The summer life of a Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy student-athlete (Part 5)
Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy
Editor’s note: Reece Bell, 17, is an senior at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy and is a second-year member of the U21 British Ski Team. She is training and racing around the globe this summer, blogging along the way.
Before skiing in Australia, my parents and I spent a few days in Melbourne. Australia is in the UTC+10 time zone, which is 16 hours ahead of Colorado. I personally have a harder time traveling west than east, and had trouble staying awake past 7:30 p.m. on our first night.
The next day, we rode the public tram through Melbourne, walked by the Yarra River, stopped in a vintage clothing shop and visited the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, a free interactive film museum. ACMI had the history of television and movies along with many exhibits, including one on virtual reality.
After a jet lag-induced nap in our hotel room, we went to the Queen Victoria Night Market. We talked to some of the locals at the event, who explained some differences between the day and night market. The day market had more retail shopping booths scattered with some restaurant locations and offered produce. The night market was more of a social gathering crowded with other people. All of the booths were under a massive pavilion area. One side of the pavilion had live music while the other had a fire-eating performer. The booths sold more unique products, such as lighted balloons, woodcarvings and dream catchers.
My family and I also traveled to Ballarat Wildlife Park, an interactive preserve. Australia has an extremely unique ecosystem containing marsupials found only on its island so I had never seen most of the animals at the preserve. I hand-fed kangaroos and heard the howl of a dingo, similar to a coyote.
That night we visited the Chinatown of Melbourne, and the next day we met the rest of the ski group, consisting of five boys, four girls and two coaches.
Our first ski resort destination was Falls Creek. We drove for six hours, mainly uphill, and it was as if we traveled through several continents. The first segment of the drive was in an empty arid desert that was fairly warm. Next, we passed through eucalyptus forests that were humid and remnant of a rainforest. Finally, we reached the snowy roads leading up to the mountain. We checked into our apartment, which was conveniently located on the mountain for ski in and out.
Transit by snowmobile
There isn’t much of a town surrounding Falls Creek, mainly hotels and restaurants. I was therefore surprised to learn that my dad has a friend who lives at the resort year round — Steve Lee, another former racer, who is one of two Australian men to ever win a World Cup race. Steve picked my dad and I up for dinner at his house one night, on a snowmobile towing a bench behind him. This was the most efficient way to travel across the resort, as all the roads were below the town, and the paths between the buildings were buried under three to four feet of snow.
The weather was variable in Falls Creek, it sometimes got very foggy, but we had five solid days of training with two slalom races. At these races, we had one personal best score, which means that one of our athletes scored their lowest FIS point result ever.
The next race series was at Mount Hotham. This time our group stayed off the mountain, in a town called Dinner Plain, about 20 minutes away. The races at Hotham were part of the Australia New Zealand Cup, a continental cup, and were therefore quite high-level. There were skiers from all around the globe. Some of them had competed in World Cups or the Olympics.
Of all the places I have skied this summer, Mount Hotham’s snow conditions were the most familiar to me as they reminded me of a Colorado winter. The series consisted of four races: two slalom and two giant slalom. From those races, five British Ski Academy athletes scored personal bests and lowered their points. There was one scheduled day where it was too foggy to hold a race, so we took a weather day, and left Australia a day later than expected.
One more country to go
Skiing in Australia was almost as odd as skiing in South Africa. In most other ski resorts, the main divider between two ski runs is pine trees. Occasionally, there are aspen trees that you can ski through, but in Falls Creek and Hotham, the only trees present were eucalyptus. In some areas, they were dense enough to create separate trails, but other areas the trees were small and widespread, and you could ski around them like an obstacle course. Additionally, even though it’s been winter for months, none of the trees had lost their leaves resulting in a beautiful — if not confusing — winter scene.
After 10 days of skiing, six races and four travel days we packed to leave Australia. Next and final stop before returning home: New Zealand.
Fall means food and wine festivals and also a chance to see the colors just starting to turn over Vail Pass during a bike ride for charity.