Kyle Miller has always been a man of the Cascades, taking advantage of one of the longest snow seasons in the world to explore deep into wild ranges. But even in the Pacific Northwest, winter comes to an end. So we bought Kyle Miller a plane ticket to the Southern Hemisphere, gave him a stack of gear, and handed him a camera to document the experience. He hatched a plan to buy a van and stay for four months, so we’ll be tracking his travels from splitboard fests and powder season at the club fields through ski touring season in the Southern Alps and hiking adventures on world-famous tracks. His first stop was Australia and this is his first report. —LYA Editor
Words and Images by Kyle Miller
Never in a million years did I think I would be snowboarding in Australia, never mind doing a talk/slideshow in front of well over 100 like-minded touring folks looking to get their feet dirty in the Australian backcountry. But here I am. From the moment I got off the plane at the Sydney airport, I was picked up by now good friend Adam West and introduced to the Aussie way of life. Less than an hour later, I was surfing for the first time down in Sydney Harbour before heading on a drive down the east coast to his home three hours away in Nowra. I expected to see nothing but dry deserts with the occasional tumbleweed blowing across the road, but happily this was not the case. The landscape was a vibrant, lush green rolling terrain that seemed endless until it crashed into the brightest blue ocean I have ever experienced. The landscape reminded me of home–just without massive mountains as the backdrop. It was far better than I had ever imagined.
My main reason for heading down to Australia was to go to the Australian Splitboard Festival, but there were a few days to spare beforehand, so I did what any tourist would—go see the animals. I went to a small zoo, held a wombat, hung out with some kangaroos, and checked out all the random birds that call this place home before heading into the mountains and, more specifically, the New South Wales Main Range via a six-hour drive. Our base location for the first night was Jindabyne, a small, sleepy, lakefront town situated a little more than an hour from four different resorts, which collectively are considered the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. Who knew?
It was time to get into the mountains since we were in the area and a storm was brewing, so Adam and I went to an area called Dead Horse Pass. We started skinning through dense trees and strong winds until we had our fill and got back to town in preparation for the event/my slideshow. The night was a huge success, pulling in more than a thousand dollars, and I had a blast chatting with and being heckled by the crowd (it seems there is a hot debate over who has better coffee) before heading up into the mountains and camping under the stars, where you could see the Southern Cross and the Milky Way. Camping is a part of their ski bum culture and it is an awesome experience.
The next day we woke up to blue skies and drove up to the Gothika parking lot, where 50 other splitters awaited. I split off with two other very experienced tourers (Mark and Sal) and they showed me the goods. I didn’t know what to expect but I found endless alpine—some steep, some mellow—simply a tourer’s delight and great training grounds for bigger things. The snow had gotten rained on, then refrozen, so it left huge runnels and almost corn conditions. I joked that it was like April in the Cascades and it was a total blast. By the end of the day, I met up with Adam and a group he was teaching to split, and taught them the value of low-angle skin tracks, something I hope that I imported to Australia. We had a blast, making it back to the parking lot before a night of camping under the endless stars.
Our final day in the mountains was back at Dead Horse Pass, where the visibility had improved and we could see around. Climbing to a high ridge, I saw something I never expected to see: steep, gnarly terrain. Sadly, we didn’t have time to stay longer because we were commuting back to Nowra, but I was blown away. After a long drive and night back, I said goodbye to Adam, his wife Jackque and their two young daughters. We went back north to Sydney, where we stayed at his sister’s in the heart of Sydney, ate kangaroo at a nice restaurant at Dolly Harbour, and got a few hours of sleep before my 9 A.M. departure for Queenstown, New Zealand.
It was the first leg of a trip filled with good friends and good mountains and great hospitality. It was a memorable leg, but only the first week in a 3-month adventure. Now I’m off to go slay some pow in the Southern Alps of New Zealand!
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