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How to get into snow business

By Ari 28 April 2009 40

[First filed: April 28, 2009 @ 08:30]

Having seen the weather report over the weekend and wanting to offer a new experience to my two-year-old daughter, I had been musing whether to head to the Brindabellas for some fun in the snow yesterday.

Then I happened upon this post in which commenters offered a mixed bag of info, some good (Chrisinturner is spot on), some less accurate (yes, I’m looking at you PB and Rawhide).

So it was confirmed … I’d go and take a look for myself.

I grabbed a carrot from the fridge, plus and old scarf and hat and waited for the wife, bub and dog to get home from a walk.

The wife thought I was acting a bit strange when I met her at the gate … perhaps my waving a carrot at her had something to do with it.

We all jumped in the vehicle and headed off.

I should say here that it would not be a good idea to go in anything but a 4WD (with 4WD engaged from the first bit of dirt onwards). A 2WD *might* have made it on Monday, but equally *might* not. It would probably be guaranteed not to make it today, given the way the road condition was changing.

You can head out either on Cotter or Uriarra roads and turn off onto Brindabella Road heading towards Tumut.

After something like 13km you’ll hit Piccadilly Circus where you can turn left on Mt Franklin Road.

That’s it, just keep going. The snow gates aren’t closed yet, but that may well change soon.

The wife not-so-secretly thought I was indulging in wishful thinking in my quest to find some snow … and I must admit the first 20 minutes or so of Mt Franklin Road rather confirmed her beliefs.

Then the snow started to appear, firstly in little blobs here and there in sheltered spots, then quite a bit more, then more still … until we we were driving through a landscape completely blanketed, with big fluffy flakes smashing themselves back into liquid on the heated windscreen.

Regarding the road, just be careful, folks, it can be extremely wet and slippery and there are some quite precipitous cliffs a few feet to one side at times.

Just before we got to Mt Franklin we turned right up a few hundred metres of quite steep track to the Mt Ginini air navigation beacon where there was a flat area and room to park the vehicle.

Then it was time to employ the carrot … and the scarf and hat … and build a snowman. I have included a pic (with a large Labrador for scale).

It was snowing lightly as we started, but this built over about 40 minutes into quite heavy snowfall. It seemed to be a good time to leave.

All in all, it’s a straightforward excursion if you have the right vehicle. It could go disastrously wrong if you don’t.

What’s Your opinion?


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How to get into snow business
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Demosthenes 9:02 am 15 Jul 09

can anyone post a link or send some clear road directions and comments on current road conditions? We’re thinking of going up in a 4WD this weekend which is forecast to be fine weather.

Ari 12:10 am 29 Apr 09

Ha, what a wanker.

ant 9:43 pm 28 Apr 09

That dog looks bloody fat! It also seems to be rather horrified in the first shot. It’s either freezing to death on the back of the ute, or is embarassed to have its picture taken in its current overweight state.

Pickle 9:31 pm 28 Apr 09

And if a ranger hassles you about the dog, hide the carrot, and say you are simply in transit, possibly lost, but definitely looking for the road to Tumut.

Nothing sh1ts me off more than the random conversion of state forests to national parks, where the only visible difference years later is increased fire load and heaps of “no dogs” signs.

shauno 8:00 pm 28 Apr 09

“just before we got to Mt Franklin we turned right up a few hundred metres of quite steep track to the Mt Ginini air navigation beacon where there was a flat area and room to park the vehicle.”

Um slightly minor point but you would have been way past Mt Franklin by the time you got to Mt Ginini. The car park near the locked gate just past the turn off to the navigation stuff is the carpark for the track that goes along to Priors hut and Mt Gingera. Mt Franklin is a good 8km or so back and can be missed quiet easily as you drive past.

Gungahlin Al 5:30 pm 28 Apr 09

I did a 4WD course through the Thurgoona TAFE a few years back (I was managing Holbrook Landcare at the time), and I can heartily recommend it. Has got me and my old Forester through some amazing spots, over a mountain range with 2m go-wos down to Thredbo River being the most serious.

Some of the things you will learn: don’t use the clutch during motion; pick your gear (usually low 1st or low reverse) and start the engine in gear (assuming you have low range – which many so-called SUVs don’t); if you get stuck going up a hill, brake to a stop (no clutch), engage reverse, start in gear and trundle back down and start again; and more…

People have trouble coming to terms with the “start in gear” thing, but it works a treat.

ant 5:03 pm 28 Apr 09

While on the topic of 4WDs, 2WDs and drivers, I recall a ski friend who had a large and beloved and very old Merc. One day he found a plastic decal in the snow that said “4WD”, and stuck it on his Merc. It became useful one day when exiting the Perisher carpark (heading home to Island Bend where he camped most of the season), the police and rangers were monstering all 2WD cars about putting chains on. Friend pointed to his decal, and trundled off while the ranger scratched his head.

That Merc (driven by that driver) made it into and out of Island Bend all season, in all kinds of weather.

If you ever want to laugh at 4WDs failing

There’s certainly more to the story than simply point and squirt…

I’ve never owned a 4WD, but one day I’ll get one and will have the enjoyment of learning and practicing the proper techniques.

p1 4:53 pm 28 Apr 09

P1, wouldn’t have been in the winter of 2003, would it?…

Probably about that, yes. I was with a friend, both of us in late 80’s “L” series Subaru wagons. Far from “real” 4WDs, and we were given looks of disdain by people in shiny Landrover and ‘crusiers. On the other hand, we had lots of fun, and no trouble (except when attempting things that other “serious” 4WD were also failing at – and I has a friend to pull me out when I got stuck). Later in the afternoon, then the roads at Piccalilli Circus had been all chopped up by the millions of people taking there kids to play in the snow, vehicles of all makes and models were having trouble. Anyone who went too fast slid straight off the road, and anyone who stopped, sat there with four wheels (or less) spinning. And by then it wasn’t even snow, just mud.

