After a big winter overnight snowfall, the longing gaze of many Canberrans turns to the Brindabella Mountains.
Talkback radio is abuzz with reports from early risers describing "the snow-capped Brindies" and picture postcard vistas dominate social media feeds.
Admiring the sweep of peaks to our south-west adorned in their winter splendour is a magical part of life in Canberra.
Usually the magic is only short-lived as the morning sun creeping over Mt Ainslie soon melts much of the snow, but if you are quick, you'll notice two long streaks of white stretching like giant pieces of white tape down the side of the Brindabellas.
The western-most of these two scars closely follows the alignment of the Brindabella Road, and the other, shorter scar leads down the side of Mt Ginini.
While the longer scar is a clearing for a power line, the origins of the Ginini scar aren't as obvious. In fact, every winter this column is asked if it this white streak is the result of a landslide (like the one on Tharwa's Mt Tennent), or, due to its sudden appearance after a big snow fall, heaven forbid, the result of an avalanche (extremely unlikely in these parts).
The answer is neither, it's actually the remains of an historic ski run hacked into the side of Mt Ginini in the early 1950s for Duntroon cadets eager for some downhill skiing.
The early 1950s was a time when the powers to be at the Royal Military College Duntroon actively encouraged cadets to pursue outdoor interests with the aim of "providing healthy recreations, and at the same time developing sound personal qualities, including self-reliance, good judgement and quick decision, which are important in the training of potential officers".
Regular readers of this column will be aware of RMC's ill-fated sailing club, also part of this extracurricular recreation program, at Lake George. That was sadly abandoned soon after five cadets tragically drowned in a boating accident in 1956.
So when a remote mountain hut cobbled together in the late 1940s by adventurous skiers of the aptly-named Ginini Hut Club was put up for sale, the RMC promptly purchased it and set about establishing skiing quarters, the extent never seen before (or likely ever again) in the Brindabellas.
Back-breaking work was required to not only complete the lodge - which expanded dramatically from the original hut (converted into a kitchen and mess) to accommodate over 30 cadets - but also to cut a ski run into Ginini's north eastern side. According to high country historian Matthew Higgins, in his authoritative Skis on Brindabellas (Tabletop Press, 1994), "initial work by axe and saws was later assisted with bulldozer, and by winter 1952, the widest ski run in the Brindabellas had been cut."
Despite the considerable effort to build the lodge and run, RMC's Ginini digs never ended up being the long term triumph it was hoped to be due to several reasons, including the rigid Duntroon training schedule, which rarely allowed for cadets to be away for more than a day at a time. The ski run's rudimentary rope tow also often broke down, often leaving the cadets relying on a clapped-out Land Rover to haul them back up to the top, or worse still lumbering up on foot.
Due to its proximity to the Cotter Catchment, Canberra's pristine water supply, the cadets were given strict instructions to carry the full toilet pans with them back to Canberra after every trip, a condition one supervising officer later honestly admitted in a Duntroon file memo "didn't always occur".
In fact, it was ongoing pressure from the government about the impact of the ski club on water catchment, along with the ongoing development of bigger and better facilities further south in Thredbo, that in 1968 led to Duntroon abandoning its ski club at Mt Ginini.
Within a couple of years all the buildings were demolished, and today, but for the scar of the ski run, and the bulldozer scrape where the site for the main lodge was levelled in 1952, there is little to remind us of this forgotten era of skiing in the Brindabellas.
However, one Canberran who will never forget the hey days of the Mt Ginini run is 87-year-old Stan Goodhew, of Hughes. He is a member of the Canberra Alpine Club, which was based at the lower Mt Franklin (where the group's timber lodge survived as the oldest ski club lodge on the Australian mainland until the 2003 fires destroyed it), and would, "when the snow was better higher up, make a beeline to Mt Ginini".
"When the cadets weren't there, we'd ski on their run," he recalls, adding "it was a magnificent, gentle wide run."
Despite memories of dashing down the Ginini run, Stan, who "visited the Brindies at every chance" he could, reports he, "rarely saw the cadets skiing".
