In the dead of the night, high in the Snowy Mountains, the wild brumby stood stock still in the glaring headlights of the Thredbo snow groomer.
Behind the controls, Jeremy Blake was equally transfixed.
"He just stood there in the snow, looking directly at me, not scared at all by the lights or the engine noise of this huge machine right in front of him," the driver said.
"So I throttled off the engine, dimmed the lights, and we both sat there, just looking at each other.
"I'm not sure for how long; a minute or so, maybe less.
"Then he just slowly ambled off across the snow and into the scrub.
"Of all the thousands of lonely hours I've been driving up and down these mountains, that was such a surreal moment. I'll never forget it."
Among the dozen or so specialist driver-operators who ply the high slopes of the Thredbo mountain resort when the rest of the population is either winding down after a hard day's recreation or fast asleep in bed, Jeremy Blake is regarded as a top gun.
Behind the controls of his wide-tracked $500,000 German-built groomer, he starts his shift by assigning his team of drivers their projects for the evening and they then all roll away into the night, individually pushing and shoving, grappling and smoothing the snow in readiness for the next day.
The more experienced the driver, the faster and more effectively they complete their tasks.
At 12.30am, the drivers rumble down the mountain, climb out, and the graveyard shift begins, rolling past the first light of dawn and into breakfast time when hundreds of skiers and snowboarders slowly begin to spill out onto the freshly groomed Thredbo runs.
Operating a snow groomer in Australia is one of the most niche professions at the ski resort.
"To be good at this job requires a combination of skillsets that's really different from operating other types of machinery," Mr Blake explained.
"First of all, I think you have to be a pretty competent skier or boarder because it's that person you are ultimately catering for; trying to create conditions that you would like to ride or ski.
"As you are working, you are visualising how it will appear in the morning.
"It's not like you're pushing or digging dirt; you're shaping and creating a product and a surface to excite people when they turn up each day."
The 32-year-old grew up in the NSW Blue Mountains and started skiing in his teenage years.
He loved the snow life so much he took a job as a lift attendant so he could ski every day and then started helping out with maintaining and running the snow-making equipment. That's when he met Charles Beckinsale, a Jindabyne local who has now become one of the world's top terrain park builders.
"Charles was really amazing in encouraging me and helping me; he knew I was really keen to drive and he helped make it happen," he said.
"The great thing about our small snow communities is that people are very supportive of each other.
"I started out by jumping in the cabin with the drivers, talking to them and watching what they do. I then got a chance to drive and build some experience."
"And now it's 15 snow seasons later, it's a full-time job."
Like many snow season specialists, skills built up over a long time provide work around the world. Over the northern winters he worked for four seasons at Sunshine Valley near Banff in Canada, then two at Sun Peaks in British Columbia, and last season at St Moritz, in Switzerland.
"My life basically fits into a suitcase," he said.
"It's not for everyone and you'll never make a fortune out of it but I love it and every night and day in the mountains brings something different."
His Kassbohrer PistenBully is left-hand drive, and is a comfortable, well-heated workplace for the sub-zero nights.
It has a front blade with 16 different functions operated by a right hand joystick, including two retractable rods which allow it to pick up and carry the steel rails used in terrain parks.
Two fingertip toggles on the driver's left hand control the wide steel-bladed tracks which steer and provide the machine's drive and grip on the snow.
Another operates a tiller which steers, lifts and drops the rear grooming arm to create the wonderful cords of snow beloved by skiers and boarders alike.
The imported machines are becoming more complex, as are their capability and versatility.
This season after Thredbo satellite-mapped its entire resort during the summer, a new grooming cat joined the fleet with sensors which shows all the elevations.
It uses the data to deliver a real-time view to the driver of the snow depth ahead of and beneath the machine.
"This new tech is a game-changer for making more of the snow we have," he said.
"The display shows where all the rocks are, where the snow cover is deeper and where it's thinner so we can use this information to move the snow around to get a really uniform cover, and pad up the high traffic areas."
His tentative plan after a short break in October was to head back to Europe to work during the northern winter but that's now uncertain.
However, he's pleased that at least the NSW resorts of Thredbo and Perisher are open and operating, albeit at a much reduced capacity.
"The difference between working this role here and doing it overseas is that here, because we get less natural snowfall than places like Europe or Canada, groomers are important because they make a real difference to the quality of the cover people ski every day," he said.
"When you see people looking up at your work and the excitement they have to be first on it; that's job satisfaction right there."