Thredbo has long been the home of gravity fed mountain biking in Australia, thanks to the lift that runs almost every day. But it's about a lot more than just the Cannonball run these days.
Thredbo is a playground. You know the kind your adolescent mountain biker self always dreamed of. For a long time Thredbo was a one trick pony, the famous Cannonball downhill trail the sole attraction. If you’re hands hit the wall with arm pump on day one, there was little to do but push through. There was nothing else to ride, well except the mix of fire road, certainly nothing else that had a downward thrill.
Fast forward to opening day of the 2016/17 summer season and things are vastly different. There are four major trails and numerous lesser trails open on the mountain and through the village. Thredbo were initially a little behind compared to other alpine resorts but they are now well on their way to becoming a mountain biking mecca – and possibly the home for gravity riding in Australia.
THE SHREDENING BEGINS
We arrive Friday afternoon, with just enough time to enjoy a meal at the pub and run into a few friendly faces not seen for a season. The beers are flowing but most are being cautious not to over do it. Everyone is excited to hit the trails the next day. Our small crew consisting of two big kids, Adam Fernyhough and Jason Dreggs along with myself. The perfect number for chasing one another through runs, not so much for the chairlift.
Saturday morning, the sun is up early and high. It has snowed well into October and even into November. The evidence of which is all around, covering patches of the upper slopes.
We have special permission to sample the new upper section of the All Mountain trail. We arrive at Eagles Nest, Thredbo's top station, our small crew sneaking around the outside and onto the secret entrance to the latest ribbons of flowing trail.
It’s straight in the deep end as the trail pitches you into rolling rocky outcrops. (Just a tip, not the best to approach it unclipped.) We stop to admire the valley that lays beyond, there are no words for a few seconds. Ferny spying the rhythmic trail below exclaims, “this looks really good” a rather bland comment on paper but I’m sure you will feel much the same when you have eyes on it. Simply a sort of giddy sense of adventure rising from an eagerness to check out what lies ahead.
The trail flows on, twisting and winding its way into the crevices of the valley face. There are small rivulets and stream crossings, filled with torrents of snow melt racing to the bottom of the mountain. Along the way there are plenty of technical features and much like the slightly older trail below, there are numerous hidden lines. Gaps puncture the trail scape all over, all rollable and all hittable. Before long we exit the high alpine and run into a dead end amongst tall snowy eucalypts.
We took in the view, before navigating down via fire road to the Gun Barrel chairlift and the current start of the All Mountain trail. If you’re wondering and I’m sure that you are, the final stage of the upper section of trail should be completed just after Christmas.
Riders are everywhere as we navigate our way lower. With it’s first winter season out of the way, the trail has aged well. The silt like layers of dirt on the trail surface are a joy to slide around on. It’s been a year since I last rode this trail and whilst sections return to me, there are still plenty of rocky obstacles I don’t remember. With just a trail bike beneath me, lines must be picked and there are still a few sections that leave me holding my breath.
Thredbo is not as it once was, now you can do something new everyday or at the least change up trails within your riding day. Not just tracks but links, every run of the All Mountain trail can be combined with an alternate ending. Whether that be down through the myriad of cross-country trails or traversing across to come down the ‘flow trail’ finish straight. Better yet dive further down the valley floor and along the ‘Thredbo Valley Trail”. Turn your last run of the day into something special.
We traverse on this occasion and immediately jump back on the chairlift for our first ‘Flow’ run of the day. As we race down the legendary access road, riders are lined up part way down, bombing the direct way down the hill through a snowy patch. It’s a little sketchy to say the least but definitely fun. Mega what?
Little has changed on the ‘Flow’ trail, so I know where I’m headed and the pace is right up on run one. The open sections follow a similar course to last year albeit all the berms are at least twice as big and perhaps in some cases twice as deep. I swear they are close to human height.
I’ve never pushed myself up to near brakeless in such as short space of time. My compatriots clearly up to speed much faster than I with Ferny and Dreggsy both disappearing in front of me.
The jumps are little larger this year but somehow more approachable. There is a definite opportunity to come back and line things up a little better on run two. Which we all do. With a quick glance around at each other, we all immediately jump back on the chairlift.
This is the beauty of Thredbo. Its chairlift runs all year, the best of its trails are all lift assisted and there is next to no climbing. There-in, however, lies the danger. It’s easy to over do it, so make sure you pace yourself, arm pump and mental fatigue are terrible things.
We do several more runs of the Flow trail, and mix in a couple of All Mountain laps with other riders we meet at the bottom of the chairlift. It’s day one and there are next to no braking bumps, we all take full advantage. Just shy of ten runs we call it a day.
Hit the hay in Thredbo
Many Australian alpine towns are quiet in the summer months. That’s not the case in Thredbo, you're never short of a good time or decent feed. Stop by the pub and bistro if you’re short a few friends, or the top notch village square bakery for the breakfast essentials you definitely forgot to bring. Consult the Alpine Hotel for an awesome buffet breakfast and don’t forget to meet Sean in the café at the base of the chairlift for a mid-ride feed. These are just some of the highlights there is plenty more options to match your appetite.
Accomodation is a plenty, you just need to seek out what’s right for you. If cheap is your goal the YHA Hostel offers some cosy rooms. We were lucky enough to stay in the Alpine Apartments right down the front of the village, which gave us a splendid view of the mountain and a kitchen so we didn’t blow out our budget. Of course if chalets are your turn, there are plenty of those around as well.
Exploring the Thredbo Valley
On Sunday we decide to head down the Thredbo Valley Trail, give our legs a proper workout instead of the thigh and hand bashing of the day before.
With the Xterra triathlon World Championship event on in Crackenback the day before, our trip down was punctuated with the passing of numerous riders, often a foreign accent greeting us, the mood always cheerful.
The sun was once again out and the trail was especially dusty. The thin puffy veils of dirt lingering throughout our mini train on the TVT. The pace was fast, the gentle descent giving us excellent rolling speed as we cross the multiple bridges. The trail is not unfamiliar to our small group though the numerous water bars still catch us unaware. There must be a way to link them.
We arrive in Lake Crackenback Resort and grab a quick bite to eat at their little café ‘The Alpine Larder’. We are unable to access the newer section of TVT trail at this time but know it will be coming in a near future. Our lunch chat turns to the grand adventures the TVT now enables. Whether that be a couple of laps of the ‘Flow’ track, before riding a completed All Mountain trail and continuing onto the TVT or doing this all in reverse.
In search of something new, we head along some of the loop trails around Crackenback village. We head down by the river, the singletrack here is quite challenging. We then discover an alternate, more rugged trail, bypassing the first section of the TVT trail to the Diggings.
It's time to head back the way we came, a slow casual struggle against the upward gradient to Thredbo. We arrive with enough time for a couple of casual ‘Flow ‘ runs before it’s time to part ways’ and head home.
AMB would like to thank Thredbo for the lift access and accommodation