"We never saw them very skiing much, but we did see them in their big six-wheeler trucks chugging up and down the mountain," he says.
"They'd often be followed by a tow truck as they broke down so often.
"Lucky we could hear the trucks from miles away, because we had our own little run [650m long but not obvious from Canberra due to its predominantly southerly aspect] that crossed the road between Mt Franklin and Mt Ginini, which meant we had to wait for them to pass before jumping the road."
Heck, it must have been an interesting test of skiing ability to negotiate the cut-in road when hammering down a slalom course.
While the ski clubs of the Brindabellas are now mere ghosts of our past, after a snow storm you can still find a small number of dedicated cross country skiers making first tracks along the Mt Franklin Road. Along with waking up to that much anticipated sight of the snow-capped mountains, exploring the rugged beauty of the Brindabellas is one of the best things about winter in Canberra.
Mt Ginini: Mt Ginini (1762m) is the ACTs seventh highest peak. It is located near the end of the publicly accessible part of the Mt Franklin Road (dirt, 2WD OK when dry) in Namadgi National Park. It can take up to 100 minutes to drive from Civic. After snowfalls the road is often closed to reduce the risk of accidents and to provide cross-country skiers with a safe (and smooth) track to explore the Brindabellas.
Tim's tip: Before embarking on a winter drive into Namadgi National Park, call the Visitor Centre (6207 2900) to check on road (and snow) conditions.
The old Mt Ginini ski run: It crosses the Mt Franklin Road just before the locked gate at the Mt Gingera Walk Trail Head. For the less adventurous, the scar can be seen from various places around Canberra after snow. Best view points are from the Mt Ainslie lookout and also where Yamba Drive heads over the hill and turns into Erindale Drive near Farrer.
Urban legend: Contrary to some far-fetched stories, the buildings for the Duntroon barracks atop Mt Ginini weren't "pre-fabricated huts dropped out of a Dakota onto a snow drift and put together next summer". According to high country historian Matthew Higgins, material was sourced from the decommissioned Molonglo Construction Camp at Fyshwick, driven from Canberra and painstakingly assembled by cadets during regular work parties.
Up the top: Although you will have to fossick hard to find remnants of Duntroon's ski lodge, the peak of Mt Ginini is now home to both a distinctive A-frame air navigation facility and an automatic weather station. The station was added after the 2003 fires to aid emergency management in the ACT, especially to assist with calculating north west winds at high altitude.
Did You Know? The Mt Ginini weather station is fitted with a heated rain gauge that melts snow, allowing for an accurate observation of total precipitation to be taken.
WHERE IN CANBERRA?
Cryptic Clue: A good place to just potter around
Degree of difficulty: Hard
Last week: Congratulations to Philip Veness of Spence who was the first reader to correctly identify last week's photo, submitted by Dave Osmond of Dickson as a stock bridge located over Kuringa Drive "in around 1970 to allow vehicles and stock from CSIROs Ginninderra Experimental Station to safely cross the road".
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to email@example.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday, July 6, 2019 will win a double pass to Dendy - The Home of Quality Cinema.
If you're feeling chilly this winter, spare a thought for this collection of stumps located on South Head Road, Moruya.
Geoff M is a Canberran who often visits the coast. He says the stumps, long admired by locals and holidaying Canberrans, were "first denuded by having their clothing stolen, and to add further indignity, a few days later they had their faces hacked-off."
"Why would someone want to do this, when they give so much pleasure to passing motorists," asks the creator of the Stumpy Family at Moruya Facebook page, which, since the vandalism, has "been flooded with offers of replacement clothing."
Sadly, the Moruya foursome aren't the only stumps to have been recently sabotaged. Several months ago, Stumpy, a well-known landmark that proudly stood near the city-bound Cotter Road on-ramp to the Tuggeranong Parkway, and often clad in seasonal clothing, was callously felled and senselessly thrown down the embankment.
Is there a serial stumpy killer on the loose?