On a trip to Perisher with her two-year-old, ANGELA SAURINE finds she needs to put aside her expectations and go with the flow
I’d had such high hopes for our snow holiday. The snow has been a big part of my life since I was a tiny tot, and I wanted my two-year-old son to be exposed to the same experiences. But, as many of us know, travelling with a toddler isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Take building a snowman for example. It was one of the things I was looking forward to the most. But Oliver refuses to put on his gloves. As does our friends’ 18-month-old, Bella. It’s hard to build a snowman without touching the snow, so the kids basically just stand there and cry while the adults build it. We wonder aloud, not for the first time, why we thought taking toddlers to the snow was a good idea. Knowing Oliver loves sticks, we go in search of some arms instead. Bella’s mum Rosie, who is from England, has the most experience when it comes to building snowmen anyway, and it soon starts to take shape. Whilst our creation won’t be winning any beauty pageants anytime soon, we are still pretty proud of our effort. As with many things with toddlers, it ends up being a slow burn. By the time we are back at the door of the lodge, Oliver’s pointing excitedly at the snowman.
Next, we decide to go for a walk. We’d tested out our new child carrier at home, and I’d tried to get Oliver psyched about this piggyback ride. But by the time we get organised it was almost time for his nap, and he falls asleep in the carrier before we make it out the door. We try to find a flat rock near the lodge to have a picnic, but there are none around, so we end up turning around and eating our ham and cheese sandwiches at the dining table inside the lodge instead. We find ourselves contemplating the concept of adventure with toddlers, recognising that we can’t do everything we used to.
Later that afternoon we head out again, this time to an early dinner at Perisher’s iconic The Man From Snowy River Hotel. While staying at a self-catering lodge was an easier option than dining out with kids, we wanted at least one night out during our week-long stay. Walking a longer distance in the snow with the carrier is tougher than I had expected. I sink up to my thighs a few times, and fall on my butt a couple more. It’s a bumpy ride for Oliver, but he seems to enjoy it more as time goes on. There are special moments, like when we stop at one point to admire the cloud formation in the sky, and I remark that one resembles a cotton ball. Oliver has a different interpretation. “Snowman!” he cries, pointing. The restaurant is opposite the Skitube Terminal, with snowcats lined up outside. It’s like a little boy’s heaven. He sits mesmerised, watching the machines’ flashing lights through the soaring floor-to-ceiling windows. On the way home in the snowcat later that night, I cuddle Oliver as he sits on my lap with my arms wrapped around him, in his Michelin Man-like snowsuit.
In the lead-up to the trip, I’d felt equal parts nervous and excited. The moment I’d most been dreading was loading our bags from the car onto the luggage trolley at the Bullocks Flat Skitube Terminal, and catching it to the valley. Of course that’s the time I receive a phone call from a neighbour letting me know the smoke alarm in my unit back in Sydney was going off. Fortunately, I was able to point him in the direction of another neighbour with a spare key. I successfully manage to fit everything on the trolley and board the train while simultaneously fielding return calls from babysitters, and am feeling pretty chuffed with myself. But as soon as we start heading up the hill the bags fall off. Then the noise of the train makes Oliver cry. I try comforting him whilst holding onto the trolley and eventually manage to calm him down and get the bags in order. Luckily, the extremely helpful staff load and and unload it, and radio ahead so someone is ready to assist at the other end.
“Digger!” Oliver exclaims when he sees the snowcats outside for the first time. A major fan of trucks and other vehicles, I thought he would love the ride to the lodge. But once again, he cries. It proves to be another slow burn, with a ride on a quieter snowcat to neighbouring resort, Charlotte Pass, for a day trip with friends, proving to be the highlight of Oliver’s week. He grins from ear to ear the entire time. Back at the lodge, he runs outside to see the cat every time it drives past. He also cries when we take him tobogganing, and that doesn’t really improve as the week progresses. But hey, you can’t win ‘em all.
With childcare services closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we arrange for a babysitter to come to the lodge while we go skiing. We flit among the snow gums, stop to drink hot chocolate at Pretty Valley Kiosk and devour juicy burgers for lunch at the Alpine Eyre Kiosk, listening to bluegrass tunes pumping from the loudspeakers. Whilst we can’t venture as far as we may have in our carefree days before children, because we have to work around our friends picking up their kids from ski school at 1pm, we are just glad to be out and about. We take turns going back early to relieve the nanny, but on beautiful sunny days it’s hard to tear ourselves away.
The kids enjoy watching DVDs of The Wiggles in the games room of the lodge as much as anything else, and playing peek-a-boo with other guests. One morning we find a southern bush rat caught in a small aluminium box trap at the lodge. We take a peek inside at the critter before the lodge manager releases it beside some nearby trees. I come to the conclusion that a snow trip provides a great balance of family experiences, and much-needed adult time on the slopes.
I recall seeing an interview with Stuart Diver in which he said being introduced to snow adventures at a young age helped give him the resilience to get through the Thredbo landslide and its aftermath, and other hardships life has thrown at him. I can only hope Oliver’s early indoctrination will contribute to giving him the same strength of character.
The writer travelled with assistance from Vail Resorts.