Thredbo - Getting High in the Aussie Alps
Thredbo has long held a special plith Aussie mountain bikers, especially for those with a competitive background. Back in the ‘90s it was often the venue for the National Championships, and with close to 600m elevation loss, their Cannonball DH is the longest chairlift assisted run in the country.
What Thredbo has lacked until recently is a broad range of trails that appeal to the average MTB enthusiast. The Cannonball was the main attraction but it’s a brutally rough and steep trail that will punish you on anything less than a full-on downhill rig. While they’ve always had XC trails, they weren’t easy to locate and link together unless you were familiar with them.
Things started to change a couple of years back with the opening of their Flow trail. Utilising the same chairlift as the Cannonball, it offers a smoother and more gradual descent that you can comfortably tackle on any trail or XC bike. The Flow track has been a hit but Thredbo needed a new product to expand the riding options, and the recently opened All-Mountain trail is it.
Once complete the full All Mountain trail will be around 10km long and virtually all downhill, dropping from 1,900 metres back to Friday Flat at 1,350m. At this stage the lower two thirds are open and the upper section should be complete by Easter this year.
When compared to the Flow and Cannonball runs, the All Mountain trail drops a similar amount of elevation but does it over a longer distance. Obviously that means it’s not as steep, but what’s it really like? We were certainly keen to find out and made the trip down to Thredbo to find out. Going for the low cost option, we chose to camp down on the Thredbo River at the Diggings — it’s free with your National Parks pass and only 12km down the road from the trails.
As an added bonus, the Diggings sits right on the Thredbo Valley Trail (TVT). This relatively smooth and flowy descending trail leads from town to the campground and makes for a relaxed yet fun ‘commute’ home after a hard day of riding.
Buy your lift pass in the village and you’re set to go. Unlike most Aussie ski resorts, the main Kosciusko Express chairlift runs all summer long for riders and walkers. Every second chair has a special bike attachment that makes the whole process of loading up and hopping on a breeze.
At the moment you start out on the Flow trail before peeling off onto an access road that takes you across Merritts Traverse — it’s well signposted and easy to locate. There’s a steep and painful 80m climb along the way that’ll have all but the keenest mountain goats off and walking. From there you duck under another chairlift and begin the decent proper.
The lower portion of the new All Mountain trail is 6km long; the entire Flow trail is 4.5km, so this is one long descent! It’s at least 15 minutes of continuous descending for most, so it’s going to be huge once the upper 4km of trail is added to the mix.
While the average gradient may be shallower than the other descents, the trail is far from mundane. If anything it holds more challenge and interest than the Flow trail, with a number of optional lines, jumps and drops. Some sections get a little steep too, so you'll need to keep your wits about you and control your speed at times. These steep sections are countered by some flat traversing sections and a couple of short uphills — they give your arms and senses a break from all the descending.
Aside from offering a broader range of technical features, the All Mountain trail also takes you through more native bush than the Flow trail, which is mainly out on the grassy ski slopes. Riding through the alpine forest, weaving and dodging through the trees and rocks, definitely adds to the experience — it’s a trail that really lets you appreciate what this area has to offer.
Towards the bottom you’re faced with two options; you can swing to the right if you want to pop out back at the chairlift or veer left and descend to Friday Flat. While heading straight for the chairlift may seem like the logical choice, it follows the ‘Village Loop’ XC trail and involves more climbing than the Friday Flat option. Swing left and it’s all downhill with a short pedal through the village to get back to the Kosciusko Express. Alternately you can jump onto the Thredbo Valley Trail, which also starts at Friday Flat. Link the All Mountain trail with the TVT and you’ll have a 30km long lift assisted ride that’s predominantly downhill and all on purpose built MTB singletrack — something you won’t find anywhere else in Australia. Currently the TVT finishes at Lake Crackenback Resort which has its own network of MTB trails; it's a great accommodation option if you want to stay somewhere special.
Thredbo mightn’t have the extensive XC network that you’ll find at Falls Creek and Mt Buller but with this new trail offering, their gravity trails are really taking shape. We can’t wait to see the finished product — all going well it’ll be ready to ride by April 2016.
We’ll certainly be back!