gt forest NP

the Great Forest National Park

The Great Forest National Park (GFNP) proposal is a vision for a multi-tiered park system for bush users and bush lovers alike, on Melbourne’s doorstep.

It is a park that will protect and maintain important ecosystem functions critical for the health and well being of all Victorians. The proposal intends to amalgamate a group of smaller parks and add a recreational and ecosystem management plan overlay. The GFNP’s gateway in Healesville is only 60 kilometres from Melbourne’s MCG and stretches from Kinglake through to the Baw Baws and north-east up to Eildon. The proposal is backed by 30 years of research from Laureate Professor David Lindenmayer AO and his team from the Australian National University. The Park proposal adds approximately 355,000 hectares to the current 165,000 hectares in reserve. This will bring Melbourne up to a little over 500,000 hectares of reserve, nearly half the size of Sydney’s reserve system. It is an ambitious project that is gaining momentum by the day.

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sno king

a not for profit ski resort?

This is an interesting idea. Locals in a town in Wyoming wants to take over its local ski hill and turn it into a community-owned operation.

Here in Australia, the resorts tend to be owned by large entities that run a number of operations. For instance, Grollo Group – a major property development company – owns Mt Buller Ski Lifts amongst a number of other tourism ventures. Hotham and Falls Creek ski operations are owned by Merlin Entertainments Group, which “operates more than 90 attractions, seven hotels and two holiday villages in 20 countries and across four continents.”

In contrast, the community at the base of Snow King Mountain ski area in Jackson, Wyoming are looking to bring ownership back home because the area is up for sale. “The King” is Jackson’s original ski hill, established in 1936 and located on the southeast edge of the city. It was the first ski area in the state of Wyoming.

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The Glass Half Full, 2014 Season Wrap-Up

The following is a good end of season reflection from Reggae Elliss, writing on Mountain Watch. As Reggae notes, mid-July offered the best snow of the whole season. It was seriously excellent. After much early hype about it being a terrible season, it ended up being a solid, but not outstanding one. Reggae goes into it in some detail. Those heady days of July seem like a life time ago. But I have to admit that I’ve also had some of my best ever spring skiing these last two weeks, on SE slopes on The Bluff, in Dargo Bowl and out at Mt Loch.

There’s a few days skiing in some of the resorts and substantial backcountry terrain still in reasonable shape. Hope you have a chance to get out there …

As I write, there is still two weeks to go until the “official” end of the season here in Thredbo. Despite the warm weather of the past couple of days, plus 20mm of rain forecast, it looks like we’ll have some lifts spinning until October 6.  Looking back on this winter, it’s a bit of a ‘glass half full’ scenario. The great snowfalls and powder days of July gave way to only minimal snowfalls in the past eight weeks with only two falls of over 10cm since July 18.

However, while we haven’t had that many powder days in the second half of winter, the snow has remained consistently good. August was a month of dry, chalky, packed-powder, cold sunny days and light wind. The past three weeks have also been good, with plenty of days of fun spring snow and sunshine.

Pre-season, all of the talk was about how an El Nino weather pattern was forming and this could mean a dry, cold winter, with minimal snowfall. Unfortunately, this sentiment gained a lot of traction when the opening weekend in June came and went without any natural snow, hardly any snowmaking and only one lift open in Australia, a t-bar to the second tower on Perisher’s Front Valley.

The media were having a field day, quoting all sorts of expert sources, all of whom concurred that 2014 was shaping up as a disaster with minimal snowfall. It could even be as bad as ’82. The ray of hope was our own Grasshopper, who wisely pointed out in his June seasonal outlook that it was too early to push the panic button and reminded us of his earlier seasonal outlooks published in April and May. In those, the Grasshopper emphasised that there are two variations of El Nino, the classic, dry cold version or the ‘Wrong ‘un”, a term the Grasshopper coined to describe an El Nino that spun the other way, delivering cold westerly air flows, low pressure systems south of Victoria and snow-bearing cold fronts.

It was too early to call at that stage, but he wasn’t jumping on the classic ‘El Nino’ bandwagon and was still leaning towards a ‘Wrong ‘Un” for the first half of the season and was calling for a snow depth max at Spencers Creek of 172cm and the first 50cm + storm coming in late June/early July.

