Backcountry is the new black.
In the last few years, all things backcountry have come in from the fringe, and are now ubiquitous, featuring in films, magazines, books, and gear. I assume that for most people its slightly voyeuristic. People like to read about the amazing runs on offer in the backcountry without necessarily actually getting out there themselves. But there certainly is a new generation of skiers and boarders heading out for an adventure, and BC specific gear is one of the growth areas in the snow equipment industry.
Here in Australia, attention has tended to focus on two of our most spectacular BC destinations: Mt Bogong in Victoria, and the western slopes of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains (yes, there is lots more on offer, often harder to access and perhaps less iconic. Then there’s Tasmania, which has some insanely good terrain on the rare occasion that it actually comes into shape for riding. But that’s another story).
Transfer Magazine, a boarding mag that focuses on Australia and New Zealand/ Aotearoa, was an early adopter in terms of looking beyond the resort. The current edition delivers some of their best coverage of the Australian BC, with a fantastic piece on a trip to ride ‘Ozlaska’ (The Sentinel), on the western slopes.
One of the things that jumps out at me from this story is the reminder that you really need a week to enjoy this terrain. Its serious country, with vertical of up to 700 metres, set in a steep and extremely exposed alpine environment. Potential for avalanche, and more commonly for serious ice, makes this a place for experienced riders. Having a week allows for exploration and a slow warm up towards hitting some of the more serious slopes, like the chutes on Watsons Crags, the slopes of Little Austria, and The Sentinel.
Alex Horvath has done a great job of capturing the spirit of his trip with a bunch of friends, including the joys of base-camping on the Main Range. He also gives a good nod to the people who came before, like Elyne Mitchell, the first woman to ski these slopes, back in the early 1940s. Jake McBride has created some beautiful images, that really capture the sense of scale and conditions you get out on the western side of the range. The Main Range itself has great touring conditions and lots of great spots for downhill runs. But the western fall is something else, with runs that, as Alex says ‘more closely resembles the ridgeline of Austria’s Tirol or the fluted spines of Alaska than anything else found in Australia.’
Apart from anything else, its a good thing to support home grown industry mags like Transfer. Even if you’re not a boarder, you’ll probably also love the story on riding and surfing in Hokkaido.
Transfer snowboard magazine, May/ June 2015.