Thredbo's Cannonball DH is perhaps Australia's most iconic trail. We take a look at what makes Cannonball so internationally renowned.
Words: Will Shaw
Photos: Nick Waygood/TBS
Thredbo’s famous Cannonball Downhill has been around for over 20 years. Despite its soul as a long, fast, and relentless downhill track, year on year the Thredbo trail crew make tweaks to keep Cannonball fresh and exciting. New lines for riders from Troy Brosnan to advanced amateurs mean Cannonball never goes stale, while also never losing its reputation as a world class downhill track.
Cannonball starts right as you get off the chairlift, with a high-speed straight section down the loose Eagles Way fire road. At the end of the fire road is a long right hander that’s taken out many a rider over the years, so I’d recommend keeping things mellow on your first run. Once you’ve safely negotiated this turn, it’s flat out into the singletrack.
The top section of Cannonball is a great introduction to what most of the trail entails. It’s fast, rough, and works best if you take time to stop and assess lines. Tegan Molloy, World Cup downhiller and someone who’s done countless laps of Cannonball since 2008 says it’s always best to session sections on your first few laps, “You can have every intention of having a chilled lap of Cannonball, but it’s a track that’s best ridden fast. On my first few laps, I’d stop and session sections to learn the best lines.”
After pinning it past the Kareela Hutte restaurant, you’ll enter the Snakes and Ladders section. Snakes and Ladders is epitomised by rock, and lots of it. Get your line wrong here and you want to hope you’ve been doing your push ups to hold on! This section starts with some lower speed technical and rocky turns, before opening up into a straight-away with multiple gap line options.
Some other key sections of Cannonball include True Blue, Bunny Walk, and Three Little Pigs. The trail is really well signposted, so you’ll come to know each section when discussing your lines at the end of the day.
Whilst many of the iconic features, such as the drop entrance to True Blue and GoPro wall ride have been there for many years, the track has become faster overall to match the trend of downhill tracks worldwide. Tegan says that being able to ride Cannonball regularly is fantastic training for World Cup racing, “Cannonball has had a huge impact on my riding. It’s changed massively over the years and developed into a modern racetrack. Back in the day, it was tighter, slower, and more technical in places. Now it’s the closest thing we have in Australia to a World Cup track.”
Brand new for this year is a new finish jumps section. The finish area jumps feature sculpted features such as shark fins and bigger lips for those who’re confident in the air.
Whilst there’s no doubt that Thredbo’s Cannonball DH is a technically and physically demanding trail, multiple line choices and fantastic signage mean that most advanced riders should be able to get down. It’s also a great trail if you’re looking to take your riding to the next level, and at Thredbo you can hire a professional instructor who’ll show you the right technique and speeds to unlocking the most out of the trail.
You could also hire a downhill bike for the day from Thredbo MTB Retail and Rental. Tegan says you can ride Cannonball on a trail bike, but she’d definitely recommend a downhill bike, “I always ride my downhill bike on Cannonball. Some parts may be a touch faster on a trail bike, but overall a downhill bike is the way to go.”
Another option is to mix up your laps with a combination of Cannonball and the Kosciuszko Flow Trail, as the trails cross over multiple times on the way down. This way you can select your favourite sections of each and get a great mixture of technical and flow riding.
Whether you’re a pure downhiller, enduro racer or aggressive trail rider searching for challenging terrain, Thredbo’s Cannonball DH is a must ride trail in Australia. With Thredbo’s bike park expanding every year, there’s plenty of other riding in in the resort for all skill levels, as well as in the surrounding area at places like Lake Crackenback, Jindabyne, and Cooma.
Thredbo is about five and half hours’ drive from Sydney’s CBD, a touch longer from Melbourne, and just over two hours from Canberra. If you’re coming from further afield, your best bet is to fly into Canberra and drive from there.
Cannonball DH is black diamond rated, however if you’re hitting all the A-lines it’s definitely a pure double black diamond run. On the other side of the spectrum, you can keep your tyres on the ground for most of the run by riding the B and C lines, although those lines are still technical.
A lift pass will set you back between $59 and $85 for the day depending on your age. There are discounts for booking up to 5 consecutive days of riding, as well as a 15 percent discount if you buy your pass more than a week in advance.
Cannonball DH is a real behemoth of a run, dropping 544 meters of elevation over 3.4km.
Bring a bike with plenty of travel, and good body protection. Even if you’re cruising down and not hitting the big features the speed tends to creep up on Cannonball, so it’s worth being prepared.
BEST TIME OF YEAR:
Thredbo has a full-time maintenance crew working on the trails, so anytime during the biking season the track should be running well. Some of the locals enjoy it more when it’s at its roughest and providing even more of a challenge.
WHILE IN THE AREA:
Thredbo has limitless riding and non-riding activities, so you won’t find yourself getting bored. There are all the other lift accessed trails, as well as the Valley cross-country trails, and of course the Thredbo Valley Trail that runs all the way to Jindabyne! In terms of non-riding options, there’s the Alpine Bobsled, pool, and a whole host of restaurant options.
LOCAL BIKE SHOPS:
Thredbo MTB Workshop and Thredbo MTB Retail & Rental have you completely covered. With a full fleet of Norco rental bikes, getting yourself a downhill bike for riding Cannonball is a great option. There’s also protection from all the major brands in the retail store.
Drinking Water: Yes
Parking: There’s free parking on Friday Drive as you first drive in, however parking is timed when you get closer to the lifts.
Trails Signposted: Thredbo’s trail signage is top notch, with feature signage and checkpoints throughout the trails.
Mobile Reception: Telstra is your best bet for the majority of the resort, with Optus being a touch patchier.
Shelter: Yes, at the terminal.
BBQ Facilities: Thredbo has several public BBQ facilities located throughout the resort.
Accommodation: We’d recommend the Thredbo Alpine Hotel due to its location, bike storage, parking, and homely feel. There’s also plenty of other accommodation for all budgets.
Fitness level 3/5