As we now all know, that’s what happened.

You can read the full assessment on Mountain Watch.


Is Backcountry the new Black?

In a recent post, I suggested that, in the last few years, I have seen more people getting out into the backcountry for skiing and boarding. I didn’t try to draw any conclusions about out-of-winter visitation, but it certainly seems to me that there is a new generation of backcountry skiers and boarders, and a growing number of snow shoers as well. These people are coming both from traditional resort users and also a more nature-enthusiast demographic as well.

I recently spotted some stats from the US based Outside magazine about avalanche risk, which seemed to underscore the trend that I see out on the slopes:

  • In the US, more people are getting out of resorts ‘than ever before’ (this includes skiers, boarders and snowshoers). The author of the article White Noise in the October 2014 issue of Outside, Christopher Solomon, suggest that ‘a tipping point has been reached, some say, and what was once a fringe subculture is now firmly mainstream’.
  • He puts this growth to a range of factors, including more resorts opening ‘sidecountry’ terrain, more focus on snowsports culture on getting out of the resort, more infrastructure – like guiding businesses – who can take inexperienced people out, and better equipment.
  • He notes that in the US, sales of backcountry gear has grown 85% over the past four winters.
  • He says that men in their 20s are the group that are making up the ‘largest demographic venturing into the backcountry’.

All of this is fairly consistent with what I see out on the slopes. And we have not come close to a peak as yet. I have lost track of the number of skiers, boarders, towies and other mountain enthusiasts I met this winter who have aspirations to get out of resort, but haven’t done it yet. The ‘collective consciousness’ of the snow sports community has shifted and more and more are looking beyond the tows. In light of this, Hotham resorts intention to investigate extending its lifted areas into prime sidecountry terrain seems doubly strange.

Most of the newer backcountry skiers and boarders I meet seem to be focused on getting out into steep terrain. But I also notice another crowd, who are enjoying ‘traditional’ XC skiing or snow shoeing. This group tends to be both younger and older than the ‘steeps freaks’.

pink hamberg

winter 2014

The winter that was. It started late. But, as they say, better late than never. And it’s almost over.

To quote snow forecaster Grasshopper, who writes for Mountain watch.

It’s been quite a season. You can say one thing for certain, it’s been a winter of extremes and the weather has kept us guessing. Possibly more so than in recent years, in my opinion anyway. We started, of course, with a very dry situation during early June. The official opening date of 7 June was once again, a tad optimistic, and around 12 June folks were getting a little panicky. Then POW. Snowmageddon hit, and nearly two metres of snow in a fortnight had the snow base sitting on around 130cm by early July.

That base saw us all the way through August and well into September in the higher country. And yes, there’s still lots of good turns to be found out there. Enjoy.

Here’s some images from my winter. Please feel free to send me your own for inclusion, or share them on the mountain journal facebook page.

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Image: Running Wild

Dinner Plain Mountain Running Festival

The run is to be held on 23 November 2014.

The following comes from Running Wild.

The Dinner Plain Mile High Trail Run forms the cornerstone of the Dinner Plain Mountain Running Festival along with the Great Alpine Road half marathon and 10km fun run. Set in the picturesque alpine village of Dinner Plain at 1569m the course takes in a range of run distances from entry level runners to the more experienced trail runner, offering opportunities for mum, dad and the kids to get out and experience this pristine alpine environment.

Short course distance of 4km and 7km are great for the kids and those just wanting to stretch their legs allowing scenic walking trails. For the more experienced, the 21km and 32km courses take in more challenging and historic runs through the Alpine National Park, Mt Hotham Village and the historic Cobungra Ditch.

Soak up the pristine alpine environment and challenge yourself to run at an altitude above 1600 metres (one mile) and join the Dinner Plain Mile High club.

“The alps offer a different environment for runners, not only is the air thinner at a mile high but the water is fresher and temperatures cooler”, said Gary Battershill, owner of Peppers Rundells Alpine Lodge.

Check here for full details and to register.


Mt Wellington. Image: The Mercury

‘The Mountain’ book launch tonight

Five years in the making, The Mountain is the first photographer’s monograph on Mt Wellington in nearly 20 years.

