Hitting the ski slopes is just one of countless options on a winter escape to the NSW snowfields.
Although Kosciuszko National Park only accounts for around half of Australia’s alpine region, nearly three million tourists visit it every year. Most make the winter pilgrimage and it's easy to see why. When the mountains are covered in white, the sky is an expanse of blue and hot chocolates await at the bottom of the next ski run, life doesn’t get much better.
But, as it turns out, there’s a whole lot more to do in the snow that doesn’t involve hurtling down a mountain. To prove it, I join Peter, Acacia and Matt from K7 Adventures for a day of snowshoeing and then ice climbing with crampons, ice axes and ropes. Peter is 78 years old (though you’d never guess it) and led one of the first Australian expeditions to the Himalayas.
We ride Thredbo’s Kosciuszko Express Chairlift together to the top before strapping on our snowshoes and heading cross-country. I’m both relieved and disappointed to find modern snowshoes do not resemble tennis racquets; they’re now high-tech platforms that aren't a hindrance to my stride.
Out away from the groomed ski runs, the snow is pure and beautiful. The only sound is the scrunch of my snowshoes as my breath fogs in front of me. Acacia leads us safely across a creek and finally to our base camp, where we hang out in preparation for our ice climb. Peter and Matt continue climbing unaided up ahead to set up anchors and ropes for us amateurs.
I’ll admit, after watching films like Touching the Void, I’ve always wanted to strap on some crampons and haul my way up an icy crevasse with some ice picks. Maybe this isn’t K2 in the Himalayas or Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, but I’m just as thrilled to summit our short climb. Halfway up, the mountain gets covered in cloud, but I'm so intent on the rhythm of moving an axe and placing a foot, then moving an axe and placing a foot, that I don’t notice it until I turn around to check the view.
That night, my travel companions and I are exuberant as we tuck into dinner at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa's one-hatted cuisine restaurant. To hear us talk, we all summited Everest barefoot, backwards and in the dark. Not one of us feels guilty about our ensuing gluttony of food and wine.
In the morning, I join a group learning to fly fish at Lake Crackenback. Our instructor, Matt Tripet, is as passionate about the sport as they come. He teaches us how to flick lures and land them somewhere in the vicinity of where we intend them to go, first on the lawn and then in the actual lake.
Once I get into the motion, I’m not even that fussed we don’t catch anything – there’s just something satisfying about flicking a tiny fly across an alpine lake under a cloudless sky. I’ve always loved fishing, but this is a real eye-opener and one that will probably end up costing me a bundle in new fishing gear.