MrPeugeot 4:47 pm 28 Apr 09

johnny_the_knife said :

I suspect that most days I could get my Peugeot hatch back to the snow around Brindabella, but that one day the weather turns, or I have to detour around the ‘main road’ for some reason (road blocked by a fallen tree for example), I’ll be glad I took my other vehicle, which is a 4×4 Ute.

Indeed, our 306 XSi is capable of getting up to Piccadilly Circus when snowing…made it up there last time we copped snow on the Brindies. Mind you, was very careful and I happily waved all 4WD’s past me! 🙂

ant 4:44 pm 28 Apr 09

If you ever want to laugh at 4WDs failing, teh Guthega carpark after a week of snow is highly entertaining. The bigger and more “serious” the 4WD, the more struggling it’s going to be doing, and the more people with shovels will be needed to get the poor thing out. I exempt those proper bushie 4WDs, their drivers know how to use their machines. And my 4WD. It just jumps out.

timgee2007 4:33 pm 28 Apr 09

I went for the obligatory Saturday drive to check out the snow one year after a good fall. At Piccalilli Circus it was choked with people doing the same thing. A large number of these people were in various states of being “stuck” and 4WD options on their vehicles had very little to do with it.

P1, wouldn’t have been in the winter of 2003, would it? I went up one Saturday (in a 1988 Ford Laser, no less) and was amazed at the amount of Landcruisers, Prados, Patrols, etc. parked on both sides of the road. There was nowhere to turn around, and I ended up having no choice but to head down Two Sticks. It had rained all night before and the road was slippery as…with me getting more and more worried about how I was going to get back out (if I managed to actually find somewhere to turn around). Made it back out safe and sound, but convinced me that driver training (and correct operation of 4WD) certainly wasn’t included when most folk up there had bought their 4WD! But an awesome day anyway…

ant 4:31 pm 28 Apr 09

Yup again, VY. Your story reminds me of how I was regretting my decision to drive back from Jackson Hole to Park City the evening after skiing, in a smallish sedan (chevy cobalt) in late Feb this year, when the snow was falling thickly, they stop ploughing at 5pm, and you could not tell where the road was. That was hairy. It’s a 5-ish hour drive at top speeds, but rather than the legal 110 km p/hr, I was doing 40 km p/hr and wondering how many hours it would take me to get back to Utah, if I got there at all. Luckily, after 2 hours of that, the snow petered out and the road re-appeared.

Front wheel drive cars with squishy tyres do fine in snow, provided you are gentle (or rough as guts when trying to get traction!).

And my Vitara owns any snow, as being quite light it can scuttle over it. Great snow car (provided it has decent shoes on).

And that’s the key. Taking it easy. You’d be amazed what a normal car can do, when you think about things a bit, and use caution.

Absolutely. I’ve taken older cars in places where they really shouldn’t go, and provided you are prepared to stop and think, and maybe even get out and take a closer look, you can get to most places.

A few years ago I drove the V8 from Adaminaby to Cooma in several inches of snow (ie you couldn’t see the actual road!), with no snow chains and no problems. It was just a matter of holding it in low gear, and being very, very gentle with steering, brake and throttle inputs. Provided I kept it below about 40km/h, it slipped very little. Things were even better when the guy in the new Pajero in front of me pulled off and stopped, because then I wasn’t stuck driving across his slushy tracks.

That said, proper 4WDs do have a significant advantage, but this is only realised when you have a decent driver behind the wheel. Thinking that you have ‘extra traction’ when driving at speed on slippery roads is a very dangerous misconception.

p1 4:11 pm 28 Apr 09

I went for the obligatory Saturday drive to check out the snow one year after a good fall. At Piccalilli Circus it was choked with people doing the same thing. A large number of these people were in various states of being “stuck” and 4WD options on their vehicles had very little to do with it.

Knowing you vehicle, and more importantly how to operate your vehicle in “low traction” environments is the catch, not what your car is. You would be amazed where you can get a old two wheel drive corolla.

Granny 4:11 pm 28 Apr 09

I really enjoyed this post, Ari! Thank you. It looks like a great family day, and has inspired me to perhaps introduce some of my younger kids to this thing called ‘snow’. I will probably try for Corin Forest, though, as my car handles very poorly in wet, slippery conditions.

ant 4:08 pm 28 Apr 09

Yup. But the “4WD will keep us safe at any speed” mob learn about gravity and lack of traction the hard way.

The only road that ever had me a bit worried was the Baw Baw road. It’s bloody steep, with long straight bits, and it’s tarred. HOrribly slippery especially when icy.

johnny_the_knife 3:56 pm 28 Apr 09

ant said :

apparently the 4WD will save them on ice.

Oh no it won’t.

Once our friend Mr Newton is in the driving seat, your pretty much stuffed no matter what you’re driving.

Nosey 3:53 pm 28 Apr 09

Ant, I agree with your comments about rioters quick to presume being insulted.

Others, thanks for the information on where and what to take. I for one will be taking my eldest (3yo) up to the snow for a drive but only after having taken the required equipment.

For added safety I will be in my 4wd.

ant 3:47 pm 28 Apr 09

And that’s the key. Taking it easy. You’d be amazed what a normal car can do, when you think about things a bit, and use caution.

Then you see Families in their shiny 4WDs up in the Snowies, zooming along on an icy tarmacked road, apparently the 4WD will save them on ice.

Oh no it won’t.

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