Illegal white powder blanketing NSW ski fields
DRUG use is so rife at the NSW snow fields that a shocking 29 out of 30 drug tests detected illicit substances at 14 licensed venues over the weekend.
A special Daily Telegraph investigation has revealed rampant illicit drug use among punters who slay the slopes by day and party hard by night.
Cocaine and amphetamines were both detected in the toilets of venues across Thredbo and Jindabyne, with not even family-friendly establishments able to escape people powdering their noses.
The Telegraph's discovery comes after police last month seized cocaine worth $144 million hidden in an excavator shipped from South Africa to Port Botany.
The 384kg of cocaine, found packed into 384 tightly bound parcels inside the vehicle, was allegedly set to blanket the NSW ski fields, in a worrying example of the state's voracious appetite for the pricey powder.
Selling at $300 a bag, it is clearly the drug of choice among cashed-up skiers and snowboarders, with their high disposable incomes creating a lucrative seller's market for dealers.
Cocaine was found at every one of the 14 popular pubs, while the toilets at The Station and Brumby Bar & Grill in Jindabyne, as well as Keller Bar in Thredbo, also tested positive for amphetamines. And just one test returned a negative result - the disabled toilet at Thredbo's River Inn.
Stuart Diver, general manager of Kosciuszko Thredbo, the head leaseholder of Thredbo Resort and operator of the Alpine Hotel, said the resort had a "zero tolerance for drugs" and worked closely with police.
THE HIGH LIFE
The dancefloor at Brumby Bar was packed and some people were noticeably wasted and stumbling around by 10.30pm on Friday.
In the toilets a female punter was overheard talking about how she was "flying" after popping "a cap" of MDMA, while a male patron was scheming to buy some "bags" of cocaine.
The vibe was more chilled at Banjo Paterson Inn, where security regularly look under the toilet doors and kick out anyone who breaks the one-per-cubicle rule.
But a lift operator told The Telegraph that revellers "get lit" at the venue on Wednesday, which is known as "industry night".
On Saturday, the party was pumping by 5.30pm at Thredbo Alpine Hotel for a DJ set by Hayden James, with the capacity crowd and action-packed mosh pit resembling a music festival.
One reveller said he and his mates had brought down cocaine and MDMA from Sydney and had partied until 3am the previous night before hitting the slopes by 9am and then backing it up with more drinking and drug use on Saturday.
An instructor admitted "tomorrow will be painful" as they would need to teach people how to ski after partying all night.
Drug use has become enough of a concern in the mountains that mandatory random drug-testing has been introduced at Thredbo this season.
Punters danced the night away at a Keller Bar after-party, which was heaving by 10pm. At one point there were no men using the urinals, with a line for the cubicles where punters could be heard snorting drugs.
The Telegraph used DrugWipe 5F drug wipes to swab the cisterns of toilets and toilet roll dispensers for traces of illicit drugs. A "collection pad" was used to wipe a 10cm by 10cm surface before a saline solution transferred the sample across to the "testing strip" which contains antibodies for cocaine, cannabis, opiates and amphetamines including ice, ecstasy, speed and MDMA.
If there is a positive detection, a red line appears for that drug within eight minutes in a "viewing window".
The wipes are used by Australian Customs and worldwide by law enforcement agencies, and have an overall reliability of more than 95 per cent.
Drug use at the ski fields has become such a concern NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller last year formed the Southern Region Enforcement Squad for covert operations into drug supplies in and around the resorts.
The police stations at Thredbo and Perisher open especially for the snow season while Jindabyne station extends its hours to deal with crime and other issues stemming from the huge numbers of people who descend on the region in winter.
Ten additional officers are brought in from other parts of NSW during the ski season.
While Snowy Monaro Regional Council mayor John Rooney welcomed the recent seizure of the $144 million of cocaine allegedly destined for the snow fields, he said that drug use was a "seasonal" problem brought in by outsiders rather than it being endemic to their community.
"By and large, we're talking about visitors to our region, largely from Sydney and Canberra, who bring whatever social problems they might have with them," Mr Rooney said.
A 26-year-old skier said she regularly consumes cocaine, capsules of MDMA and marijuana while in Thredbo and defended the party culture.
"It's a lot of fun and it's got a good vibe," she said. "I would say the majority of people would bring their own drugs but if you know the right people you can buy it while you're down here."
Mr Diver, from Kosciuszko Thredbo, which operates the Alpine Hotel that includes Cascades Restaurant, The Local Pub, Schuss Bar and Keller Bar, said drugs were not tolerated anywhere on the resort.
"(We) take any allegations extremely seriously, so if there is any evidence or concern we encourage that this is immediately taken up with the NSW Police, who do an outstanding job and with whom we have a close working relationship," he said.
Black Bear Inn owner Sandra Connor said: "I don't think it's right that you have walked into our premises without us knowing."
The other bars declined to comment.