A view of our ski lodge, Bag End, at Ben Lomond
A quiet day left me staring upwards. Clouds sailed by with an alarming speed in what seemed to be awfully low gusts of wind, occasionally breaking to let through a patch or two of kingfisher blue sky. The fresh air invaded every inch of my body, deep breaths cleansing my lungs before escaping in small fleeting mists of hot air as I exhaled. I felt both invigorated and mildly concerned about the cold chill, even despite the layers upon layers of clothing, some of which I wouldn’t be caught wearing dead at any other time (hello thermal underwear!). But there it was okay, expected even. I did a little foot-to-foot shuffle to keep my blood moving, the crunch crunch of the snow under my boots keeping the rhythm.
When I first applied for the job as a ski lift attendant at Ben Lomond Alpine Village, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had only just moved to Tasmania and really knew nothing more about the apple isle than the following: people supposedly had two heads, it was freezing cold, and not a lot of ‘mainlanders’ went there. Not a very encouraging review, but I made the move nonetheless and thought that if that wasn’t change of scenery enough, working at the snow would be.
Ben Lomond soon became one of my favourite places in Australia. I say ‘one of’ because, let’s face it, Australia is one country where you can have many favourite places. But in light of the insufferable heat wave that recently passed through NSW I have found myself thinking a lot lately about the cool days on the small mountain just an hour’s drive from Launceston. It’s no ordinary drive either. Jacobs Ladder is the appropriately named narrow road that weaves precariously up the cliff side of Ben Lomond, the only access road to the slopes, and requires a certain amount of courage to attempt. The trick is to not look out the driver side window – the jagged rocks below are known to be a bit off-putting.
The absence of phone reception doesn’t help the nerves either. Ben Lomond is practically a technology-free sanctuary, so you can leave your mobile at home. Your hair straightener too (much to the dismay of a friend of mine who came to visit). You see, there’s also no electricity on Ben Lomond. I can assure all is forgiven, however, once you reach the top and are rewarded with some of the most beautiful scenery that Tasmania has to offer. Not only that, but as it is a protected National Park, Ben Lomond is also home to many of Australia’s favourite native wildlife. I was surprised if a day went by when I didn’t spot a wallaby bouncing by or a wombat wobbling past the ski lodges.
I know some may think that a no reception, no electricity, freezing cold, two headed Tasmanian getaway sounds a tad disconcerting, but I for one can vouch that the two months I spent on that mountain were two of the most enjoyable I’ve spent anywhere. Even on the miserably cold and wet days when I was stuck doing my fascinating snow shuffle, dreaming of Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays (another of my favourite places in Australia), the nameless face of one committed skier or another with only an icy red nose visible beneath goggles, hat and neck warmer would appear out of the hazy fog, hand outstretched offering me a hot chocolate. In those moments I would smile, quickly reminded that I was working in one of the friendliest and most beautiful places in the world. A small community of skiers passionate and proud of their little mountain return every year to brave the elements, a testament to the enchantment of a mountain that in many ways can’t compete with the big guns, and frankly doesn’t care.
I can also since confirm that all the Tasmanians I met had only one head, it was cold (but not always), and the mainlanders that don’t go there, are quite simply missing out.