Powder to the people

Powder to the people - 15th June 2002 (Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Spend some time online to enjoy the best of the ski season, writes Jenny Hailstone.

It's that time of year again. The annual pilgrimage to the snow began when thousands of people hit the slopes for the official opening of the Australian ski season last weekend.

While the predicted big dump turned to disappointing rain, snowmaking is ensuring early coverage and punters are expecting greater-than-average snowfall in the next three months.

This year, snow skating is the newest activity to reach ski slopes. Although it's still a developing sport, snow skating is pushing the envelope of tricks, aerials, moguls and free-riding in general, according to CoolSports.

A combination of skateboarding and snowboarding, snow skaters hurl downhill on a plastic board slightly wider and longer than a skateboard, without any safety straps or leg harnesses. Risk-loving skateboarders keen to try the sport will need to practise in a backyard or away from heavily trafficked slopes: resorts have banned snow-skating during the season because of the safety risk to skiers.

A less obvious danger is ski gear prices. Before you max out your credit card on the latest snowboarding gear, check the product reviews and buyer's guide on Board The World. The massive snowboarding site has everything there is to know about the sport, with features such as the "Air 101" section with trick tips, a travel guide to terrains and resorts around the world, an online magazine, industry news and a bulletin board where you can trade equipment. The Web site rates all the Australian resorts according to their snowboarding facilities, with Perisher Blue getting the thumbs up for its commitment to snowboarding and the upkeep of its half-pipe.

Whether you're a snowboarder or skier, Ski.com.au will make sure you don't get left out in the cold when organising your trip to the snow. The snow portal covers all the resorts with its alpine accommodation guide to the NSW and Victorian ski fields. Take the snow cam tour to find out which resorts have the best coverage and use the equipment guide to compare snow sport rental prices.

Fired up by the snow predictions but left it too late to book your trip? Travel.com.au can help with a weekly email newsletter, which contains the latest snow deals and package ski trips.

However, don't fall for the hype about huge snowfall without checking the real state of the slopes first. Ninemsn's new snow site delivers pictures from 34 snow cams across Australian ski resorts and, for a $5.50 fee, offers subscribers a four-week package of SMS snow alerts to their mobile phones. Additionally, there are updates on road conditions, recommended places to ski and the number of lifts and T-bars operating at each resort.

The Bureau of Meteorology also offers weather forecasts for the Snowy Mountains region, including current temperatures and the probability of snow falls.

Australian ski resorts are continually improving, but when it comes to fresh powder it's hard to beat New Zealand, where the ski season is well under way. Snowco outlines accommodation and travel packages to New Zealand's North and South islands and has a free snow club offering regular newsletters and reports from the field of your choice via email or SMS text messaging.

Adrenaline junkies will be tempted by the wilderness heli-skiing trips to the huge, heavily glaciated peaks of Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park.

Alas, snow time can easily become hospital time. The Snow Safe site is here to help us enjoy the alpine environment in safety and comfort. Back-country skiers and hikers should consider downloading the "trip intentions form" before venturing on an expedition. As the site says, plan your holiday carefully and you'll have a great time.

* Mediaman is the agent in Australia for Snowboard.com
* The website attracts 300,000 unique visitors per month and has half a million members!
*Read the Snowboard.com profile
* Contact snowboard@mediaman.com.au


The Sydney Morning Herald

Mediaman: Sport

Mediaman: Website reviews

Australian Sports and Entertainment Portal: Snow and Links

Snowy Mountains Australia

Sports Babes