John McDonnell knows his way around the Australian Snowy Mountains on a mountain bike. An experienced rider who's lived and worked in Jindabyne and teamed up with keen mountain bike mates over the years, he’s seen a lot of the bike trails improve, expand and grow in popularity. While the most exciting and remote trails can’t be accessed during the winter as they’re under snow, he’s been known to hit the non-snow trails
when the skiers and boarders are hitting the groomers.
“A lot of the fire trails are great and there’s a good chance of seeing brumbies, but if the trails are under snow there are still some options, and if there’s a blizzard up in the resorts it’s a good alternative way to spend the day”.
He explains many of the trails are graded from beginner to more advanced (or technical). His trail suggestions lean more towards riders with some experience (non-beginners) and advises on always riding with at least one other rider for safety reasons.
Crackenback to Thredbo Mountain Bike Trail
Depending on whether the snow level is above the Crackenback Resort, John recommends this trail for less confident riders who haven’t worked up the hours or the confidence to try any of the more remote rides.
“It’s a single track between Crackenback Resort and the Thredbo Valley Trail. You can get someone to pick you up, there are maps and there’s a likely chance there’s a few people around, as opposed to rides such as Dead Horse Gap to The Hut”. Check the Lake Crackenback Resort Mountain Bike Trails Map.
This is a good track for families with children aged over approximately 10 years old, as they may have more stamina and better ability to handle corners and bends.
Jindabyne Mountain Biking - Tyrolean Village
Heading out of Jindabyne towards Cooma on the highway you may have spotted a small but populous village on the Eastern shores of Lake Jindabyne, heading up the hill with the dam at your left. This is the Tyrolean village, a built up area on the shore of Lake Jindabyne away from the town and it is veined with mountain bike trails graded easy, more difficult and most difficult. This area of Jindabyne is seldom under snow.
John recommends heading to Sacred Ride
(phone 6456 1988) a well-known Jindabyne mountain biking store and knowledge destination for mountain bike enthusiasts, before heading out to sample some of these trails.
John says “The entry into some of these trails is through a gate as you head up the hill and out of Jindabyne and can be a bit daunting to enter. That’s why it’s good to check in with Sacred Ride. And never ride alone”.
Depending on your experience and the day you want your day to be set out, these Tyrolean trails can be done in as little as one and a half hours or they can take half a day. John also recommends starting at spot A but leaving vehicle at spot B so you have a vehicle ready to pick you up if you’re tired, cold, injured or feel like making it easier for yourselves.
“You can do the ‘double car’ on any of the other areas, like the Crackenback trail or the more remote rides too,” he says.
The Rolling Ground Jindabyne Map shows all the parking bays around the Tyrolean Village where riders can leave a vehicle. This is a good idea if you’re not sure how you’ll handle cold weather or cold wind. Many riders love the bracing air and the fact that other riders who are put off by the cold let them have these trails more to themselves, but if you’re not sure which group you fall into it’s a good idea to ‘double car’ it the first time.
Depending on the snow level, and again it's rare in winter for snow to reach down to Jindabyne’s rolling ground areas, is the Bungarra
riding area. It is just out of the town area and beautiful with its Snowy Mountain scenery. With 20 km of bike riding trails, the general public may access these in exchange for the purchase of an $8 for 3 day bike trail pass. John enthuses that “Bungarra is great because they have their own set of trails and these trails are do-able in winter”. It’s best to call ahead (phone 6456 2688) in case there are riding programs going on, as these take precedence over casual riding.
Weather permitting, Bungarra trails are closed till conditions improve on the track just now. But each winter the conditions are different so it's worth calling to check before arrival. The Bungarra spokeswoman did advise riders should call the Snowy Region Visitors Centre (phone 1800 636 525) for advice on which tracks open and closed, for example sections of the Thredbo Valley Trail are currently closed but the Mill Creek near Tyrolean is open.
Mountain Bike Clothing
When there’s snow in the snow resorts the air is extremely chilly, even if there is no snow on the ground where you’re riding. The trick is getting the right balance between rugging up and not sweating it out in too much gear.
And there’s the problem of where to put the clothes you’re discarding. John recommends starting out wearing thermals on a winter ride in the Snowies, even if you shed the thermals when your body temperature rises. Thermals tend to be lightweight and easy to roll up into a pocket or backpack or tied around your waist. Gloves, fingerless or with fingers and eye protection is recommended along with head gear.
Mountain Bike Equipment
In addition to the thermal recommendation, John says to “wear a Camel Back (backpack) with first aid, spare food, clothing items and tyre repair items”. It’s always advisable to carry water, and riders take snacks, go-pro cameras, phones and other items.
Sacred Ride can help you with advice on trails, maps and other biking equipment to take on winter trails. “Bungarra, Thredbo Valley Trail and Crackenback aren’t as remote as other trails in the area that more experienced and technical riders may aim to ride”.
Stay in Thredbo for mountain biking this winter!
Thredbo, fast becoming the mountain bike mecca, is a great place to base yourself for riding, even in winter. The Lantern Thredbo Apartments
have an extensive range of self-contained apartments. All have washing and cooking facilities, and many have car spots outside the apartments and places to store bikes and wipe them down after rides.
Contact Jill or Ian
and explain your requirements, they are extremely familiar with the mountain bike culture and know what mountain bikers need. They can also help you with trail advice
and bike advice
and point you in the right direction for biking experts or pointers on mountain bike equipment.
It also helps to know you’ve told somebody which trail you are going on, in case you get a flat tyre or a sprained ankle, they can call for help if you’re not back at the end of the day. It’s also nice to stay in a place where you can walk to a restaurant or bar at the end of the day
once your ride is over, or have a spa (some apartments have spas) and relax.
Add winter mountain bike riding at Thredbo
to the list of things you can do as a family, mountain bike riding is such an amazing all-ages sport. And always good to have something up your sleeve at the snow if there’s a blizzard day.