Coming up in August are two of the most popular events organised every year by the Southern Cross Outdoors Group (SCOG). Sunday 6 August is the start of Skifree2006, a week of fun at Perisher Blue, and Friday 18 August sees their annual Winter Bushdance at Marrickville Town Hall. The venue will vibrate to real bush dancing properly taught on the night.

Skifree2006 will be the 11th year of the event being held in Perisher. Chalet Sonnenhof, the lodge that gets taken over for the week, will certainly be filled.

As well as knee-bending on the slopes, trivia, joke and party nights are promised. Beginners are welcome, ski instructors will be on hand and lift tickets and car pooling can be arranged in advance.

At press time there are still some vacancies but you will need to be quick. Like all of the SCOG’s activities, Skifree2006 is open to members and non-members alike. If you would like to do your skiing with some like-minded people this year, make your booking now.

Since being formed 25 years ago the SCOG has successfully provided a wide variety of outdoor activities for the gay and lesbian community. Sport is about doing the same things as the rest of the world does and being judged by the same criteria.

But what about those activities where being judged isn’t important and where one doesn’t have to try for a personal best each time? Such activities are often categorised as pastimes but they can be important for keeping fit and healthy as well.

The Southern Cross Outdoors Group encourages involvement by those who may not be able to commit to organised sport on a regular basis or who prefer to take their exercise laced with social interchange. There is a small steering committee and about 150 members in the group.

Coordinator Bruce Cameron says, there is a whole variety of people organising stuff. It’s about members volunteering to do something. Activities include hiking and weekends away camping with day walks. The club has membership of YHA Australia and sometimes books a whole youth hostel for a weekend.

Bushwalking is a very good example of an activity that will help to keep you fit and allow you to spend time chatting to fellow walkers at the same time. Throw in spectacular scenery, trees to hug, new destinations and good company and you have the reasons why organising bushwalks is the main undertaking of the SCOG.

They do other things as well: tennis, sailing, cycling, skiing, lunches, dinners and dances are all on the menu for those with different palates. An indoor rock climber getting fellow members to join in on climbs is a recent example of how the organisation evolves. Car pooling and group travel arrangements are examples of the friendliness the club exhibits.

Cameron says he is proud the SCOG has kick-started many other sporting clubs in the Sydney area. When softball players wanted to arrange their own tournament I said, -˜Do you want to run the softball? Here’s the kit. There’s no point in us having it if you can do a good job on your own.’

These days the SCOG is true to its origins concentrating mainly on outdoor activities. Participants are predominantly male, although girls and women who join in are made very welcome. The website and the Yowie newsletter show a constant variety of activities.

Whether hiking, skiing, playing tennis, climbing, sailing or dancing, the social element is always an important part of the activity. Cameron says, The social environment of a hike is good because I can talk to one person for the first hour and someone different for the second. It’s very much about getting people along to meet new people in an environment that’s not necessarily a bar on Oxford Street.

Whether they want to hug trees or bend knees, the SCOG people are reminded to leave attitude behind, meet people, join in, have fun and breathe in the fresh air.

Contact SCOG by phoning Bruce on 8399 1955, Noel on 9810 4947 or through the SCOG website.

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