Mark Clemens has created a superb photographic collection highlighting the uniqueness of this wild place on Hobart’s back doorstep with a foreword by award winning Tasmanian novelist, Heather Rose.

A photographic evocation of the Mountain’s own intrinsic nature: it lets the Mountain have its own voice and tell its own story.

The Mountain is Hardback $49.95, and is printed in Hobart to the highest specs.

Part of the proceeds go to the Tasmanian Land Conservancy.

Reservation essential to:   or (03) 6234 3800


Follow The Mountain on


September 18, 2014 at 5:30pm – 6:30pm


Fullers Bookshop
131 Collins St
Hobart, Tasmania 7000


lady bath falls

getting more kids into the outdoors

Outdoors Victoria was established in 2012 as Victoria’s peak body for the outdoors community with a focus on advocacy.  Its purpose is to:

Build a valued and sustainable outdoor community for the benefit of the community and natural environment by enhancing, connecting, and advocating on behalf of outdoor education, outdoor recreation, outdoor therapy and nature based tourism.

Today they are launching their policy ‘asks’ for the Victorian state election.

Policy Priority 1 – Help kids get outdoors
Giving children better opportunities to learn and play in nature leads to lifelong improvements in their education, health and wellbeing outcomes.

Policy Priority 2 – Invest in the regional outdoor economy
Strategic investment in outdoors infrastructure and events, as well as ecosystem health, is a powerful driver of prosperity and wellbeing for regional Victoria.

Policy Priority 3 – Unlock the potential of the outdoor community
The full potential of commercial and community-based outdoor organisations can be realised through skills development, smarter regulation and research.

Full Policy Agenda

You can download a full copy of their policy agenda here and for more information please email them at


Climate change and the mountain environment. The denial continues

A few years ago I traveled with a Sherpa climber who had summited on Mt Everest many times, set some speed records, and even helped carry a statue of the Buddha to the summit. I remember him talking about how the mountain was becoming more dangerous because of global warming, with more exposed rocky sections and risk of ice fall.

Every year, as I wait for the season forecast, like other skiers and riders I hope for the best. A good year – like the one we just had – seems like a blessing when you consider what we know about climate change and the likely impacts on mountain environments world-wide in coming years. Climate change is coming and ignoring the science will not make it go away.

I find it remarkable that ski resorts in Australia, who by definition rely on good winter snow falls, have generally ignored the issue of global warming. I find it strange, and sad, that we have so few famous Australian skiers and riders willing to speak out on the issue. I look to the example of people like boarder Jeremy Jones, the inspiration of Protect Our Winters, and initiatives like The Little Things, a snowboard movie project based on environmentally conscious riders who are inspirational through their riding, as well as their sustainable ways of living and thinking.

So, lacking local leadership from the snow sports community and industry, we still need to look overseas for some inspiration. I thought these recent comments from alpinist Kitty Calhoun (lifted from the Patagonia Australia) blog were worth sharing.

“I’m here to tell a story about a Last Ascent. A route that I climbed, that may not get a repeat because of climate change. It’s hard to admit that the mountains are changing but they are. We may or may not be able to affect climate change, but I think we should at least try and I have a new approach.

We many not agree on what is causing climate change, but all can agree on the fact that it is occurring. Alpinists are like canaries in a coal mine in that we see changes that have occurred on the glaciers in our lifetime. These changes are evident not only far away in the Himalayas, but in our own back yards. Routes that my son may have dreamed of climbing are falling apart and no longer safe. I will highlight a few climbing objectives that I have done, that may not get a repeat ascent due to unsafe conditions brought by climate change. Climbers generally celebrate a first ascent of a route. The concept of doing a last ascent never occurred to the generation before me. Some argue that it is self-aggrandizing to think we could affect climate change, but I think it is worth a try.

My lifestyle of minimalism has been the key to my success in the mountains and I think it can provide a framework for interaction with our environment. Minimalism is not simply “doing without”, but a constant reassessment and focus on what is important. Alpinism and the more general concept of minimalism is a fundamental choice about the way we live – it is an attempt at a more “mindful” way of life. This attitude is critical to our relationship with the mountains and the earth”.

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps


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