While my brother and sister-in-law were dog sitting Czar, Bolo, Ishka and Frankie back in Melbourne, J and I travelled up to stay in Bright for the weekend. We stayed with a group of my friends and skiied at Mt Hotham on Saturday and then at Falls Creek on Sunday. It just so happened to be the weekend of the Falls Creek Classic. Being the massive sled dog groupies that we are, J and I couldn't resist checking out the races. It turned into a crazy weekend - J drove up to Falls Creek three times across the weekend, as well as two bus trips to Hotham and Falls.
In comparison to the A5K race at Dinner Plain, Falls Creek has to work around the needs of a busy ski resort. The races can only operate after normal skiing for the day has finished. Racing early on Friday evening limits how easily people can travel from Melbourne in time to see the race. I wasn't about to leave work early, but J was able to take the day off and drive up to Falls on Friday. He captured some brilliant shots of some of our friends - not just racing on snow, but finishing on Wombat's Ramble - a much loved ski run and Falls Express Chair.
On Saturday, after a good day's skiing on some of the first decent snow for the winter, J drove me up to see the Classic myself. We had to wait for the bus to take us slowly from Hotham to Bright, a quick turn around for some drier clothes, and then drive the hour plus to Falls Creek. Thank heavens J is a skill-full driver, with a good car! I kept my eyes firmly focussed on the road ahead and my mind as far from the queasy stomach as I could manage, but when we got to Falls Creek, the racing had already begun.
The Saturday night heat took a different route, up Wombat's Ramble and then curving through the Village. There was a great PA system announcing starts, the start chute under the Falls Express was lined with spectators, and there were many people roaming around, excited about the dogs and the racers. A fantastic opportunity to display sled dog racing to the public! We made our way up to the one of the trails that came down through the village and stood where we could see the trail and then look over the retaining wall behind us to the finish line below. Despite the cold and snow falling at a slicing angle into my face, it was very exciting looking up the hill, seeking out the silent lights of the dog teams, watching them weave through the crowds on the road, and then sweep around into the finish chute alongside the start chute.
While the teams were in the chutes, they were contained from the public by plastic bunting barricades, but as they came down the road, there was nothing to keep people off the trail. The dog teams are usually pretty silent as they run, especially on snow. People would be happily walking up or down the road, muffled in beanies and scarves against the wind, and suddenly a dog team would rush down amongst them. At a normal race, there is a lot of effort made to keep spectators away, and the dogs usually don't encounter crowds until they've crossed the finish line and the pressure is off. Lots of the teams saw the people and decided they must have already crossed the finish line, and started visiting. Hello folks!!! Can I have a pat? Hello!!
J and I ended up being impromptu corner marshals - that is, he conducted himself with the dignity of a marshal, and I was the screaming crazy lady - "Get out of the road!! Hey you!!!! Clear the trail!!! Dog team coming!!!" J would calmly and and quietly lead lost teams back onto the trail, usually to a "Thanks J!" from friends who could spot that big dark silhouette anywhere. Mind you, it was easy for us to pick some of our friends too - especially those wearing onesies!!
After all the teams came in, we went into the pub to see some very tired and wet people come in for presentations and celebrations. Well done folks!! Such a massive trail, the wind, the snow, the crowds. It was a truly challenging race. Well done!
Thankyou to my very talented person-to-whom-I-am-engaged for the lovely pics.