The Snowy Ride is a motorcycle charity event held in November each year in the Snowy Mountains region. It raises funds for the Children's Cancer Institute. Each year sees over 2,000 bikes on the run, and it usually raises over $200,000. So it's a big event! I won't go into the details here of how it all works, but if you want to know more about it click here to go to their web-site.
Briefly though, I should explain that there isn't one set ride. What happens is that there are check-points at various towns all over the Snowy region, and on the day of the ride you can ride anywhere you want to. The idea is to have your entry-card stamped at three of the check-points, which puts you in the draw for some prizes at the end of the day.
Thredbo is the main centre for the event, and the intention is for everyone to come together at a particular point just a few kilometres away for a mass-ride into the village for the presentation. The photo on the left is of the presentation in 2005. (I lifted this photo from their web-site; but I'm sure they won't mind!)
The event has been going since 2001, and has attracted an impressive list of sponsors, with Honda being the main one. They put up $40,000 worth of motorcycles for raffle (your entry is a ticket in one of the raffles), plus throw a bit of money in for other things too. In total their contribution to the event runs to about $60,000! Yes, it's good advertising, and maybe to an organisation like Honda that isn't a huge amount, but it still is a very commendable effort! You have to admire an organisation that puts in such great support of a charity like this! The photo on the left is one I took from the Honda display area at Thredbo.
I first heard about this in 2003. (That was the year that Jimmy Barnes first got involved. He did a couple of free concerts, and also got his bike-licence. I recall him saying that the first time he rode a bike was on the Snowy Ride, with L-plate attached!). It sounded like a great event. In 2004 I really wanted to go, and paid my $50 entry fee (which is really a donation to the charity), but it just wasn't practical to go. There were a couple of things, including time off work, and the fact that I live about 500Km away; which for this old bloke is more than I usually do in a day's ride. But in 2005 I was determined to go! So I took a couple of extra days off work (to allow more time there) and made arrangements to do the ride.
You'd think that late November would be a good time of year to be in the Snowy Mountains, but the weather can be a bit fickle. In 2003 it was beautiful. In 2004 it actually snowed in Thredbo! In 2005 the forecast was for rain and thunderstorms.
Despite the forecast, the actual day of the ride dawned quite sunny and pleasant. Clouds rolled in and went, but it stayed fine. For a while. Then the rain came. But, at least where I rode, it was just fairly light showers and really wasn't too much of a problem. It would have been more pleasant if it was a beaut sunny day, but it could have been worse. (The following day was bitterly cold and rainy!).
I decided to stay at Jindabyne rather than Thredbo. It's a popular choice too. There's more accommodation, it's mostly cheaper and the parking facilities are better. It also gives more options, I think, of where to ride. The weather can vary a lot over the area (in 2004 when it was snowing at Thredbo it was mostly fine in lower regions), so staying at Jindabyne gives you greater flexibility in where to ride if it turns really nasty higher up.
So, to the day of the ride. I went into the Jindabyne town centre and got the first of my check-point stamps. Because of the questionable weather, I decided to go to Thredbo first so that if the weather did turn really bad, at least I would have made it to the main centre of the ride. It's only 33Km to Thredbo, but it was an enjoyable ride; smooth flowing road through quite spectacular mountains. The fact this was the "Snowy Mountains" was confirmed by snow still lining the tops of the highest peaks of the mountains above. Despite the sight of snow though, it was pleasantly warm. (I had my winter jacket on, but it was still a lot more pleasant than had been forecast). Also, most of the bikes I saw (and there are bikes everywhere!) were going in the opposite direction, which made for a more pleasant ride in the direction I was going.
I hadn't been to Thredbo before, so after getting my card stamped at the check-point (and buying a ticket in the other Honda raffle), I had a look around. I grabbed a coffee and sat admiring the scenery (both natural and two-wheeled) for a while, then got on the bike and headed off. The photo here is of just a few of the bikes at Thredbo. And this was mid-morning - a time when most people were out riding elsewhere!
By this time there were threatening clouds above; which turned to rain just as I was leaving the village. So it was on with the wet-weather gear; and it was to remain on for the rest of the day. The rain continued for about half the trip back to Jindabyne, but it was fairly light and not really a problem. At one point I was riding on completely dry road but in light rain that was, obviously, just beginning to fall.
The photo on the left was taken on the Thredbo road just coming in to Jindabyne. The roads are great, but the scenery is pretty good too!
At Jindabyne I turned up towards Mt. Kosciosko.
In the early 1970s you used to be able to drive to within a few hundred metres of the summit (and at one time there was actually a road going to the very top). Back then a lot of the road was dirt and very narrow, and towards the top there were often steep drops off the side. Apparently a few cars fell off while negotiating on-coming traffic so these days the road, which is all tarred of course, stops at a parking area just above Charlotte Pass.
About half way up this road the rain started again, but had stopped by the time I got back to Jindabyne. I did a bit more riding around the area, visiting the settlements along the lake and then went back to Jindabyne for lunch.
After lunch I headed out to Dalgety (where there was another check-point). I was interested in going to Dalgety because of it's historical significance. Back when Federal Parliament was still located in Melbourne, Dalgety was considered as a potential site for the nation's Capital. It was rejected mainly because it was considered too close to Victoria. These days it retains it's historic significance, but remains as it was back then - just a few houses and a combined café / gift-shop, and a pub. The pub is the biggest and most substantial looking building in town. As I sat with a coffee chatting to the owner of the shop, I wondered what the locals thought of being passed-up in favour of Canberra. Somehow I reckon they were probably glad!
The trip out to Dalgety highlighted the remarkable variation in landscape there is in these regions. Thredbo is surrounded by towering steep mountain; out here the land was wide and flat.
It was riding back to Jindabyne that I encountered the worst riding conditions I experienced during the day. The road crosses a range of hills, and clouds had descended on them. For about 15km I was riding in light rain and thick fog - or cloud actually. Not particularly enjoyable! But for the rest of the day, the rain hadn't really been a problem.
Back in Jindabyne it was raining lightly, and looked pretty bleak up on the mountains. So I decided against going back to Thredbo for the presentation. The mass-ride is called off if it's raining, and a 70Km round-trip to stand around in the rain wasn't that appealing! I spoke to a few other riders in Jindabyne who came to the same decision. However I later spoke to a couple of people who had gone to the presentation and, although it was raining, they reckoned it was well worth being there! I spoke to some people who had encountered much heavier rain than I had too; but they still enjoyed the day.
So that was my day on the Snowy Ride. And that is just a taste of where you can go. Many riders choose to do the round-trip of the Alpine Way; apparently a very spectacular and enjoyable ride! There are also good rides out around Lake Eucumbene and Adaminaby. So a wide choice, with lots of great riding to do!
2005 was another very successful event. In fact it was the most successful they'd ever had! There were just over 2,500 bikes there, and the event raised around $250,000, bringing the combined total to over $1 million!
Contributions like this have helped the Cancer Institute to reduce the percentage of cancer fatalities in children from 50% to 20%. So it is an organisation that is doing great work. Results are happening and lives are being saved!
In case you're wondering, no, I didn't win anything. But then in an event like this, everyone's a winner! The riders are winners just by being there and experiencing the riding and the other bikes and the whole atmosphere of it all. And best of all, the Children's Cancer Institute is a winner from the money donated. So this is a great event, and one that I highly recommend! I greatly enjoyed the experience, and it was good to be a part of an event that does such a great job for such a very deserving charity!
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Click here to read brief reports on the Snowy Ride in following years.