Ski-O Down Under

Posted on | September 14, 2016 | Category: News

Thinking of Australia, skiing is not the first activity that comes to mind. Nevertheless, some higher places have snow in periods throughout the winter. An Australian orienteering club took advantage of that and organized a Ski-O event.

Orienteering in Australia can offer many different experiences. Normally you will experience a hard surface, tricky rock features and a sultry heat. In Perisher Valley, one of Australia’s few ski areas, you could also start off August by trying orienteering around a hilly landscape with skis on your feet.

The Ski-O event was a part of a Ski race week in the Australian state New South Wales (NSW), so it was timed for the best snow and there were plenty of skiers around. The level of orienteering skills was wide spread:

– The event was a middle distance race, with a mix of foot orienteers, ski-racers and part-time ski-O fans competing. Initially everyone seemed to be taking about the same time, 55-58 minutes for the longest course. Then a couple of the pure cross-country racers did the course and “smashed” it, Andy Simpson one of the organizers says, referring to the excited winner Michael Brennan who had never been orienteering before.

All ages took part in the event.

At the other end of the competition, there was a very short course for kids and a “snogaine” score type course.

The area consisted of many open areas, which were possible to ski right across in the right conditions, and the organizers allowed that. See how some of the skiers managed the course in Routegadget.

 

Organizing an event 500km away

People travel from all over the world to surf in Australia. The same is not exactly the case when it comes to skiing, but you find places where it is possible. Areas in Tasmania, the Snowy Mountains in Victoria and high country in the states NSW and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have snow, which is deep and consistent enough to ski on. Andy Simpson explains:

– Do not come to Australia for the skiing, but if you are over here and we have snow then get out there – the Australian “snow gum” trees make it very different to skiing anywhere else.

There have been occasional Ski-O events over the last 20 years in Australia, but only a couple each year – usually just one. With a distance of 500 km, for the Sydney based orienteering club Big Foot Orienteers you understand why organizing events are not that common:

– There is a 500km drive from where the club is to the snow. This makes planning and organizing quite tricky. We have to get all the event gear including printing equipment, timing gear, skiing gear and volunteers to the snow. Fitting into a small car was the hardest part of the whole event. Because there was racing going on in the area, new tracks were being cut, so we finalize planning courses and print, bag and seal the maps the night before the event. Very stressful, Andy Simpson says.

The Big Foot Orienteers aim to organize at least one Ski-O event a year and have plans for further development:

– We hope to keep having at least this event each year in New South Wales. This year we did not have access to a ski-doo, but in future, we should be able to access a ski-doo to cut more tracks. In addition, we have found somebody who only lives 200km from the snow to organize, Andy Simpson says.

The application for the Ski Orienteering Championships in 2019 is open. Australia and any other federation can submit applications until the deadline 1 January 2017.

 

A short video from the event:

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