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  • Writer's pictureBrian Thacker

My 40 year love affair

It was 40 years ago this winter that I first clicked into a pair of skis, and from that very first incredibly scary green run at Falls Creek in Victoria, Australia I fell head over heels in love with skiing – although there was more head over heels than love in that first week. Since then, my love affair became an addiction and I have skied at over 60 different resorts in 10 countries.

I love the mountains, the fresh crisp air, the cobalt skies, the open fires, the ice bars, the après-ski, the hot chocolates and, mostly, I simply love the adrenaline rush of hurtling myself down a ridiculously steep hill or the sheer joy of making turns in fresh powder.

Two weeks ago, on my final day of skiing for this northern winter season, I got to ski a bucket-list run in Aspen Colorado that I’ve been wanting to do for years (the Highlands Bowl in Aspen Highlands), and I was just as excited clicking on my skis on that morning as I was 40 years ago.

There have been countless highlights over the years, but if I had to pick my Top Ten highlights these would be them:

The First Time Falls Creek, Australia


Looking very Elvis as I pretend to go down the 'black' runs in my first week of skiing at Falls Creek We all remember our first time. I was nervous, then excited and then I almost wet my pants. That was because my instructor (friend Stu) was bored after a couple of runs on the baby slope and took me down a ‘blue’ run. And although it was an ‘easy’ run I hadn’t learnt to turn yet, so I went straight down. Fast. When I got to the bottom, I just fell into a heap to stop. And I loved every pee-my-pants moment of it and got straight on to the lift and did it all again.

 

First ski in Europe Davos, Switzerland


Skiing the 17km Parsenn to Kublis run in Davos, Switzerland .

When I planned my first Big Trip OS the first thing on my itinerary was three weeks of skiing – where I blew about three months of backpacking budget. I’d never heard of Davos before, but my travel agent had found a cheap chalet there for me. Not only was I blown away by the skiing (long, long runs and dry snow), but I loved the village with its cutesy Swiss chalets, the mountain restaurants and, more importantly, shops full of chocolate.

 

First Christmas in the snow Les Diablerets, Switzerland


Skiing on Christmas Day on the Les Diablerets glacier

I was dreaming of a white Christmas, so on my first Christmas away from home I organised a chalet in the perfect chocolate-box cutesy village of Les Diablerets for 19 Aussies and Kiwis - who we all just happened to share the same flat in London. It wasn’t a great start to the season, but luckily Les Diablerets has a very big glacier to ski on. Only a few of us actually skied on Christmas Day, but we wrapped ourselves in tinsel and sang Christmas songs on the lift all day. Our Christmas lunch was bratwurst and fries sitting on the floor of a crowded mountain restaurant. It was perfect. I even saw George Micheal skiing in his one-piece pink ski suit.

 

Skiing Powder for the first time St Anton, Austria


I just skied some powder! At St Anton, Austria

I spent most of my time face-planting in the deep powder snow of St. Anton, but when I did get a couple of turns in, I was instantly hooked. Since then, I’ve done at least a thousand face plants learning how to master powder and I will now happily hike for a couple of hours or pay a ridiculous amount of money to heliski, so I can get me some fresh pow!

 

Dream job Ski Guide, Jungfrau Region (Murren, Wengen and Grindelwald), Switzerland


Fancy Dress day with my ski guiding group in Wengen

A day off from guiding meant hiking for powder (Grindelwald in the background) It really was a dream job. When I skied in Europe for the first time, the chalet I was staying in had its own ski guide. I couldn’t believe that this guy got paid to get up every morning and go skiing. To me it seemed like the best job in the world, but only a very lucky few got to do it. Five years later I became one of the lucky few and I got paid to get up every morning to go skiing. Each season I would ski over 100 days, eat around 20 cheese fondues, drink dozens of crates of Rugenbrau beer and I loved every minute of it.

 

Heliskiing Arrowsmith Ranges, New Zealand


Arrowsmith Ranges, New Zealand

I’ve heli-skied lots of times now, and although they have all been simply amazing, you can’t beat your first time. A helicopter took us from the valley floor near Methven, New Zealand then climbed and climbed into the heart of the Arrowsmith Ranges - then dumped us on the top of a mountain peak. When the chopper flew off, it was total silence and there was untracked deep powder snow as far as we could see. There were only four of us (three punters and a guide) on my virgin outing in virgin snow and I have never hollered so loudly or joyously as when I dropped down into knee-deep powder. And, best of all, when we got to the bottom the helicopter picked us up and we did it another six times from different mountain peaks.

 

Tour guide Mt Buller and Mt Hotham


Tour guides on top of Mt Buller

I spent 14 years working as a tour guide for day and weekend trips from Melbourne to Mt Buller (10 years) and Mt Hotham (4 years). For a day trip to Buller I would get up at 3.30am for a 4.15am departure then walk through a moving and rocking bus in the dark to collect money for ski hire, then ski hard for seven hours and then bus them all back to Melbourne again. Then fall into an utterly exhausted, but blissfully happy sleep.

 

Skiing with my daughter Mt Hotham and beyond


With Jasmine in Wengen, Switzerland

And a much bigger Jasmine at Mt Hotham

I started my daughter Jasmine skiing just after her 3rd birthday at Mt Hotham in Victoria, Australia. Since then, she has skied in New Zealand, Switzerland, the U.S. and Japan. And when she was 10, we started going on an annual Dad and Daughter Ski Trip - and I love it that Jasmine would get just as excited as I do when she puts on those skis.

 

Skiing the U.S.A. U.S.A


Hiking for some pow in Telluride, Colorado

Cat skiing at Soldier Mountain, Idaho

Skiing with Tommy Moe in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Up until three years ago I’d only skied in one U.S. resort (Park City), but since then I have been so lucky to ski in 23 ski resorts in 7 states. There are have been so many highlights – a day skiing with Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe in Jackson Hole (Wyoming), skiing steep tree runs after a metre of snow in Taos (New Mexico), hiking to untouched steep bowls in Telluride (Colorado), snowcat skiing in Soldier Mountain (Idaho) and just skiing with great people, having lots of laughs (and cocktails) and skiing more powder than you can poke a ski pole at.

 

The next time I ski ?


My last day of skiing for winter 23/24 - Aspen Highlands, March 2024

The season here in North America is just winding down and I was only skiing two weeks ago, but I already can’t wait until next season. Next winter I hope to add California to my list and hit Canada again (I skied there for the first time this year and LOVED it!). On my last day of skiing this year at Aspen Highlands I was in the lift line 20 minutes before the lifts opened and I was on the first chairlift – and I was just as excited doing my first run down the perfectly groomed run as I was on my first ever ski run. But, there are still SO many places that I still want to ski. I don’t think this addiction is going to stop anytime soon. And even if I only ski half of them I’ll still be skiing when I’m 97.

 

 

 

 

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