Snow/ skiing/ boarding films have long been a staple part of mountain life. And while I love snow porn as much as the next person, I never felt very interested in the high profile ‘heroes and helicopters’ style that has long dominated the mainstream films.
It was only a few years ago when I realised there was a sub genre that actually spoke to my reality: backcountry films.
I am not sure if this is a growth sector compared with the rest of the snow industry films, but its certainly prolific. Here are some brief reviews of a few of the best.
As our governments at state and federal level continue to ignore the reality and scale of climate change, and dismantle the limited actions we currently have in place to reduce emissions, this book seems rather timely for those of us who like our winters cold and our snow deep.
“This is the most important book on snow ever written. This is a wake up call. We need to accept our reality and get busy fixing climate change.” —Jeremy Jones, pro snowboarder and founder of Protect Our Winters
“The first in-depth report on how climate change is affecting the present and future of the ski industry and mountain communities, DEEP is a must-read for every passionate skier.” — John Stifter, Editor, Powder Magazine
“Skiing offers a good barometer of the trouble we’re in—and, as this book reminds us, one more good reason for wanting to face that trouble.” —Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey and co-founder of 350.org
In his stunning first book, veteran ski writer Porter Fox captures the 8,000-year-old sport of skiing, the miracle of snow and the shocking truth of how climate change could wipe out both in the next 75 years.
The narrative follows the unlikely rise of skiing from prehistoric Norwegian hunters to nobility in the Alps in the 1800s to present-day freeriders on the vaunted slopes of the Rocky Mountains. On his global tour of the most celebrated mountains in the Northern Hemisphere—from Washington’s Cascade Range to the European Alps—Fox talks to alpinists about the allure and mysticism of the sport and to scientists about climate change and its effect on snow—ultimately finding a story that is far larger than the demise of skiing.
For the seven million skiers in America who dedicate their winters to tracking storms and waking up at dawn to catch the first chairlift, the lifestyle change will be radical. It will likely be far worse for the rest of the world. Fox uses primary interviews and evidence, mixed with groundbreaking scientific studies, to explain exactly how and when the Great Melt will play out—and the tremendous groundswell that is rising up to stop it. DEEP provides firsthand accounts from skiers and scientists who are mapping a way to mitigate climate change, reduce human impact on our planet and repair the water cycle. As it turns out, their efforts to save snow and ice might end up saving the world.
You can buy it here.
You can find an Australian perspective on climate change and skiing here.
The Weekly Times has reported that there is a new wild dog action plan for the High Country. Wild dogs are a major problem in farming areas adjacent to the mountains, and there have been considerable lobby efforts to get additional government support to tackle the problem.
Long term president of the Bairnsdale VFF, Rob Grant, who passed away in October, had long called for additional resources from the government. Rob pointed out that this is not just a problem for sheep farmers, citing many known attacks on calves as well.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh had previously promised to implement an aerial baiting program, establish a $4 million fox and wild dog bounty and reinvigorate the wild dog management committees.
Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh yesterday released the new Victorian Wild Dog Action Plan with set operational targets and local area work plans.
The Victoria Government will launch a new wild dog control action plan control in Omeo today.
A forum, organised by the Victorian wild dog control advisory committee and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, was held at the Omeo Hall yesterday.
The plan aims to increase the effectiveness of our trapping program and increase the number of baits laid by 10 per cent to almost 20,000 in the coming year.
Local area work plans will be developed using local knowledge for each of the 15 wild dog management zones in East Gippsland and northeast Victoria, Mr Walsh said.
The action plan also includes commitments to improve access to fresh 1080 bait products in areas affected by wild dogs and examine ways of removing legislative and red tape frustrating the management of wild dogs.
In January 2013, it was reported that the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association (MCAV) was lobbying the state environment minister Ryan Smith to seek permission to reintroduce cattle to the area around the Wonnangatta station.
In November 2013, it was reported that the minister had asked the federal minister to approve such a trial.
While spokespeople for the minister have been quoted in the media, there has been no formal statement by Ryan Smith and details on the trial have not been released to the public by the Victorian government.
However, because the Victorian government requires approval from the federal government under the EPBC Act, the paperwork for the trial is available via the federal environment department’s website. Despite the minister’s silence on the issue, at least we now know what is actually intended in the trial.
Sadly, many of the questions we have previously asked are not resolved in the application sent to the federal minister’s department.
weeds or fuel loads?
