[A Christmas snow-dome: our fantasy of snow?]
Perhaps we should blame it on the weather in our big cities. Winter in places like Sydney and Melbourne can be as miserable as anywhere in Tasmania. But being that few degrees warmer than Tassie, and lacking nearby mountains, those cities miss out on our snowy compensations. (Although they do boast their own snow-domes.)
Having snow, we Tasmanians can readily step outside the dome and get acquainted with the reality. Lynne and I spent our first Tasmanian winter in Fern Tree, the highest suburb in Hobart. It nestles into the slopes of kunanyi/Mt Wellington at an altitude of over 400m. When forecasts speak of “snow in elevated suburbs” you can bet that includes Fern Tree.
[A dusting of snow on the slopes of kunanyi/Mt Wellington]
That year was 1980. We’d come from mainland Australia expecting our first child, and with our “fur-kid” in tow. Wuppy was a border collie/kelpie cross, a smart and lively dog, bred to round up sheep on the western plains of NSW. If we were naïve about snow, he was utterly clueless. After our first decent fall, we let him outside for a look. He stood there wide-eyed, barked, looked uncertainly back at us before bounding out into the snow. He then barked some more before repeatedly biting into the “big white thing” that had invaded his space.
Gradually we have become more closely acquainted with Tasmania’s infrequent, unreliable yet delightful snowfalls. We even choose, at times, to bushwalk in it.
One winter a group of us heads into the high country north of Lake St Clair, despite a bushwalker’s weather alert warning of snow. We have all the right gear: good waterproofs, down jackets, tents, winter sleeping bags and plenty of food and cooking gear. We plan to sleep in a hut and are walking on a well-known track. What could possibly go wrong?
[A picturesque amount of snow: Mt Field National Park]
We’re not oblivious to all this. We mindfully, carefully walk on through a magical snowy forest. Its trees shield us from the worst of the freezing winds. The snow is of the slushy Tasmanian variety: not deep enough to delay us; not hard enough to crunch beneath our boots; just slippery, soft and endearingly squeaky. As we trudge beneath snow-laden branches, the occasional barrow load of snow plops down around us: a harmless form of Russian roulette.
[Old man's beard and snowy forest near Windy Ridge]
He cheerfully adds that a football-sized chunk of snowy ice whizzing down that vast slope could take our heads off. This is a little worse than risking a bit of snow down our collar. Even though it’s late spring, and the snow is thin, there’s an extra zing in our steps as we cross that slope! We’re not keen to meet the hard reality of snow literally head-on.