The Mount Mawson Ski Field in Tasmania is pretty unique in Australia. It sits in a spectacular alpine environment, you have to walk to get to it, it has wonderful retro rope tows, and it is run entirely by volunteers. In many ways it is the volunteers who make it such a wonderful community asset, and their energy, enthusiasm and innovation is remarkable. These qualities come to the fore when faced with difficult or challenging problems, and so it was with the damage sustained to the Rodway Tow in last season’s massive snowfall. The Rodway tow is Tasmania’s steepest ski tow, and provides spectacular views out over Lake Seal. It is a mecca for snow-boarders and skiers looking for that extra gnarly experience in a beautiful but accessible environment.
The 2017 season was a big one, and the snowfall so deep that the Rodway Tow remained buried all season – there was just not the manpower available to dig it out, and skiers and boarders were getting a great experience on the Mawson and Uni tows in any case. Unfortunately when the snow melted and the tow re-emerged the impact of being buried in a deep snow drift became apparent. The tow had been caught in a slow-moving slab avalanche, formed when the top layers of snow get wet and re-frozen into a solid mass which can move as one large slab. The result was that several poles had been severely bent down-hill, and a number of pulley-arms were destroyed completely.
How to fix this? Craig Larsson and his team of Lindsay MacDonald, Michael Potter, Dave Wendall-Smith and Tim Metcalf had an idea of how to approach the problem, and they headed out to Rodway on 8 May carrying very heavy backpacks full of winch gear, straps and tools. Could the poles be straightened? or would they have to be removed entirely?
Well the results speak for themselves. The poles are now straight again, new pulley arms have been fabricated, and Rodway will be back in action for season 2018. A remarkable effort by a team of dedicated volunteers.