“But it was the state of the park, the threat of high intensity fires from high fuel loads and the impact this could have on its ecology – particularly snow gums – and the infestation of weeds and feral animals that were most pressing on the minds of the cattlemen”.
Media reports have mentioned the ability of cattle grazing to reduce weeds in the Wonnangatta, however, the application only talks about the possibility of it reducing fuel loads. There is no mention of any strategies to ensure the reintroduction of cattle doesn’t bring a new set of weeds into the Wonnangatta. Does this shift from dealing with weeds and fire to just fuel reduction show that there is an admission that cattle make weed infestation worse?
The application says that the traditional owner group was consulted, and of course the MCAV was. What is strange is the claim that environment groups were consulted. Really?
Some observations about the proposed trial
Given that the government has identified fuel loads as a problem, it has not sought to find other ways to reduce fuel loads without a grazing trial.
The impact of weed spread due to grazing (one of the reasons cattle were excluded from the national park in the first case) is not specifically addressed in the proposal.
There is not yet an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for the project. Given the experience in early 2011, when the Coalition secretly let cattle back into the High Country without a proper framework for how the trial would be managed, one has to wonder if the same thing will happen this time. The documentation says that the EMP will consider issues such as ‘pest plant and animal controls’: so let’s hope the EMP is produced before the cattle are introduced.
The study area covers around 2,200 hectares of land, with 4 ‘treatments’ to be carried out over different parcels of land: a control area, some areas being grazed, some areas grazed and burned, and some areas just burned. The documentation identified 10 ecological vegetation classes (EVCs) within the research trial area. It is not yet clear whether the 4 treatments will be carried out in each EVC.
Lack of consultation. Given that this proposal has been foisted onto the community without any attempt to explain the project beyond a couple of media grabs, it hasn’t got off to a great start if the government hopes to generate widespread support for the trial. The documentation says a ‘communications strategy’ will be created, with the development of ‘key messages’ that will inform the community on the progress of the trial. Note that consultation is a very different thing to communication.
Threats to nationally listed species. The application says the government only carried out desk top assessments of possible federally listed species in the research area. As is widely noted, animal and plant data for the region is not huge, but the government was happy to rely on what information was currently held by the federal government rather than sending a team to check the actual site. Mitigation measures, aimed to deal with any impacts on federally listed species that may be subsequently identified, will be dealt with via the EMP.
Traditional Owner (TO) attitudes to fire. One valuable aspect of the project documentation was a consultant’s report and ‘conceptual model’ of TO understandings of the role of fire in managing land in the High Country. The government is to be congratulated for commissioning this research.
So, we are a little bit closer to gaining an understanding of what is planned with the trial, although there are a significant number of areas where there is no clarity about what the government intentions are and big gaps in understanding how the project will be managed. The federal minister is currently considering the application and will probably make a decision shortly.
The following excerts come from an article on the ABC website by Greg Muller about a recent survey in north eastern Victoria. The survey was a collaboration between Parks Victoria, Museum Victoria, community members and 4WD clubs. Check here for an earlier post about this survey.
Areas explored included the Upper Buchan River and Davies Plain.
A key message is at the end of the story: climate change poses a grave threat to many alpine and sub-alpine species.
In a wild corner of north-east Victoria, more than 80 researchers have just spent two weeks counting and documenting rarely seen alpine wildlife.
The remoteness of the region means there is limited knowledge of the area—an issue Museum Victoria and Parks Victoria are now attempting to rectify.
‘There’s good news. We’re delighted we found alpine tree frogs because that’s one species vulnerable to a deadly fungus which has been attacking the frogs,
During the two-week bioscan, 21 species of reptiles were found, including the endangered Kosciusko Water Skink, Glossy Skink and the Mountain Skink.
Two listed species were found, the Broad Tooth Rat and the Smokey Mouse.
There were also two species of Antechinus (a small marsupial mouse indigenous to Australia) found, but at this time of year the population consisted only of females.
Roger Fenwick, the regional manager for Parks Victoria, was instrumental in organising the bioscan and worked to bring researchers, park rangers and locals together for the project.
‘No one group knows everything and it’s great to share the knowledge and get better results as land managers,’ said Mr Fenwick.
‘We invited four wheel drivers to be involved and this means the scientists can get on with doing their work, the Parks staff can concentrate on managing the program, and the four wheel drivers can get everyone around nice and safe.’
Museum Victoria’s senior curator of entomology, Dr Ken Walker documented 400 nests of native bees during the study.
