Believe it or not, Australia is a great place for cross-country skiing - reasonably reliable snow, excellent variety of easily accessible terrain, low avalanche risk and pretty good weather. Canberra is ideally placed for weekend trips to the snow, so every ski season the ANU Mountaineering Club runs an extensive cross-country (XC) skiing program for everyone from first timers through to experienced skiers.
What is XC skiing?
XC skiing is a form of skiing where the ski boot is only connected to the skis at the toe. This allows you to ski up hills as well as down, giving the freedom to ski anywhere rather than just next to the chairlifts at a resort. This also makes it a relatively cheap sport as the only cost is transport to the snow. A weekend XC skiing can cost as little as $50 (ie $40 for transport, $10 gear hire plus around $60 if you're doing a lesson). This compares favourably to downhill skiing, and the exercise is free!
Why should I try XC Skiing?
XC skiing is a flexible sport and it can be anything and everything you want it to be! Most people are attracted for one or more of the following reasons:
- first timers who have never been to the snow are attracted by the fact that XC skiing the cheapest way to try skiing
- downhill skiers are attracted by the adrenalin of backcountry downhill which gets you away from the crowds at resorts and out to the fresh snow in the backcountry
- the amazing beauty and remoteness of Australia's alpine areas attracts “bushwalkers on skis” who want to go for a relaxing tour but have that downhill thrill you can't get with snow shoes
- resort telemarkers want the challenge of telemark skiing without leaving the convenience of the lifts (and luxuries like pubs) at the ski resorts
- the fitness and challenge of racing attracts competitive people to XC ski racing.
During the season the ANUMC runs trips covering all types of XC skiing trips: from challenging overnight trips to downhill night skiing under lights (or enjoying a beer by the fire while others night ski).
“It's hooting with glee as you link turn after turn down an untracked slope in 6 inches of fresh snow, it's the silent beauty of an alpine forest blanketed in snow, it's that feeling of apprehension and expectation when setting out on a week-long trip miles from anywhere (and anyone), it's screaming with frustration as you crash for the twentieth time that day (and groan with the effort of getting up with a 15kg pack on your back), it's struggling into a 20-knot southerly blasting snow and ice into your face, it's cooking dinner under a clear winter sky of stars, and it's snuggling down into your cosy sleeping bag at night while a storm rages outside your tent.”
Each season the ANUMC organises our own XC ski Lessons, as well as allowing our members to join lessons planned by other clubs. See the trip calendar for the latest details.
First Timers and Beginners Lessons
First Timers and Beginners Ski Lessons are designed for those with little or no XC skiing experience. Prior experience isn't required; they're even suitable for those who have never seen snow before. The aim of these lessons is to give every club member the chance to try XC skiing and gain the basic skills needed to take part in other club trips. Because these trips are for first time skiers and beginners, they stay on gentle slopes without any pressure to keep up with more experienced skiers. The lessons cover the basic skills of XC skiing and are taught by fully qualified instructors.
Lessons generally consist of two half day sessions. The group drives from Canberra to the Snowy Mountains on a Friday evening and camps below the snowline, then drives up to the resort in time for their lesson on Saturday morning. After the first session, the group camps below the snowline again, then returns to the resort on Sunday morning for the second session and a short ski-tour.
If you are interested in an ANUMC First Timers and Beginners Lesson, look for the trips on the calendar and follow the instructions for signing up.
The cost of lessons depends on the type of lesson and number of trainees but is generally around $50-80 in total for two half-days (which is a bargain compared with downhill skiing lessons).
Having done just one First Timers and Beginners Lesson weekend, you should be ready for trips that are marked "beginner". This may include very easy overnight trips, where less than 5km is skied with a pack and the trip leader is happy to introduce new skiers to snow camping.
The club also organises intermediate XC ski lessons. These are intended for anyone who is comfortable with basic XC techniques and wants to learn the art of the telemark turn. If you are interested in an intermediate lesson, contact the XC ski officer to express your interest.
Canberra Cross Country Ski Club (CCCSC) Lessons
The ANUMC can only organise its own lessons on certain weekends. To give more options for lessons, ANUMC members are welcome to join CCCSC lessons. The CCCSC also runs lessons suitable for first time skiers.
If you are planning to attend a CCCSC lesson, please contact the XC Skiing Activity Officer. The club can then set skis aside for you to hire and seek interest from other members for the same lesson. All bookings are through the CCCSC so go to their website for more information, http://www.cccsc.asn.au .
Please note that CCCSC lessons are EXTREMELY popular and generally fill 3-4 weeks beforehand. In past seasons, many ANUMC members have missed out on lessons because they did not book early enough.
Gear for XC Ski trips
- Skis, boots & poles
- 4-season tent
- Winter sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat (well-insulated)
- Waterproof jacket with a hood (eg goretex)
- Waterproof overpants (eg goretex)
- Waterproof gloves (goretex or ski gloves)
- Waterproof mittens (in case the gloves get wet)
- Thermal underwear top (polypropylene or fine merino wool)
- Thermal underwear bottom (polypropylene or fine merino wool)
- Warm jumper / jacket and pants (down, polar-fleece, synthetic or wool)
- Gloves (wool or polypropylene to go under waterproof gloves)
- Beanie/balaclava x 2
- Socks (wool socks are best, consider wearing two pairs)
- Ski goggles for bad weather
- Sun hat
- Camp stove with fuel and lighter
- Fork, spoon and pocket-knife
- Large bowl/cup/plate
- Breakfast: Porridge is a good warm meal. Tastes good when made with powdered milk.
- Lunch: Pita bread keeps for days; salami and spreads are good toppings.
- Dinner: You need something hot. Rice, instant mashed potatoes and pasta are light for their bulk. Onions, capsicum, garlic, carrots and zucchini keep well. Tuna, salami and cheese are good for protein.
- Snacks: Fruit, energy bars, chocolate, trail mix, lollies, tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
Personal safety equipment
- Compass and map
- Water purifiers
- Personal first aid kit
- Space blanket
- Sunscreen and lip-balm
- Money for petrol/park entry
- Plastic bags for waterproofing and garbage
- Toilet paper
- Build your clothing up in layers – you can shed clothing to better control your temperature.
- Do not bring cotton – it is no good when wet, taking a long time to dry and holding a cold layer of water next to your skin.
- All spare clothing should be packed into waterproof bags.
- You should have an extra day's food in case you are stuck out longer than expected. Two minute noodles and dehydrated meals are ideal here.
- There will also be a number of group items, and you may be required to carry some of these.