Miss Snow it All, a.k.a Rachael Oakes-Ash, is Australia’s foremost expert on all things ski and snowboard. For years now, the snow bunny has toured the world in search of the best powder, writing about her experiences along the way for the likes of the Sydney Morning Herald, ESPN and onthesnow.com. As she gears up to blog about the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, we caught up with the snow queen to find out what caused her to ditch Oz’s sunny beaches for snow hills, her picks for the globe’s best ski retreats and who she thinks will be walking away with Olympic medals:
When did you first develop a passion for skiing and snowboarding?
Growing up I was more into beaches than ski fields and didn’t click into skis until I was on my gap year/s and was taken to the top of Mont Saint Anne in Quebec by a German friend of mine who had been skiing since birth. She left me at the top and said ‘see you at the bottom.’ I was still at the top by the time she skied down and caught the chairlift back up. Can’t say I loved it. But then I was on a trip to Queenstown ten years later and tried my hand at it again. This time I fell in love, it helped that I had a private instructor. I binged on skiing for the next ten years, averaging three months on snow each year to catch up.
What’s been the best skiing/snowboarding experience you’ve ever had?
Every day on snow is a good day. I’ve had some stellar snow experiences thanks to my job and have been fortunate enough to spend days at a time in remote mountain lodges with CMH (Canadian Mountain Holidays) heli skiing for a week at a time and skiing with some of the world’s best skiers at Portillo in Chile with Chris Davenports Superstars Camp. My hardest day on snow was my first back country experience in Japan many years ago with Dave Enright from Evergreen Outdoor Adventure centre, hiking in deep powder and skiing steep runs then hiking again. It was tough and I really learned the meaning of ‘earning my turns’ and now I live for off piste powder.
Internationally, Australia isn’t really considered a snow destination. How do you think our snow scene here compares to the rest of the globe?
I spent a week skiing in Hotham last year during a record season and it was some of the best skiing conditions I have had around the world. Of course you can’t say that every year but any resort worldwide will ‘have its day’ when the snow is perfect and the sky is blue and everything falls into place. The same as every ski resort has its down days when conditions are less than perfect and going out in them is downright miserable. But there really is something about skiing amongst gum trees in a country where we are lucky to have snow.
The Sochi Winter Olympics are just around the corner. Any predictions for skiing and snowboarding medals?
Australia is looking good going into Sochi. We have some really talented competitors, especially in the new Olympic disciplines of slopestyle. Russ Henshaw and Anna Segal are my tip for Australian podiums in slope style ski. Also look out for Alex Chumpy Pullin, current world champion for Snowboard X and Belle Brockhoff in the women’s. Holly Crawford and Nate Johnstone are the quiet achievers in Snowboard Halfpipe and could very well be up there along with Torah Bright at Sochi. Then we have the aerialists, Danielle Scott, Lydia Lassila and David Morris and Ski X athletes Katya Crema and Anton Grimus who are currently competing really well too. We have some great alpine and moguls competitors too. This will definitely be a Winter Olympics for Australia to be proud of.
What’s your favourite Aussie snow retreat?
If I could have the pedestrian village of Falls Creek with the terrain pitch and personality of Hotham and Thredbo, the size of Perisher, the charm of Charlotte Pass and the nightlife of Mt Buller, I’d be happy.
Favourite NZ ski resort?
I love the club fields of New Zealand. They are quirky, intrepid and filled with traditional snow lovers. Mt Olympus and Craigieburn are my two favourite club fields.
And lastly, favourite international ski destination?
Do I have to pick just one? I am a sucker for the USA because they do snow service so well. Sun Valley, Telluride, Aspen, Crested Butte and Jackson Hole have fantastic ski towns to match their mountains and you can’t go past Park City but one of the best days I’ve had has been at Whitefish Mountain in Montana. In Canada I’d say Red Mountain for terrain and Castle Mountain for quirky factor but you can’t beat Whistler either. Can I start this question again?