It has been months since snowboarder Scotty James and the Australian team wowed the world at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, but our nation’s snow-stars appear to have inspired the snowboarders and skiers in all of us.
Victoria’s alpine resorts have seen a huge jump in crowds in the first five weeks of the snow season, compared to last year, as local enthusiasts choose Australia’s winter wonderlands over a beach getaway.
It seems our success at the Winter Olympics has played a big part in attracting skiers.
Ash Dahlblom, 29, from Melbourne’s northern suburbs, has been snowboarding at Mount Buller for nearly 10 years. She says people are rushing to the slopes having enjoyed the Olympics.
“Especially before the season started, I had a lot of people, especially kids, ask about snowboarding. They think it’s so cool after seeing it on television via the Olympics,” she said.
“The last Olympics had a lot more slope sports than previous ones, so people coming to Mount Buller are more aware of how fun it can be.”
The Alpine Resorts Co-ordinating council’s weekly winter season statistics found a slow start to the ski season, with numbers actually down during the first week, but every week since has seen an increase of thousands of visitors to the slopes compared to last year’s season.
The week ending July 8 saw an increase in visitors to five major ski resorts — Mount Baw Baw, Lake Mountain, Mount Stirling, Mount Hotham, Falls Creek, and Mount Buller — of more than 5000 people. That is a rise of 10 per cent on last year, and 36 per cent compared with the resorts’ 10-year average.
Falls Creek resort has enjoyed a 6 per cent boost in visitors this year, with chief executive Stuart Smythe saying that a record number of children have been taking an interest in snow sports.
“There’s been a significant increase in visitors and even more interesting is that our race club, for kids and young families who are interested in snow sports, has seen record numbers applying to join after the Winter Olympics.
“As for the sports people are gravitating towards, we won’t know until the end of the season really whether there’s been a Scotty James effect. That’ll be very interesting to see.”
Mount Buller chief executive Laurie Blampied said the Olympics were not the only reason for boosted ski numbers at his resort.
“The Olympics always help to amplify the sports,” he said, “but we’ve also some very good snowfall this year and we had a very successful snow season last year so a lot of people are coming back.”
Ms Dahlblom, who works in the mountain control room at Mount Buller, offered advice to young Scotty James wannabes.
“It is super fun … but get a lesson. There’s a lot of sitting on your bum in the snow before you’re ready to get on a board.”