It’s just gone 10pm on another bleak Canberra winter’s night, so it’s not surprising that as the yowie-mobile splutters past the Tuggeranong Town Centre there’s hardly another car on the road.
But my focus isn’t on the lack of traffic, rather my Jeep’s temperature gauge which has stubbornly hovered around plus 4 degrees for the last hour. Will it be cold enough? Oh, I hope so, for I’m on a mid-week adventure to Corin Forest Mountain Resort, where after a ten year hiatus they are hoping to make snow under the direction of enthusiastic new owner Dane Liepins.
In fact, I’m a little too obsessed with checking the temperature on the instrument panel, for as I rattle across Point Hut Crossing, it’s only at the last moment that I notice a wombat wandering across the road. I slam on the brakes. It’s a close-call, and as I readjust my seatbelt, the well–padded marsupial mooches off, seemingly oblivious to its death-defying act.
Around a few bends and it’s as if the wombats have tag-teamed with the eastern grey kangaroos, which now take it in turns to test the integrity of my brake pads by playing chicken with my bull bar. Thankfully the roos soon give up their antics and with the last of the twinkling lights of Canberra’s deep south now well and truly behind me, as I make the left turn up Corin Dam Road, the temperature drops two degrees. Phew! I might be in luck.
The last time I negotiated this winding road mid-winter was a few years ago with my family after a natural snow fall. Unfortunately the road was closed at Woods Reserve and as a result the kids could barely find enough of the fluffy white stuff on the ground to scrape their initials in, let alone build a snow man. I’m hoping for better luck tonight and as the temperature goes sub-zero just past Gibraltar Falls, I triumphantly go to fist pump the air in delight. However, as if on cue a fox darts out of the encroaching roadside scrub, a timely reminder for me to keep both hands on the wheel, so I give a little cheer instead.
The comforting sign of a trail of smoke rising in the flood light above the Corin Forest HQ chimney heralds my arrival and I scurry out of the yowie-mobile and down an icy path. Inside Liepins and his chief snow maker, Ben Mock, are pacing around the fire like a couple of caged polar bears. There are two stretcher beds on the floor and the small table between them is cluttered with half-full coffee cups – it’s clear these two are in for the long haul. Unseasonably warm conditions in early June ruled out any early season snow-making and this is now their fifth night in a row where they are hoping the temperature will plummet enough for their two state-of-the-art snow guns to burst into action.
But before I even get a chance to sip on my first coffee, Mock animatedly announces the temperature has fallen sufficiently. With all the zeal of a pair of dingos on heat, he and Liepins dash the 150 metres or so up the hill to the official snow play area. Your Akubra-clad columnist (who on this occasion wishes his trademark headwear was a beanie) eventually catches up to the duo who fidget feverishly with the control panels on the two snow guns (nick-named T40 and Rubis Evo, after their manufactuers) perched on either side of the snow play area. Mock eventually explains that although it’s cold enough, now it’s high humidity which is preventing the guns from firing up.
It’s their third false alarm for the evening so far. So it’s back down the hill to huddle around the fire and for more coffee (thankfully Mock’s day job is as a hot-shot barista).
While attempting to defrost from our midnight dash I ask Liepins about his reasons for recently buying buying the resort. “I want to return it to its heyday of the late 1980s,” reveals the 29 year-old who recalls as a kid making the trek up here with his family. “It gave me my first love of snow,” explains Liepins, who adds, “since the previous owner stopped making snow in 2004, there’s a whole generation of Canberrans who have grown up never having thrown a snow ball or learnt to toboggan here.”
While chatting, Liepins keeps one eye firmly on the weather station, for his ability to make snow is critical to resurrecting Corin to the former glory of his childhood memories. Although there are a handful of natural snowfalls at this altitude (1200 metres), it usually only sticks around for a day or two. So for the snow play area to be open (and profitable) for the rest of the season, he needs to churn out piles of man-made snow into the 40m by 60m designated area.
After two more false starts (yes, even your columnist somehow hauled himself away from another of Mock’s perfectly brewed cappucinos and the warmth of the fire on both occasions), finally just after 2am, the T40, closely followed by the Rubis Evo, whirrs into action spraying man-made snow. It’s a euphoric moment. We grab some glasses and a drop (or two) of gluhwein. This is cause for celebration.
