By Rodney Braithwaite
It’s nearly the start of the 2019 snow season. It’s my favourite time of year to traverse alpine landscapes and to pitch my tent in the hard-crusted ice and snow. As such, it’s now time to get the ice crampons, snow shoes and down jackets out of storage. For many, it means dragging the skis out from under the bed and to plan trips to the nearby ski resorts.
For Shepparton residents, one of the closest mountain resorts is a two-hour drive away at Mt Buller.
I lived and worked at George’s Ski Hire on the mountain from May until October last year. It was one of the best snow seasons on record. Walking to work each day with a wind chill down to -12 degrees and knee-deep snow was certainly in stark contrast to my first summer here in Shepparton.
My motivation for living in a ski resort was simple. It was my love for photography and mountains.
Looking back at my portfolio from Mt Buller, I was able to achieve a number of images I am really proud of. One particular image comes to mind: I was hanging off a steep slope in Mt Buller back country while photographing Rob Aivatoglou of George’s Ski Hire, capturing some fantastic images in the late afternoon light, with my crampons biting into the ice crust.
Full credit to Rob for going up and down the slopes with full ski gear until I achieved what I was after. I’m sure he was sick of me saying “one more time Rob!’’.
Living in a ski resort is not without its challenges, and after five months many are glad to see the end of the season and to resume normal life.
A drawback of living on the mountain is you can’t just hop in the car and drive home after work, stop at the shops and have a coffee with regular friends or family. Catching a bus off the mountain to even nearby Mansfield takes both planning and scheduling with work duties.
Living and working with a group of people you have never met before in a confined space for months on end produces its own issues and would make a great premise for a TV show. Oh, I think it already has!
The mountain environment can also take its toll. I have spent a significant amount of time in my adventures enduring seriously cold conditions and at high altitudes, but my health took a battering on Mt Buller with colds and flus in a vicious never-ending cycle.
However, while these negatives can cloud memories, many positives came out of my experience. I met some truly good people, and building strong friendships was a wonderful part of my journey.
From seeing the magnificent husky dogs with Brett Hadden sledding in a wonderful winter environment to working alongside Andrea Aivatoglou, simply made the everyday grind that much easier.
I love talking about adventure equipment and speaking with Alan Dower from XTM Performance about technical Merino fabrics was a highlight for me as an outdoor gear nerd.
Walking to work each day in deep snow and waking up like an excited kid to see how deep it would be out of the bedroom window, was something I could never tire of.
Learning the history of the mountain through George Aivatoglou and seeing the future in his grandchildren was a unique look into the mountain way of life, and the sunrises and sunsets from the summit were truly magical and a photographer’s delight.
I currently have photographs on display at Mt Buller reception that I need to go and see before the start of the season on the Queen’s Birthday weekend. Then, the fun of the 2019 season will begin.
This season I want to go further back-country in the Australian Alps, but first I will be hitting the mountains of New Zealand and no doubt putting my avalanche training to the forefront of my mind again.
For those heading to Mt Buller this season, hopefully I’ll bump into you at Koflers Hutte to chat over a Kransky and coffee on the slopes. See you there.