On Saturday, February the 21st ASRA President Haggy Strom and myself got up before dawn to embark on a reconnoissance mission to the victorian alps to scope out and skate some of the best mountain roads this country has to offer. After months of talking about what roads were possible to skate we finally decided its time to go down and actually check it all out.
We flew down to Albury, hired a car and began the drive down towards Mt Beauty and Falls Creek. Our first stop was a small gas station in Dederang, where we stopped for some munchies and to inquire about the mountain roads down towards Mt Beauty and Falls creek. The attendant told us the roads there were very long and windy with beautiful scenery, and when we told him we were there to skate down them on our longboards he was completely blown away, but at the same time interested, and told us we were in for the ride of our lives. This definitely put smiles on our faces and got us very excited.
Gearing up at the top of Tawonga gap, looking over the town of Mt Beauty
Our next stop was just outside of Mt Beauty at a road called Tawonga Gap Road, which is the link road between Mt Beauty and Bright. I had been told about this road by Pete Conolly who road it when he was down here for Newton's Playground last March, and just like he had described, it was steep, fast and very technical. It seemed like it took forever to drive up, but that just added to the excitement. Haggy, being fairly new to the whole downhill thing, seemed a bit nervous about skating down this road, so i told him if he didn't skate it i would have to kick him in the nuts, it just cant get much better than this where we are from. He wasn't going to back down.
We parked the car at the look-out looking over the town of Mt Beauty and started to gear up, while a few people drove by and slowed down giving us weird looks saying 'your going down on your skateboard....?'. It was pretty cool to see the interest they had, as they must have never seen anything like this before.
One of the hairpins Tawonga Gap Rd has to offer
The road itself was a little bit rough for the first few hundred meters, but then dove into a very tight right hand hairpin covered in smooth hot mix and then opened up to about 2k's of sweeping turns. After a while you start judging the corners by the recommended speed limits on the road signs, and then the 2nd gnarly hairpin comes out at you. It was pretty wide but fairly steep. On Haggy's first run he was greeted by 2 semi-trailers coming round the corner, it looked kind of sketchy from my point of view but Haggy had enough control over his speed to slow down enough and take the corner like a pro, giving the truck drivers a wave as he did so.
Haggy's Hairpin Encounter
The next section was a lot faster, with more straight lines and looser corners that came into an incredibly steep right hand switch back that drops about 12m with some sharp banking on the inside that slingshot you around it and exiting at some pretty high speeds. From then on it was holding the tuck with some slight bends and then the final hairpin, a very loose and wide right hander (with a big 'Reduce Speed Now' sign before it) that shot you down the final straight.
Drifting the steep hairpins on Tawonga Gap
After a couple of runs, hi-fives and burning legs we decided it was time to continue on and explore the road leading down to Falls Creek. From Mt Beauty to falls creek there is 36k's of winding road, up and down the whole way. Every bit of downhill road either going towards or away from Falls Creek was very skate-able. There was not one bit of straight road the whole way, and the surface was pretty smooth and consistent. We counted at least 10 downhill runs on the way to falls creek, each of which were very fast and technical. But the main event was the final section of road leading up to Falls Creek from the creek just past the town of Bogong. The road is around 16k's and constant winding downhill, full of sweeping corners and big loose hairpins with a few 90 degree stingers here and there. When i rode it from top to bottom it took nearly 15 minutes to do the whole run.
Riding through the winding forest coming out of Falls Creek
Haggy and i decided to play on the top section of this road, which is about 7 or 8k's long leading down to switchback creek, a massive 270 degree switchback corner that has a small up-hill run out (you can ride over it and keep going) that we were finishing our runs on. The Road starts up at the town of Falls Creek and runs along side it to start with before shooting you into 4 or 5k's of constant left/right corners with a few long left handers thrown in the mix. The road goes on past the gates of Falls Creek and out into a lush forest with dense vegetation either side. It gets a fairly bit faster and the corners get a lot tighter, with 3 gnarly 90 degree right handers that are banked on the inside and a few left/right sweepers before coming down into switchback creek.
The road was amazing, there was basically no traffic at all and the feeling of freedom you got while flying through the corners of this winding paradise was awesome. We did as many runs as our legs could handle, before calling it a day.
The big hairpin at Switchback Creek
We were staying in a nice little apartment in the town of Falls Creek kindly lent to us by Braden, the man behind www.charliedontskate.com, and as we drove around to found the place we realized that the town itself was a longboarding heaven. The roads were steep as all hell and each corner was a 180 degree switch back. You could run from the top of the town to the bottom and would have the ride of your life, but only if your skills were high enough to be constantly sliding and speed checking each corner because the roads were so steep.
We then sat down with a couple of the locals and fired up a barbecue with a couple of beers and told them about the downhill skating scene. They were pretty stoked on the whole thing and were getting really into it. They were kind enough to share some of the local knowledge and point out some other great hills around the Victorian Alps.
After a few beers and some very drunken table tennis Haggy and I decided to call it a night and went up to pass out.
Just past Falls Creek is Rock Valley Storage lake, the highest body of water in Australia
The next day we were greeted with clear blue skies and fresh mountain winds, then had some breakfast before going out to sample some of the hills in the town. Just outside where we were staying was the top of the run, and the first gnarly corner. We stayed here and sessioned it a little bit before making our way down the town sessioning all the corners we could find. Each of them were super fast and super tight. I donated a fair bit of Urethane to the roads of falls creek sessioning these corners as well as a little bit of skin when i hit a small crack doing a stand up slide down the steep sections.
Some of the hairpin corners we skated in the town
After playing in the town, it was back out to the main road where we geared up in our leathers and skated the road going out of the town again. Haggy had a bit more knowledge of the road and was really ripping it up, he had the biggest smile on his face at the end of each run. After about two runs some of the locals showed up and came out to take some photos, so Haggy and i got to have a few runs together, which was really fun. One of the locals Pete (also known as PC) was shooting out the back of a car and got some really wicked shots, showing some great scenery and a bit of the town at the same time.
The view through the trees of the next section of road
We then decided to end the session and grab some food before heading back to Albury to fly home. The thick shakes and cheese burgers we got from the cafe at the top of the town were superb, and really hit the spot. It was a real shame to drive away from that place as the energy up there was really positive. Everything seemed so laid back and the scenery and fresh mountain air was really good for the soul. It was a feeling of freedom.
On the drive back towards Mt Beauty we discovered another good downhill run which we sort of overlooked on the way out. The road leading into MT Beauty itself looked amazing. The road was smooth as hell and was full of winding turns. Not as long as the falls creek run but the corners seemed really nice. It was a shame we didn't have time to skate it but we will definitely spend some time on that hill next time we are there.
This trip was definitely one of the most amazing skate trips i've been on. It was such an awesome experience to explore our beautiful country and find some of the best roads it has to offer, and not only that but get to skate them too! Big thanks goes to ASRA for supporting the trip and making it possible, and i will definitely have to go back there soon to explore all the roads there is on offer.