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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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snow shoeing

The Bigfoot Snow Trail

The Bigfoot Snow Trail is described as:

“A unique and spectacular event offering both a SnowMarathon and a SnowSprint event in Victoria’s beautiful Falls Creek Resort. Enjoy the magic of winter as you make your way across the high plains, exploring solo or with friends. This one of a kind event takes runners on an extraordinary journey, visiting historical huts and witnessing some of Australia’s highest peaks under snow. The views will give you that feeling of awe, the feeling that you are on top of the world”.

Continue reading “The Bigfoot Snow Trail”

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’.

The Snowy Mountains Stomp

The inaugural Snowy Mountains Stomp snowshoe race is on at Perisher tomorrow.

Saturday August 23, Perisher Valley, Kosciusko National Park

It will be a day of snowshoe running in the Kosciusko National Park. Two events are planned:

The Stomp: 6km (approx.)
The Longer Stomp: 15km (approx.)

Both events will be on marked courses and mostly on marked trail. Not flat but not over-the-top steep, courses will be designed to be runnable by the fit and walkable by those wanting a challenge up in the hills.

Snow shoe hire will be available.

For more info, and to register, check here.

[Image: courtesy Wilderness Sports]

Back Country culture. Changing of the guard?

As a teenager, my summer hiking and climbing quickly broadened into winter XC skiing. Wonderful years of skinny skis, dodgey boots, japara jackets and woollen pants.

A decade or so later, on a trip to the Main Range, I skied with some guys of similar skill level who were shredding slopes that I could barely get down. This was my introduction to the wonders of plastic boots and heavy gear. Like quite a few of my friends of similar age, I made the transition to fatter skis and started chasing steeps as well as enjoying my backcountry pottering. My equivalent of a mid-life sports car was a pair of Liberty skis with Axel bindings. I even bought a pair of skins. I never looked back, happily skinning up mountains after years of bagging my mates that had crossed over from the One True Religion of pattern based skis.

In the same way we have those subtle changes in our individual lives, these also play out on the larger level of the backcountry community. The last few years I have seen some interesting changes in back country (BC) culture. I suppose a lot my reflection is influenced by where I ski (mostly the Hotham/ Feathertop area, and Mt Stirling, with a couple of longer BC trips each year). So maybe its an observation that doesn’t ring true elsewhere. I haven’t skied out of Falls or Thredbo in about 3 years. And I certainly haven’t tried to cross reference it with any data.

Continue reading “Back Country culture. Changing of the guard?”

Snowy Mountains Stomp

It’s possibly not going to be in the Olympics or Commonwealth Games for a while yet. But there is a snowshoe running event coming up soon in the Snowy Mountains.

Saturday August 23, Perisher Valley, Kosciusko National Park

The organisers say:

It will be a day of snowshoe running in the Kosciusko National Park. Two events are planned:

The Stomp: 6km (approx.)
The Longer Stomp: 15km (approx.)

Both events will be on marked courses and mostly on marked trail. Not flat but not over-the-top steep, courses will be designed to be runnable by the fit and walkable by those wanting a challenge up in the hills.

Snow shoe hire will be available.

For more info, and to register, check here.

Time to get Out There!

conditions at Mt Wheatley, 25/6/14
conditions at Mt Wheatley, 25/6/14

So, the first major dump has passed over the Alps, with snow everywhere!

This update comes from Bruce at Wilderness Sports in Jindabyne.

A deep low, well to the south of Tasmania is moving slowly to the southeast. A ridge of high pressure extends across the far north of New South Wales from a high centred over South Australia. The high should move to the Tasman Sea on Friday. The next major cold front is expected to reach the far west of the state Friday night, before bringing another vigorous and colder west to southwesterly airstream over the weekend.

In terms of backcountry conditions on the Main Range:

BACKCOUNTRY:
Lots of wind and drifting snow continuing to build the snow cover on the Main Range with a further 20+cms over higher peaks. Looks so promising with the forecast of solid snowfalls continuing this week. The base will have consolidated improving backcountry skiing & Snowshoes are pretty useful at the moment to get about. Once the weather clears it will be really good but while the weather is wild and woolly patience will be rewarded so use more sheltered spots to get out. Resort Cams show building snow cover!
The NEW Cam looking towards Mount Kosciuszko is sensational to assess conditions (But not when blizzard conditions prevail).

“From field observations exposed slopes in the area averaged 40-50cms. Cross loaded terrain averaged between 50-80 cms. Protected slopes snow depths started at 70 to130+cms”.

Check the weather page on www.wildernesssports.com.au for more updates on the weather throughout the week.

The Ducane traverse

As summer kicks in, its tempting to get happily distracted by long gone snow and cold. I have been struggling to write content these last few weeks, so am ‘recycling’ a piece that hasn’t appeared on the front page yet: a summary of the Ducane traverse, in the southern end of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park.

climbing past Falling Mountain

Tasmania has notoriously un-predictable winter conditions, but the Ducane can provide  spectacular skiing when it’s in condition, on steep slopes and in gullies.

The ‘traverse’ is generally seen as being the walk/ snowshoe from Ducane Gap, on the Overland Track, over Castle Crag and Mt Massif, into Big Gun Pass, and then exiting onto the Ducane Range proper. From here you head out past the Pool of Memories and down to the head of Pine Valley via the Geryon climbers camp, or through the Labyrinth to the Parthenon track that takes you to Pine Valley hut.

Its awesome terrain at any time, especially winter, which is when these images and report are from. Enjoy.

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