After a slow start to the winter, we’re getting some serious top up to the base in the backcountry. Whenever you get sun affected snow covered by fresh, there is a chance you will get the potential for avalanche conditions to form on any steeper slopes at higher altitudes. This week there were reports of a ‘monster avalanche’ on Mt Bogong. What makes this concerning is the fact that (as Snowsense puts it) ‘from observations at Hotham and Falls, we had no indicator that Bogong was ready to let rip’.

This highlights the need to check conditions both before you head off and while you’re out in the mountains. Luckily there is a fantastic website to help with this: brought to you by the Mountain Sports Collective.

Mt Bogong slide

SnowSense has posted this report of the Mt Bogong slide:

“On our third run, our first skier entered on the skier’s left of Tombstone Gully, a large SE facing gully, starting at a slope angle of approx. 15o and quickly rolling over to approx. 45o. The skier performed a ski cut heading towards the right side of the gully, and during this the avalanche broke approx. 5-10m above and to the skier’s right of him. The skier immediately noticed the avalanche and quickly turned and skied hard left to a safe area and stopped. The avalanche propagated right across the gully, and ran for approx. 500m in length and approx. 120m vertical.”

Matt O’Keefe, Falls Creek Ski Patrol Director, made the observations. You can read more about conditions in the Bogong area here.

Check the terrain and the conditions

Although avalanches aren’t very common in our mountains compared with other, higher ranges, they do happen. Bad weather and poor conditions remain the greatest threats to backcountry users.

The Mountain Sports Collective website is invaluable as a resource to check conditions – both in terms of weather and terrain. While there are many great resources out there to get info on weather and snow, what makes MSC different from most sources is that it is user driven and based on actual observations rather than just forecasting. It is a recent amalgamation of two alpine safety platforms – Snowsafety.com.au and Snowsense.org. MSC says ‘we have joined forces not only with the goal of delivering a more streamlined and concise picture of the conditions.’ (Stay tuned for an announcement of a not for profit group being set up to drive MSC).

Don’t forget that Main Range Backcountry is offering avalanche courses this winter in NSW and VIC. There are still spaces in some of the courses being held in NSW, they are worth checking out if you haven’t had formal training before.

And check here for details on other info sources.