Australia NSW - Thredbo

Riding the Dead Horse

“I remember how on that first ski descent to Dead Horse Gap in 1937, we found leaf snow…frost-sublimated snow crystals, great shining flakes that rustled round our legs and hid our skis. I have never seen it since in Australia.

“I can sometimes remember too, ghostly figures round a huge campfire outside a hut that has long since gone from the Gap.”
Elyne Mitchell,
A Vision of the Snowy Mountains, 1988

Riding the Ramheads PICTURE: JIM DARBY

Resort boundaries are still just marks on the map – with the right amount of knowledge, equipment and fitness, the mountains are still yours to explore. JIM DARBY heads for Dead Horse Gap.

Skiing offers so much – discovery, adventure, and freedom; the might and mystery of the mountains.

You might think, in an age of roped boundaries, personal GPS systems and mobile phones, the adventure has all but disappeared.

Not so.

Every area has adventure options and Thredbo to Dead Horse Gap is a classic – you can’t get absolute first tracks like Elyne Mitchell and her fellow adventurers, but you can still get fresh tracks after a snowfall.

For the perfect picnic, convoy a car full of lunch to the Gap car park early in the morning, head back to Thredbo and start the climb to the top of Karel’s, Australia’s highest lifted point (2037m).

Saddled up for the Dead Horse. PICTURE: JIM DARBY

That handy ascent means the trip to Dead Horse is more a cruise than a climb, but if you want to add some steeps, you can scale the peaks of the Ramshead Range and take a run at the chutes you’ll find.

On the right day, and this team had one, the skiing up here is magic. High and cold, the snow keeps its winter quality on the southern faces and aspects.

It can ski like fairy dust, but watch your angle – slip across to the sunny side and it skis like breakable crust.

The run continues along these ridges until you want to make a break for the trees. Stay high and it’s a big highlight – long turns and fields of space to take them in.

The snow gums are tall and open as you enter the forest – perfectly placed for some dodging and weaving.

As they will anywhere, the trees draw the heat. So watch your turns if you decide to take them close.

The turns need to tighten towards the end, the trees grow a lot closer together until, above the creek and with the Gap in sight, it opens again.

And there it is – the creek, the gap, the bridge and the picnic.

Thredbo to Dead Horse Gap is one of the simpler beyond-bounds adventures, but watch it, getting lost is a simple process anywhere in the mountains.

Make sure you go with someone who knows the way and make sure someone who isn’t going knows where you’re going.

Tips up for the ride home: PICTURE: JIM DARBY

The view of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is “get out there and enjoy the Park,” but do it with the right preparation and skill level.
Thredbo’s view is a little more complex. They guard the resort’s northern boundary – the line between Merritt’s and Stanley Bowl around the top of the Cruiser chair very carefully and will pull tickets for transgressions.

With good reason – Stanley’s is treacherous country and to discourage skiers without the right ability and capability from heading out there, they need to apply a no-tolerance policy to all skiers.

Karel’s is completely on the other side of the resort though and, demanding a T-bar ride or two, generally has a more accomplished level of skier at its top.

Skiers making the Dead Horse Gap run are generally left to their own resources. If in doubt, have a word to the ski patrol before you go.


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