Terry and Rowan are familiar faces at Mt Hotham ski resort. After Rowan celebrated her 50th birthday by spending a winter there, she and Terry keep returning. This is their story.
Rowan: I came for a holiday the year I turned 50 – my birthday celebration. Originally Terry was to come too but he couldn’t get a locum so he had to stay in Loxton. Our son James and I came up and lived in Dinner Plain. Friends and family visited all over winter that whole season. It was just beautiful. As a 50th celebration – it was great!
And then, I wanted to do it again!
Terry said, “You’ll have to get a job”.
So, I did.
Terry: It felt a lot like a divorce. Rowan left home and I kept sending her money.
Rowan: Just prior, my younger sister died from breast cancer. That was a catalyst for me. During that season I had time to reflect. To think about what life was all about for us. I thought life’s too short for me to go back to Loxton and just forget what I ‘d done and not take hold of it and go with it. We talked about it and decided that’s what we’d do.
We stuck it out for three years – Terry living in Loxton and working the practice and me living up here in the winter. I went home in the summer. Terry sold the practice in 2010 and got an associateship in Bright with the chiropractor there.
Terry: For those first years – I worked out at the end of the season that I had done enough kilometres to drive to Canada!
Being away one week a month didn’t do my practice any good and the weekend driving didn’t do me any good. We just decided to sell everything and move.
In between we had sold our house and were living on a houseboat for three or four years. It was a great lifestyle and I am still somewhat envious of it. We had a great mooring ten minutes’ walk from work.
After living all our lives on the flat brown bit of Australia we thought we would see what it was like to live on the pointy white bit. We moved here, lock, stock and barrel. I work in Bright three days and have four-day weekends. It’s kind of semi-retirement-ish.
We were offered the job of managing Spiral Stairs [staff accommodation].
Both: Contrary to all the advice we were given we decided to give it a go. It was a very steep learning curve. Our job was really trying to be part-time parents to 64 nineteen year-olds on their gap year.
Terry: The first year was pretty crook. We weren’t indentured to do it and could have walked away. We never got to that point though others before us had. We opted for a second year – that was a lot better. We applied to manage High Plains accommodation at Dinner Plain when the ski company took it over- a much easier gig.
Rowan: We did that for three years and then decided to live back up on the hill again. Now we have a new lodge to manage (Shamrock). In 2010 we rented an apartment to experience a summer living here. We just loved it so much that the next year we managed to be the summer managers at SCEG.
Terry: Basically we have year round accommodation – a summer lodge and a winter lodge to manage. The ski company manager’s position is your lodgings – not paid, as is the summer management job. But our winter lodge management job is a paid position.
When you think about it, and look at living expenses – rates, upkeep, maintenance, internet, electricity, gas – there is a considerable saving in not having to pay for any of those things. I think it probably takes a different mindset to be able to live this way. I am sure that anyone could do it.
Rowan: I am sure there are some people who couldn’t do it. We love it.
Terry: When we first discussed moving up here, we had a life, kids, friends, a residence and then a boat. It was a big change to get rid of all of that and move. Neither of us wanted to be sitting around at 70 thinking now what would that have been like, if we had done that. Succeed or fail – I think the only failure is if you don’t give it a go. You don’t know if it will fly until you shove it off the cliff!
What would failure have meant for us really? Economic or emotional or whatever but no bridges were burnt. It’s not as if we couldn’t have moved somewhere else. If it hadn’t worked out we would have moved to Bright.
We travel fairly light. By other people’s standards, we’re desperately light but we can see room to improve. The biggest issue for us was when we went from a house. We owned a bank building with five bedrooms, a cellar, a five bay garage, a formal dining room, dining room, big passageways, and a two-storey vault. The biggest challenge was going from that to the 14 x 9m house boat.
Rowan: We had a garage sale and sold just about everything. Now our life is in boxes.
Terry: Our life is in about 30 plastic tubs. About 15 of those don’t get opened. We look at them every now and again and think we can throw things out but don’t.
Rowan: Some things you can get rid of after a while. Sometimes you’re just not ready. Six months later you’ll go through the same box and you’ll think … really, do I need it?
I’m more of a hoarder than Terry. I find it difficult to get rid of special sentimental things.
Terry – This lifestyle is different. It’s not so much better or worse, it’s a different experience – a different way of life. Just ridding yourself of your semi-useless goods and chattels can be very liberating.
When you get down to it, what do you need? You see ski instructors who turn up for the winter with 2 suitcases. That’s their life in 2 suitcases.
Rowan – It’s not just our goods and chattels and our own company, but also our friends and family. We haven’t lost touch with any of those people. We just see less of them. t’s not something that a 30-year-old could do, I don’t think. It would be hard up here if you had young kids.
Terry – We had that gap between kids and leaving home, and no grandchildren. We knew that was the timeframe it had to be done in.
We’ve had our share of dramas. We’ve lost parents recently. These are the things that happen to people our age but we’re a long way from family when that happens. The biggest fly in the ointment, was always going to be having grandchildren.
All our children are now living in Adelaide. Our daughter having two grandchildren has become an enormous magnet. We’re keeping Jetstar afloat with our flights to Adelaide and back.
Rowan – The children are all starting to wonder why we are here still. They think we should move to Adelaide and live next door!
When there are more grandchildren it will be an even bigger drawcard. We’re not quite ready for that yet. We’re enjoying what we’ve got.
Terry – We have said yes to Shamrock (winter lodge) and yes to SCEG (summer lodge) that’s how much we’ve planned. Sooner or later we’ll decide to change. Just not yet! They don’t have nursing homes at Mt Hotham so there is going to have to be a shift at some point.
Rowan – While we are fit and active and able to, now’s the time to do it.
Terry – You would hope that if we so chose, we’d be good for another ten years.
Rowan – For me it is a happy place to be. Everyone is here to have a good time, enjoy the scenery, skiing and everything, so it’s a happy place to be. You extend that into summer where – even though it is very quiet – it’s still a happy place to be. It’s beautiful. You never get sick of the views.