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Is the Thredbo AM Trail the best descent in Australia?

 17/9/2016

The Thredbo AM Trail is it the best descent in Australia?  Maybe, but I predict it will be by November 2016.

A MTB trip to the snowy is something I try to do a couple of times a year, however this season I only managed to get one day at Thredbo Resort but it was enough to get a couple of runs down the Thredbo AM Trail.

Thredbo All Mountain Trail from the Gunbarrel Chair

The trail started adjacent to the Gunbarrel Chair where the snowboarders clip in

The Thredbo All Mountain Trail partially opened for the 2015-16 season starting from the top of the Gunbarrel Chairlift running down to the lower slopes of the High Noon Ski Trail. Getting to the trail head was a bit of an ordeal however by the time anyone rides it again that will be a thing of the past. Trail builders Dirt Art announced that the new section linking the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift with the existing trail will be ready for the season opening on 19 November 2016. From the photos released on social media it looks like weíre in for a treat. But until then let me tell you about what we've seen so far.

From the top of the Gunbarrel Chairlift the trail followed a route familiar to most snowboarders and skiers down to the base of the Easy Rider T-Bar. For the most part it was quite open and flowy with a few tight turns and tricky technical features, some that required a small amount of pedalling depending on how smoothly I rode. There were also some nice jumps off the natural banks, one in particular near the end of the Easy Rider T-Bar that will no doubt see its fair share of photo shoots in the future. There were also a number of a-lines over rock features that all appeared to be rollable but might take out a few teeth off a big chainring if ridden too slowly.

Climbing up to the Gunbarrel Chair from the Antons T-Bar

Walking up to the Gunbarrel Chair from Antons T-Bar (up the Traverse ski run)

After the Easy Rider T-Bar the trail dived down into the bush below the Merrits Mountain House (cafť). The trail was not so different than the Cruiser area, momentum was rewarded while bad line or tentative riding was punished with short pinch climbs. The major difference was visibility, the thick bush blocked the view so I had to work a lot harder to keep trail speed. It was more technical than the section above and had one steep fall-line run that dropped about 5m into a soft right hander. A corner that I massively underestimated and was lucky not to go OTB into the abyss.

The trail wound down around the middle of the High Noon ski run and just below the Merits mid station there was an option of continuing along the AM Trail back to the Thredbo Village or descending to Friday Flat. Iíd been warned that the AM Trail back to the village was a bugger of a slog (you travel over part of that climb shortly after getting on the chairlift) so I opted to continue down to Friday Flat and ride back along the road on both occasions.

Climbing up to the Gunbarrel Chair from the Antons T-Bar

Walking up to the Gunbarrel Chair from Antons T-Bar (up the Traverse ski run)

Comparing the All Mountain Trail to the Kosciuszko Flow Trail and others.
I've seen many people ride the Flow Trail that we're pushing the boundaries of their own safety, so for the benefit of the beginner-intermediate rider who is thinking of riding the AM Trail let me paint a realistic picture.

The Flow Trail I would describe as fast with long traverses and long sweeping corners. There are plenty of opportunities to have rests while still moving at high speed or you can cruise down at a casual pace if thatís your thing. The best riding asset is being able to ride fast and straight for long periods of time.  The All Mountain Trail I would describe as tight and technical, with very few opportunities to rest while moving. Bike control in the steeps, cornering and momentum are requirements for riding this trail confidently - read safely.

The AM Trail is not dissimilar to the first section of single track on the Kosciuszko Flow Trail down as far as Kareela Hut, however the AM Trail gets a lot steeper. The Flow Trail contains a number of right hand corners that are largely unseen and drop down between rocks - this is very typical of the type of riding on the AM Trail. The AM Trail is a long descent, my typical Strava run on the Flow Trail is 10 minutes however the AM Trail was 15 minutes, if you're not used to trails like this then your run could take twice as long and be a lot more tiring (as mentioned above if you're not holding high speed through the flow traverses you will have to pedal up the pinches - and that will zap a lot of energy).

Climbing up to the Gunbarrel Chair from the Antons T-Bar

Thank god we wont need to walk up the Antons T-Bar any more!

Comparing to other places:
Stromlo - Riding fast on Pork Barrel and Slick Rock, approaching the difficulty of the Vapour Trail
Manly Dam - Be confident riding everything on the descents
OMV - Much more technical than OMV blue trails
The RedwoodsKoscisuzko Flow Trail is to Eagle vs Shark as the AM Trail is to Te Tihi-O-Tawa

Next Season
When I rode it the surface was still running pretty new, despite being only a few weeks from the end of the season. The difficulty of access will have kept rider numbers down, next summer expect the trail to get a lot more technical and rutted as the traffic (and number of less skilled riders) increases and the trail beds in.

Itís already a 15 minute descent from the top of the Gunbarrel Chair to the Merits Mid Station (knock off a few minutes if you are Curtis Keene) plus another 3 minutes to Friday Flat. If the new section is true to the legacy of the Thredbo All Mountain Trail Part I then we could be looking at a 25 minute descent going flat chat!

That in my opinion will make it the best descent in Australia!

 

Trail Centres and Trails featured in this blog

 

Comments:

This website is brought to you by MTB weekend warrior Aaron Markie.
There are plenty of great websites out there with a wealth of information about Mountain Bike Trails,
however in my experience its hard to get a good mix of info, maps, photos and videos of trails I've never ridden.
The idea of this website is to tie those 4 elements together and give you a more detailed look at the MTB Trails I ride.
If you have anything to add then let me know.