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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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‘Finding the Line’ launched

Finding the Line is a ski ‘film about fear, it’s paralyzing grip on humans and how it affects our decision-making’. It stars Australians Nat and Anna Segal. They were filming last winter on the western slopes of the Snowy Mountains as part of the production.

‘Fear. Unless you’re insane, it’s a very natural and necessary part of life in the mountains. Fear can keep us alive and finding a way to understand and either overcome or bow to our fears is where much of the adventure lies.’

The film is now finished. It is having a launch in Whistler this week (this has a great background to the film). Stay tuned for details on the Australian launch.

More info available here. This site will have details on screenings as they are organised.

You can watch the trailer here.

Image: GUY FATTAL PHOTO / FINDING THE LINE

A mountain community stands up against hate

There can be little doubt that the election of Donald Trump has emboldened racists, homophobes and bigots not only across the USA but also around the world. A growing number of people are actively opposing the ‘normalisation’ of hate. Many people and even businesses who would normally consider themselves to be ‘non political’ are finding that they need to speak up and get active.

One simple example of this has been the outdoor industries becoming active in opposing Donald Trump’s anti environment agenda.

Another example of (perhaps unexpected) opposition to bigotry and homophobia comes from the ski resort of Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, who have launched a campaign to clearly explain the core values of the resort: based on unity and non-discrimination.

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The Last Hill – bikes & skis

Skiing/ snow boarding and MTB riding are natural partners. So many of my snow obsessed friends ride outside of winter. Despite the introduction of Fat Tyre bikes, not too many people ride above snowline in winter at least here in Australia.

But there is the spring tradition of assessing snow through riding MTBs along still closed roads – heading towards Mt Kosciusko from Charlottes Pass, riding the Dargo road to get to the southern slopes on Blue Rag Range, or riding from Falls Creek to access the Fainters are all stand out trips.

But this new film from Patagonia, The Last Hill (15 mins) pushes bike packing with skis to another level.

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Australia’s southern most ski field

The Mt Mawson ski field in the Mt Field National Park is the southern most ski area in Australia. It’s a remarkable place, and while it’s of a low elevation, with very limited vertical terrain, and is subject to the notoriously fickle snow conditions to be found in Tasmania, it is a magical spot. It has several rope tows, and is a Club ski field composed of seven lodges, with no public accommodation. Its also a fairly solid 30 to 45 minute walk up the mountain to get to the ski field.

But like the surrounding ranges within the Mt Field national park, when its in condition its truly fantastic.

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Australian snow pack in decline since 1957

Anyone who is paying attention to the state of our winters knows that they are getting more erratic. Often they start later (it’s a rare thing to ski on natural snow on opening weekend) and subject to more rain events, with big impacts on snow pack. While our climatic patterns go through natural wetter and drier cycles, climate science tells us that these patters will become more extreme, with less overall snow and shorter seasons.

Anecdotes and personal experience are one thing. But when did the snow pack actually start to decline?

While all resorts track snowfall, the benchmark of snowfall in Australia over time comes from Spencers Creek, at a site at 1,800 metres above sea level, in the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains. The following article comes from ABC Rural and gives a sense of the decades worth of data that is available from this site, and the process of getting the data. The measuring site was originally established to give the Snowy Hydro managers a sense of what water was trapped in the snow pack and hence how much water would be released in the spring. As skiers and riders, what it gives us is a long term summary of the trends in snowpack over the past six decades.

The take home message is that, overall, snowpack has been declining for decades and unabated climate change will make that worse. While the article does not drill into this issue in detail, previous analysis of this data by Terry Giesecke suggests that:

“There has been a downwards trend (in snow pack) from 1957 to 1989. It then goes up dramatically for about four years, before resuming a downwards path”. This research suggests that the increase in snow depth between 1990 and 1994 could have been due to global cooling which occurred as a result of major volcanic activity in the Philippines in 1991. Using data collected up until 2016, it also notes:

“There is evidence of further decline in the first 16 years of the 21st century.”

The full article is below.

Continue reading “Australian snow pack in decline since 1957”

What is happening with the lease at Perisher?

In Victoria, ski resorts operate on designated permanent Crown land reserves, each managed by a Resort Management Board appointed by, and responsible to, the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water. The Boards are responsible for the development, promotion, management and use of each Alpine Resort. In contrast, the resorts in NSW exist within the Kosciuszko National Park and operate through negotiating a lease with the government through the Parks Service (NPWS). They are then required to develop an environmental management system (EMS), which seeks to regulate and minimise the impacts of the operation on the natural environment.

As has been reported widely in regional media, it has been recently announced that the Parks Service has not granted any company a new head lease arrangement for Perisher Range in their recent Governance Review. Having a head lease allows the holder of the lease to then sublet to other businesses such as venues, accommodation, family lodges, etc.

This has caused a lot of anxiety among businesses, both in the park and adjacent communities who are reliant on the smooth functioning of the industry. While it is obviously essential that the conditions of the lease ensures minimal impacts on the surrounding environment, the uncertainty in terms of the future of Perisher and Charlotte Pass is very stressful for people whose livelihoods depend on these operations. One local owner said “NPWS made the announcement publicly before the stakeholders knew that it was off the table ….this means that clubs are unable to accept bookings for the following year or budget, invest or plan due to lack of vision first & foremost.”

The following article written by Steve Cuff comes from the Snowy Mountains Magazine, and provides a comprehensive overview of what the delay means for businesses (and hence the ski industry in general).

Continue reading “What is happening with the lease at Perisher?”

A perspective on the future of Australian snow

Dave Bain

This piece follows on from a previous article I wrote in 2012 for Protect Our Winters (POW) (Bain 2012). It takes a quick look at what the observed trends have been in Australian snowfalls over the past few decades. Regardless of people’s stance on climate change, these observations are a hard look at the likely future of Australia’s alpine environment, and our winter enjoyment.

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In praise of the winter road trip

The snow roadtrip. Most snow and mountain obsessed Australians end up traveling overseas to explore and ride bigger mountains and deeper snow. And while the destination might be the mountains, the roadtrip to get there is sometimes equally essential to the experience.

Japan by van, the Powder Highway in BC, doing the circuit of the resorts from Park City to Cedar City in Utah are all standout trips. Last January I spent a month doing backcountry trips in central Colorado. The hut system is fantastic, the skiing was mind blowing, and the road trip, a big loop from Vail to Salida, to Crested Butte and Ouray and then north to Grand Junction and Aspen, was a huge part of the fun.

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Reducing the impact of our snow obsession

Outside magazine recently posted a great piece on the environmental impact of skiing/ riding. Well, one particular aspect – the amount of carbon pollution we produce through driving or flying to get to ski destinations.

They tracked and collated the travel mileage during winter of their most snow-obsessed staff, then consulted a carbon offset specialist, who estimated they would have to plant 704 trees to sequester all the carbon generated.

Continue reading “Reducing the impact of our snow obsession”

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