When I first applied to study at ANU back in March 2018, I often daydreamed about what studying abroad in Australia would be like. I envisioned kangaroos hopping around, long stretches of dry bush lands and of course lots of and lots of Vegemite. But, I can assure you that I had never imagined that I would end up staring down a steep, snow-covered mountain in jeans and a pair of long ski poles in my hands.
A quick side note: Here’s a small pointer for those reading from the Northern Hemisphere. August in Australia means winter, not summer! So if you plan to visit to the Australian mountains in August, think intense sub-zero winter sports, not warm sunshine and nature hikes. This also means that you may need to pack something a bit warmer than simply jeans and board shorts in your suitcase, a.k.a. my first mistake. Stay tuned for my second one!
My first four weeks at ANU passed by quickly, and the next thing I knew I was at the Canberra Bus Station waiting for our bus to pick us up and bring us to the Snowy Mountains. Before getting on the bus, I had only met one other person going on the trip, a friendly student from the UK. We met at a mixer that the INEXSA team hosted on the first week we arrived for fellow exchange students to meet each other.
During the bus ride down to Jindabyne, we had the option to purchase our ski hire (or rental,as we say in The States) and ski lift tickets. Here comes the second mistake y’all have been waiting for. When I had the option to rent ski pants for an extra $10, I politely turned it down thinking that I should save money and I could just ski in my jeans. As you can already guess, this did not turn out to be the brightest idea.
After sleeping through the remainder of the two-hour bus ride, we arrived at Snowy Valley Jindabyne: a winter resort that is half hostel/lodge and half ski hire shop.The first thing we did when we arrived was get our room keys for the night.Shortly after, I found out that I would be sharing a tiny cabin that seemed like it was meant to fit up to 4 people max with 6 other people, oh no!
Nevertheless, since we would be spending the next 36 hours in one cozy room together we decided to get the awkward introductions out of the way first. As it turns out, almost everybody in the room came from a different part of the globe: The UK, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea, and of course the US – where I’m from!
One of the best parts of this trip was the opportunity to meet people from around the world,learning about each others’ unique countries and cultures, and making new friends that would last far beyond the duration of the trip or the cramped walls of the cabin.
The next morning,we got up bright and early to eat breakfast, grab our ski equipment, and take the bus up to the mountains. Unfortunately, all of the friends I had made the night before had never skied before and therefore needed lessons. I, on the other hand, had skied in the US several times before and didn’t really need lessons anymore, so I told my new friends that I would meet them after their lessons and went off on my own.
Hitting the slopes by myself was a blast. After warming up on the smallest slope a couple of times, I decided to try taking the larger ski lift up the mountain. Little did I know that the mountain was much higher than I had imagined and the trip up the mountain felt like forever, and thus, scaring the heck out of me because that meant that I would have to ski all the way down.
Fortunately, I meta group of really friendly Aussies who sat next to me on the lift. We talked about where I was from and how I was nervous since it was my first time going up the mountain alone. They assured me that I would fine and if I cannot ski down all the way, there are chairlifts that can take me back to base. Thanks, mates!
The upside to the scary lift up was that I got to see some beautiful views once I reached the top. It had snowed the night before and weather was really clear so looking down the mountain was a sight of sheer beauty. I just wished it was easier to take photos with skis, poles, and gloves on.
At the top, there is a map of all the ski routes Being a novice, I naturally chose the easiest route possible. It was so much fun because there were so many different sections of the mountain to go to, and each of the sections had so many different slopes to go down. The fresh, powdered snow was perfect for skiing. I had no problem making my way down the first part of the mountain, and I even found a great spot when I could take another small lift back up the mountain to really get the most out of my top-of-the-mountain skiing experience. After shredding down the top a couple more times, I decided to go back down to the base to see if my friends were done with their lessons. Unfortunately, I found out that I was stuck in a section that only had difficult slopes down to the bottom.
Luckily, I remembered what the kind Aussies told me about taking the chairlift down instead. I shared the chairlift with one other skier who was originally from England but had moved to Sydney for work. Unlike me, all the friends he came skiing with were a lot more experienced than him, and like me, he didn’t want to risk his life going down a route that may be way out of his league. We had a fantastic, long conversation the whole way down.
I got off the chairlift and skied the rest of the way back to base. My friends were waiting for me there since they had just finished their lessons. I told them that we should all go up the easiest slope together. Some were still too nervous to go up with me, but three brave souls decided that it was worth a shot.
Surprisingly, one of my friends had no problem going down the mountain and made it down faster than the rest of us. Another friend had crashed while going straight into a large pile of snow. I quickly pulled them back up and tried to teach them how to turn and how to slow down. After a somewhat successful lesson, they managed to make it down in one piece! Also, quite surprisingly, the last friend had changed their mind and decided that walking down the mountain instead of skiing down didn’t sound too bad.
All in all, skiing with friends was even better than skiing alone, helping them go down the slope for the first time was a huge triumph for them and for me. It was really satisfying to see them improve and have fun even though they had just started learning this new sport. So whether you have never touched skis in your life or are already an expert skier, I promise you that you’ll have a great time hitting the Australian slopes.
TL;DR: Although skiing was not the first activity I imagined myself doing in Australia, I was really glad ANU gave me the opportunity to meet some cool people from around the globe, see some breathtaking views, and have a great weekend skiing down beautiful slopes with new friends.