlight has been watching the FIS athletes jumping down lines of 6 Swiss Balls … they jump from ground level onto the first ball, gain balance then jump to the next ball, and so on down the line. After a few entertaining sessions and spectacular falls, over two days they’re managing this beautifully!

Zirky’s cafe has been serving up fabulous coffee and the bistro is kicking, Swindlers has had some terrific dishes on the menu, and Snowbird Inn has opened it’s doors with a once again fabulous lunch menu. Hotham Central features Chill and the Deli for great light meals and the White Room is also open. The Genny (General) has been a great venue for families down at the Big D.

It’s like Mt Hotham is finally waking up! It’s time for a mighty big dump of snow!

* r – a – i – n