‘The first person to see snow gets $5,’ says my husband. It’s a cheap shot to raise the energy levels in the car, but it works. The kids perk up, start paying attention.
It’s grey and misty up on the mountain; even the denuded trees look cold. Our 14-year-old would prefer to be in her bed, still fast asleep. Our 12-year-old is a bit more animated – the only time he has seen snow was when it came out of a snow machine some years ago. For the past two months he's worn us down by reading out the snow levels each day. We knew we had no hope when he started checking the mountain's webcam . The snow was coming down and we had to go and see, in his words, the 'real thing'.
The $5 bet is the cheapest part of the day. It’s still early in the morning, and we have parted with more than $250 – for petrol and chewing gum; hired gear and fees to get up to the mountain; a vanilla slice, jam donuts and coffee. And there’s still lunch to be bought. Last time we were here, I packed sandwiches; I remember looking longingly at other diners as they hoed into their hot chips and pies. This was comfort food weather. No cold sandwiches for us this time.
I’m the first to see the snow – just a glimmer up at the top of the mountain, only a little lighter than the grey landscape around it.
‘It’s not fair,’ complain the kids. ‘Dad meant spotting snow on the ground.’ They’re pissed off that I saw it first.
A little later, ‘There’s the snow on the road – I’m still the first to spot it!’ I gloat.
‘That’s not snow,’ says the 12-year-old. ‘It looks like dirty soap suds.’The soap suds get more prolific as we head up the mountain.
We get to the car park. My son digs his hands into the mounds that have been pushed to the side of the road, expecting the snow to spring back. It’s hard and icy. ‘American snow is better. It’s fluffier. Softer.’ He says it reverently, as if the snow he’s seen in B- grade Christmas movies is a warm, cosy entity; a whole different species to this friendless variety.
He repeats his mantra when we join the many thousands of snow seekers at the top of the mountain. He calls it out as he crashes roughly over the unforgiving bumps of the toboggan run. And he repeats it as he grumbles his way up the mountain towards the lookout.
‘It’s cold. My gloves are wet’. He wrings them and the water runs down his pants leg. ‘American snow is definitely better.’
By this time, my patience is running thin. The anticipated hot chips were lukewarm. The din on the mountain was deafening. And the run down the slope painful. I can’t move my neck – I heard it crack after coming down too hard over a bump on the toboggan run. I mentally add an appointment with the physio to the tally of today’s expenses. Is it too much to expect a little gratitude when we’ve spent all this money so that our 12-year-old can experience the snow, in all its pristine, fluffy glory?
‘American snow is NOT softer. It’s NOT better. It’s just as cold and hard and wet as this snow is here. So get over it and start having a good time!’
There, I’ve said it. I stomp off. From the corner of my eye, I see him give his gloves a final wring. Put them back on. He soon veers off the path to find the spots among the trees where the snow is deep , where he sinks in over his knees. He invites me in. I too sink down into the soft, soft snow. Before long, he’s making snow angels and throwing snow balls and doing all the other things that, in Australia, one has to pay good money to do.
On the way home, he says, ‘Thanks for taking me to the snow Mum and Dad. I had a great day. But I still think American snow is softer…’