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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Author

Cam Walker

I work with Friends of the Earth, and live in Castlemaine in Central Victoria, Australia. Activist, dad to Tali & Mia, mountain enthusiast, climber and would be telemark skier.

Environmental week at Thredbo

Environmental week is an annual event that happens at Thredbo resort in NSW which is ‘dedicated towards driving awareness to our guests, community and beyond about all of our environmental initiatives in place and what we can all be doing as a community to protect winter and Thredbo’.

It will happen from July 22 – 28, and features talks and presentations, a hike to Mt Kosciuszko, and a fund raiser for tree planting.

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Winter is back! Be careful out there.

Woo hoo! Winter is back! Finally, good conditions in the backcountry. But with heavy snowfalls that have accumulated on almost non existent base, and high winds moving snow around onto the leeward side of slopes, take care out there.

Mountain Sports Collective (MSC) reports that ‘the rate of accumulation, particularly on aspects lee to the north west is a problem. A considerable wind slab avalanche hazard exists as observed at both Falls Creek and Mt Hotham resorts and believed to be widespread particularly in the alpine (above 1650m)’.

These conditions exist across the Alps.

Check here for the MSC Backcountry conditions bulletins before heading out.

MSC says: ‘Conservative terrain choices are advised for travelers in the backcountry for the foreseeable future’.

 

Thredbo is powered by Renewable Energy

Climate change poses an existential threat to winter as we know it. It  is already having a negative impact on Australia’s mountain ranges (for instance, snow pack has been in decline since the late 1950s). It will also impact on the businesses that rely on good winter snow. At present the Australian snow industry generates more than $1.8 billion a year and employs more than 18,000 people. Yet under current greenhouse scenarios, climate change could cut Australia’s ski season by more than two months. If we don’t start to slow down climate change, it means the end of skiing as we currently know it.

There are three response which are required to this threat if ski resorts want to have a hope of long term viability: they need to act to mitigate (or reduce) their greenhouse gas emissions). They need to adapt to the changes that are already locked in (for instance through investing in snow making equipment or highlighting their ‘green season’ activities). And hopefully they will also use their business and political power by advocating for all levels of government to take meaningful action on climate change.

In what is being described as ‘an Australian snow industry first’ (1), Thredbo resort in NSW has announced that it has signed a deal that will ensure that ‘all its major resort operations are now powered by renewable energy’ provided by Red Energy.

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‘You can’t be what you can’t see’

The backcountry scene still tends to be quite ‘bloke heavy’: a lot of the people involved in BC riding and skiing tend to be white males. While demographics are changing in the resorts, with a wider range of people visiting than in previous decades, this has also been noticeable in the backcountry community. There are lots of women and gender diverse people who are out there, and as with the festival last year, we want to provide a platform for a diversity of voices in the program for the VIC backcountry festival, which will happen at Mt Hotham over the weekend of September 7 and 8..

As former Olympic skier Katya Crema said last year: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. We have worked to ensure a range of voices, including women, are strongly represented in the program. Here are some highlights:

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Report shows destruction of Greater Glider habitat

A new report from Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) has been published which documents logging of more than 600 hectares of Greater Glider habitat in East Gippsland since the species was listed as vulnerable under Victorian legislation in June 2017.

Gliding towards extinction – an investigation into Greater Glider habitat logged since the species was listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act highlights how government inaction and failing environmental laws are having dire consequences for forest dependent threatened species in Victoria.

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Backcountry festival will be epic

The second Victorian backcountry festival will happen at Mt Hotham over the weekend of September 7 and 8. The program now has 28 sessions on offer. Most are free. They cover everything from cross country and tele skiing, split boarding, alpine touring, to avalanche safety, snow shoeing and fat tyre bikes.

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Avalanche Training Australia

Avalanche Training Australia (ATA) is the Australian arm for avalanche training courses of Whiteroom in Australia. ATA as a brand is new over the past few years but Whiteroom has been running courses in Australia for many years.

Avalanche Training Australia is licensed by Avalanche NZ to offer accredited 2-day Avalanche Awareness and 4-day Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance courses during the Australian winter.

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This is what climate change looks like

Yes, Australia does have erratic winters.

Yes, the forecast was suggesting that the season would start late and be mediocre to average.

And yes, we just had two awesome winters, so we would have been very lucky to have three in a row.

But the first month of winter 2019 has been the sort of winter you would expect under climate change scenarios.

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Victoria’s best chance to lead on climate action

Climate change poses an existential threat to the mountains and winter environment that we love and rely on. In Australia, winter snow is already in decline, and has been since 1957.

And climate scientists keep warning us that we are running out of time to cut greenhouse emissions and head off future climate impacts. With the Coalition being re-elected, Australia now has no leadership on climate change (and our carbon emissions continue to soar), so we need everyone to put their shoulder to the wheel.

With the failure of the federal government to act, there is a huge need for the states to continue their work on energy policy. In the ACT, the Government has legislated a target of sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2020. States around the world, from California to Colorado to New York are also showing leadership and setting deep emission reduction targets and high renewable energy targets.

And now we have a fantastic opportunity to see Victoria take the step towards transforming its energy system and economy. We have just four weeks to send in submissions to the Victorian government on the state’s first interim Emissions Reduction Targets. The state government must announce targets for 2025 and 2030 by March next year. Targets which are based on climate science, rather than what is deemed ‘politically expedient’, will drive down emissions and start the transition from coal to renewables.

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