Sadly the jubilation is short-lived, for within minutes the mercury nudges fractionally over the critical point for snow-making and the snow guns close down. Yet again it’s back down the hill for even more waiting (and yes, more coffee). But not for me. I’ve had enough for tonight. My warm bed back down in the city calls. I bid my farewells and steer the yowie mobile out of the mountains, careful not to acquaint myself too closely with the still ubiquitous wildlife.
After an all too short nap, and while still wiping sleep from my eyes at 7am, I log onto the Corin website to check the webcam. The live image clearly shows Liepins and Mock still at the controls of the T40 and Rubis Evo, and what’s more, the snow play area has been transformed into a winter wonderland. Their fifth all-nighter in a row has finally paid dividends and with it, regardless of this season’s natural snow falls on the Brindabellas, Liepins will hopefully realise his dream of bringing Canberra’s very own snow ‘resort’, back to life.
Corin Forest Mountain Resort: Corin Dam Road, Tidbinbilla Range. Snow play sessions: $15 per person. Morning session: 9am-2.30pm, Afternoon session 1pm-4.30pm. Toboggan hire: $5 per session. There’s also a 1km-long alpine slide (the longest in the Southern Hemisphere), charges apply. Open every day during winter, weather permitting. More: www.corin.com.au. Webcam: www.snow.net.au.
Tim’s Tip: Weather (and snow) conditions can change quickly, so call the resort on 6235 7333 before leaving home.
Suitable for: Families with young kids after some fun in the snow without having to drive all the way to the NSW snowfields. Corin is around 25 minutes drive from Tuggeranong Town Centre.
Don’t miss: Huddling around the four-sided open fire place in the back-to-basics Corin Cafe which dishes up great coffee and hot chocolate as well as traditional old-school tucker like bacon and egg rolls (and soon, fresh donuts). Yum.
Mystery chair: The photo of the old wooden snow lift chair in the grounds of a private chalet at the Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa which recently featured in this column’s photo quiz (14 June) prompted several readers to ponder its origins.
In response, during the week I tracked down the owner of the chalet who reveals that “it is chair #40 from the old Ramshead Chairlift that Thredbo decommissioned a few years ago.” Apparently Thredbo Resort sold the chairs online, and according to my snow-bound correspondent, “they were sold out in an hour and their website melted down in the process.” I wonder if any ended up in Canberra backyards?
Greek odyssey: Last week, I revealed that Theo Pantazis took at picture of Canberra Café in Lesvos, Greece, but there was no space to run the photograph.Apparently it’s quite popular amongst the locals, all of whom must have been camera shy when Pantazis took his photo.
Simulacra corner: While recently exploring the hills of Weston Creek, Michael Young and his partner, Elizabeth Brouwer discovered this rock which bears an uncanny resemblance to the profile of a human face. “The old guy is reclining amongst a wide circle of massive rocks on one of the top of one of the rises on Cooleman Ridge in Chapman,” reports Young, who adds, “that’s Black Mountain Tower you can just make out in the distance.”.
Perhaps we should nick-name it ‘Laurie’ after a certain NSW State of Origin coach who sports a similarly-shaped and equally conspicuous schnozzle.
CONTACT TIM: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @TimYowie or write to me c/o The Canberra Times 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick. A selection of past columns is available at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/travel/by/Tim-the-Yowie-Man
Where in the Snowies? Cryptic clue: Is that a shadow or a water mark creeping up the side of the church? (Degree of difficulty: Easy-medium.)
Last week: Congratulations to Brigitte Tabuteau of Bruce who was first to correctly identify last week’s photo at the alpine slide at Corin Forest Mountain Resort. “It’s a fabulous long slide and fantastic fun for young and old,” reports Tabuteau who adds, “It’s also a great place to show our many family visitors snow so close to home, take the walk up to Square Rock, visit Corin Dam and the hike up Stockyard Spur to Pryor’s Hut and onto Mt Gingera.” Tabuteau just beat Pete Sharman of Calwell and the Taylor family of Gordon to the prize who both regularly take the short drive from Tuggeranong up to the recreation resort.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to email@example.com. The first email sent after 10am today with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.