‘What you find is a pile of dirt which looks like a chimney which goes down about 30 centimetres underground,’ he said.
Also at the bioscan was a member of the local indigenous community, Katherine Mullet, who was representing the Gunnai/Kurnai and Monero communities who used to occupy this area.
Ms Mullet was looking for cultural sites, including traditional walking routes, many of which are now 4WD and bushwalking tracks.
Dr Norman explained that climate change is a major threat to alpine wildlife species, which are already living at the edge of their environment.
‘The challenge worldwide with changing climate is if you are at the top of your limit or as far south as you can go, there’s nowhere else to go.’
The much touted ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ has received a substantial injection of funds in order to increase visitation.
The Border Mail reports that
An $800,000 upgrade to the 37-kilometre trek has been completed and Benalla MP Bill Sykes launched it as one of Victoria’s iconic walks at the weekend.
The upgrade includes camping platforms at Cope and Dibbins Hut, signage and track development.
“The camping platforms maintain the vegetation in the area because they are elevated so people can pitch their tents without degradation,” he said.
“It’s also more comfortable for campers because there will be a breeze from below in the summer time and in the event it rains they are not going to get a wet backside.”
Dr Sykes also announced $50,000 of funding from the Victorian Regional Growth Fund to create a master plan for the next stage of the upgrade.
He said it could include looking at accommodation options along the track.
“There are people like me who are very happy to put in the kilometres during the day but would like a comfy bed at night,” he said.
“Some are happy to rough it with a stretcher and a sleeping bag but then there are others who are happy to be out in the elements but have the comforts of home.
“It widens the appeal if you have that option available.”
The master plan will also include route extensions and Dr Sykes said he wanted to encourage people with beginner and advanced routes.
He said the track upgrades were a priority because there was a growing band of people who enjoyed walking and the companionship gained from doing it in groups.
“We’ve got a magnificent scenery and we will be recognised for the beautiful high country and river valleys.”
Dr Sykes said the upgrade and master plan will lead to economic benefits.
“It will be measured in millions and millions of dollars no question about that,” he said.
Guided walking tours is another initiative Dr Sykes believes will boost tourism.
It’s great to encourage people to get out and walking in national parks. But with the pro-development in parks agenda of the current government, we should always be a bit cautious about their motivations.
For instance, what does ‘accommodation options along the track’ mean? Private huts along the route, as is the case in Tasmania?
In March 2013, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change released the Tourism Investment Opportunities of Significance in National Parks Guidelines, an information pack to guide potential investors through the process of gaining approvals and ‘taking their plans to fruition’.
The government has said it will support “sensible and sensitive developments in national parks provided they complement environmental, heritage and other values and generate a net public benefit.”
The government has also announced that it intends to introduce fees for overnight hiking in national parks.
It would appear that doing the ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ will attract a fee of $30, plus a $10 admin fee for the booking.
The following information comes from the organisers (Alpine Gravity):
This series is the fastest growing series in Australia and one of the most popular formats of racing due to its fun nature and accessability to all types of riders and bikes. It isn’t hard core downhill, and not hard core uphill either, its a great mix of 70% FLOWING DESCENDING TRAILS, and 30% UNDULATING. Without the technical downhill sections, and no massive long climbs like a cross country race, its the prefect event for all riders. The perfect bike would be a 4-6 inch travel bike, but all courses are ride-able on a basic mountain bike.
The Elevation Gravity Enduro series is a two day event, with practice all day Saturday, then short practice session Sunday morning, then racing all day Sunday. When you arrive at the event, you make your way to the registration tent, grab your number plate from your pre online entry and then make your way to the transport pick up. We put your bike on a special bike carrying trailer and you then jump in a vehicle and we take you and your bike to the top of the mountain, and then you ride down….EASY!!!
Registration is open at every event from 8am Saturday, and transport to the top is 9am-4pm. Rego is then open from 8am Sunday, with transport ALSO starting at 8am until 11.30am when official practice ends. All individual rider and class start times are posted up at registration and is also announced over the P.A. system so you know when and where to be.
You then catch transport up the hill for TWO timed runs, and your FASTEST run counts as your result. If you are happy with your first run, your second run is optional and not mandatory.
Event location: Mt Buller, one hour from Mansfield, three hours north east from Melbourne
course description: town center to gang gangs to delatite trail
trail length: approx 13 kms long
course elevation drop: 1000 vertical meters/3000 vertical feet
rough course time: 25 minutes
descending: 800 metres
climbing: 200 metres