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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 16:57 GMT
Ed Leigh's snowboard journey

Ed Leigh and his caravan in Australia

As part of the new revamped Ski Sunday show presenter Ed Leigh is taking on a series of fascinating snowboard adventures around the world.

In his second escapade he takes a look at the snowboarding in Australia.

This follows his painstaking voyage to take on the wilds of Siberia and the fascinating culture of Japan.

By Ed Leigh
Ski Sunday presenter

Never go to Australia to ski or snowboard.

Go to Australia to surf, dive, drink beer and learn to swear properly but don't ever go there with the primary goal of dedicating time to Aussie alpine resorts.

The reason is very simple, if you have ever been to Europe or America for your winter holiday then Australia will seem rubbish.

The snow is bad the mountains are flat and the lift passes and accommodation are really expensive.

I know, I know I'm really selling this one, but it's true.

So this begs the question why anyone would want to go there?

Australia is stunningly beautiful and the main reason we went was as much to soak up Australia as to see the mountains themselves.

I'd had a word with the producers and they were pretty keen to do something a bit different rather than the standard resort review.

After a bit of research I realised that Aussie's highest peak, Mt Kosciusko is regularly climbed by parties of school children in the summer and at just 2229m was well within my reach as a lazy and unskilled climber.

I was now equipped with a mission the only thing missing was a vehicle.

Enter the Windsor Rapid (e), the 'e' didn't exist but 'Rapid' just didn't sound right.

My caravan, I decided, would need a more cosmopolitan name, as with my lead foot tendencies I desperately needed to redress the style balance of having a 'road slug' as they are affectionately known in Australia, attached the back of my truck.

Ed Leigh poses in his caravan
Ed Leigh gets to grips with his caravan

We set off for the Great Dividing Range that straddles Victoria and New South Wales and is home to all of Australia's resorts.

It took almost a day to get anywhere near them and the drive, although beautiful became very monotonous at 50mph.

Eventually though we reached Bright, a town nestled at the foot of the great alpine road, which services a few of the resorts and things started to look up.

Our second day saw Windsor and I take on the aforementioned Great Alpine Road and much to my delight we passed with flying colours.

The drizzle and slush of Mt Hotham at the top didn't though and at AUS$90 for lift ticket I couldn't help feeling ripped off.

Don't get me wrong the eucalyptus and gum tress that line the slopes make for a beautiful back drop to anyone more accustomed to Northern hemisphere pines, but that doesn't really hide the fact that after a couple of runs you've seen most of the resort.

That said it's the best the Aussies have and to their credit they make the most of it with a decent lift infrastructure and some lovely cafes, but as I said you're paying for it so it should be good.

After a slow start we began the long slow climb to Thredbo, with a bit of haze and mist forecast for the day and the late start hanging over me, I made the executive decision to have a light drive, see some flora and fauna and then go bush for the night before making the short drive to the resort the next day.

After an early morning swim in a freezing cold river, which I half believed to be filled with crocodiles (but later discovered to my shame were very docile Wombats) we set off for Thredbo.

Kangaroo's in Australia
Ed and the production team encountered huge numbers of kangaroos

By nine o'clock in the morning we had made the car park and it was here that I bade farewell to Windsor and entered the lift system.

By ten were had reached the resort boundary.

It was only at this stage that it occurred to me that I didn't really have a clue where the mountain was, just that it was three or four hour hike.

After receiving various directions we decided on who we thought was the most reliable (a lift attendant who had been there once) and set off in that direction.

After about two hours hiking we could see the peak and although we had chosen an unorthodox route we'd had a lovely hike, so it was worthwhile.

The only problem was that our perfect blue skies were fast disappearing in wind-blown cloud that would intermittently smother Kosciusko and the surrounding in an unnervingly blinding blanket of white.

This may not sound disastrous when hiking what is best described as a gentle hill, but if you consider that we were in uncommon terrain three hours from the nearest resort the thought of becoming disorientated wasn't very appealing.

After some pondering, which involved me telling our cameraman Chris that, 'sometimes it's takes more courage to walk away' we set off for the peak.

About an hour and half later we arrived at the peak, my first continental summit.

I felt quite proud, I had a sunburnt lip, stubble and a continental peak to my name.

I even felt that I could justifiably call myself a mountaineer of sorts.

The best bit is that if I can do this then almost anyone can and it backs up the point I made earlier.

Do not come to Australia with blinkers on, it's a huge country that has a hell of a lot to offer, try to sample a little bit of everything and you'll never be disappointed.


In the next part of his trip Ed will be looking at snowboarding in the Himalayas


Ski Sunday runs for eight weeks from 20 January to 9 March on BBC TWO and the BBC Sport website.




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