Hotham and Mary’s Slide

August 7th, 2013 | Photos, Poems for adults, Snow, Victorian alps

These photos were all taken at Mount Hotham. It is a very photogenic place, especially on a bright, sunny day in the middle of winter.

My beautiful picture

Here is the road into the Hotham village, coming from Harrietville.

My beautiful picture

Here is one of the access tracks, looking from above. Doesn’t it form a lovely sinuous curve?

Probably the most famous ski run at Mount Hotham is Mary’s Slide. It is steep and dangerous. Fortunately, it is out of the way, and there is no tow to take you back to the top, so it is only attempted by fairly experienced skiers. This is just as well. Not only it is steep, but it is narrow, and it becomes steeper and narrower the lower you go. Eventually it drops off sharply into the icy water of Swindlers Creek.

The “Mary” of “Mary’s Slide” is a real person, Mary James. She was a champion skier, and a regular at Hotham during the early years. I spoke to her briefly once, and eventually wrote a poem about her, and her famous ski run. I will put it at the end of this post.

My beautiful picture

This is the top of Mary’s Slide…

My beautiful picture

…and this is the view looking down.

My beautiful picture

Here is a little bridge that spans Swindlers Creek not far from the bottom of Mary’s Slide.

The Story Of Mary’s Slide

There’s a ski slope near Mount Hotham that is known as Mary’s Slide.
A little off the beaten track, it makes the strong feel weak.
It’s steep and very icy. At its tops its smooth and wide.
Then it narrows to a funnel, and it drops to Swindler’s Creek.

I often used to ski it, and I often used to wonder,
Who on Earth was Mary, and just what was her slide?
Down the left, or down the middle did she make her famous blunder?
(I was sure I would have heard if she’d been injured, or she’d died.)

Did she slide down on her belly? Did she slide down on her back?
Which, her head or feet, was travelling first?
Or did she slide down sideways? Or did she slowly spin?
And what exactly happened at the bottom?

Well, I now know who was Mary. We have spoken on the phone,
And she told me, very sweetly, that she didn’t slide at all!
She often used to ski this slope. (I tell you, I was thrown!)
Not only did she fail to slide, she didn’t even fall!

For in her younger days she’d been a very able skier.
A regular at Hotham, she had skied with skill and pride,
And she told me how, one day, while skiing homewards, in good cheer,
Her confabulating colleague had dreamed up this fabled slide!

Well. If ever any ski-slope spawned a slide, then this was it!
Accuse me, if you like, of opting out of life’s dull grind,
Of not accepting facts. I tell you, I don’t mind a bit!
For I much prefer the version I have pictured in my mind!

© Stephen Whiteside 19.03.90