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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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snow sports

Whistler Blackomb asks what the future holds for skiing

Over the past year, more than 30 North American ski resorts have set targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions via voluntary programs.

Whistler Blackcomb, in British Columbia, which is consistently rated as North America’s #1 resort has also developed some interesting sustainability measures.

As part of the resorts 50th celebrations, it commissioned an interesting project which considered the question ‘what does the future hold for us in the next 50 years?’.

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Hakuba MountainLife Magazine

One of the influences for Mountain Journal was a great magazine from Colorado called Mountain Gazette, which existed in a number of forms from the early 1970s. It was an insiders view of life, landscape, and culture in the mountain states of the USA (it now exists as an online journal).

As a lover of regionally focused art and media, I’ve long enjoyed a range of magazines from around the world, mostly North America, which cherish and appreciate the mountain environment. There are lots of great sport-focused journals that have a strong emphasis on the natural environment where our adventures take place (some of my faves include Backcountry, Wild and Rock and Ice). The rarer ones focus on culture, landscape and the interaction between people and their surroundings (Orion is a brilliant ‘all round’ journal in this regard, but I especially loved Highline, which stopped production last year).

I was recently introduced to Hakuba Mountain Life magazine, a thoroughly beautiful homage to the backcountry in this part of the Japanese Alps (thanks Peter).

It is put together by Mio Tonouchi and Damian Banwell. Damian is an Australian backcountry guide. The magazine does have a focus on their business but extends way beyond, celebrating particular mountains, providing advice on backcountry adventures and avalanche safety, and touching on the human culture that inhabits the valleys around the Japanese Alps. It has great images. The magazine describes itself as ‘reflecting our love for backcountry life in our local mountains’. Damian and Mio are doing their best to Live the Dream, riding in winter and farming at other times.

Loving and appreciating place through any form of media is a great thing to do. But I do agree with the ‘contributers’ section of the magazine, which notes the contribution of The Mountains & Nature Itself: ‘do not confuse the moon with the finger that points at it’.

[IMAGE: Hakuba Mountain Life]

Last week to have your say on the Mt Baw Baw and Lake Mountain 2030 project

Both the Lake Mountain and Baw Baw alpine resorts have been going through an extensive planning process and are in the final stages of seeking community input to the various options that have been identified for each resort.

Consultation has led to the creation of Future Direction Papers, which will inform the recommendations that are presented to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.

Continue reading “Last week to have your say on the Mt Baw Baw and Lake Mountain 2030 project”

Big snowfall on its way?

After a disappointing cycle these last few weeks of snow and warmer weather, it seems like there may be some good news on the horizon.

Snow forecaster The Grasshopper reports in MountainWatch that  a more “traditional” cold outbreak is currently steaming through the Southern Ocean, ‘ready to drop a healthy dose of snow on the Australian Alps’.

This event will start with plenty of rain, but:

“Strong to gale force north-westerlies on Tuesday herald a change to much colder and snowier weather as a cold front approaches from The Bight,” he continued. “Snow will arrive during the afternoon to leave 10-15 cm down to 1500m by Wednesday morning.”

But that’s only the entree, the best news is still to come: “A weak high will then build in for Wednesday while another low lines up in to the south-west. A blast of strong north-westerly winds on Thursday will cause further problems with wind hold before a heavier fall of snow Thursday night into Friday as a cold front crosses the Aussie Alps. I’ve got my antennae crossed that the models don’t back off this one as it has the potential to slam us with 20-30 cm of snow down to 1000m.”

Here’s hoping!

Recruitment drive for Lake Mountain ski patrol

Lake Mountain Ski Patrol (LMSP) is gearing up for the 2016 winter season and has launched a recruitment drive for more volunteers to join its weekend team.

Volunteer patrollers need to be 18 years and older, and be fit, competent cross country skiers with a minimum Level 2 First Aid qualification.

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The Grasshopper prediction for winter 2016

It’s April: two months til winter… Which gets us all thinking about what type of season it will be.

Most Australian snow enthusiasts know about The Grasshopper, who writes snow forecasts for MountainWatch (‘resident meteorology sensei’ at MountainWatch).

The first prediction for 2016 has arrived.

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Ski resorts and climate change

As climate change bears down on us, winters become ever more erratic. This impacts on the economic viability of ski resorts and the jobs of people who rely on them.  In their quest to remain commercially viable, most ski resorts are adopting the double edged strategy of claiming a space in the ‘green season’ tourism market while also investing in snow making technology. A small number are also showing leadership in terms of grappling with the actual problem of climate change. Sadly, no Australian resorts are in this category.

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Ski resorts – safety in numbers?

Here in Australia our resorts tend to be corporate owned. For instance Mt Hotham is owned by Merlin Entertainments Group, and Thredbo is owned by Kosciuszko Thredbo, which holds the lease for the areas of Thredbo Village and Thredbo Resort and runs a number of hotel and cinema operations around the world. US-based Vail Resorts has recently bought Perisher ski resort (this includes Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Blue Cow and Guthega). Some are run by boards (for instance Mt Buller).

The Thredbo example is indicative of a global trend, where smaller, sometimes community- or locally-owned resorts are either going under or being bought up by larger corporations.

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I Am Pro Snow

Like Protect Our Winters, I Am Pro Snow is seeking to mobilise people in the snow sports community to be active in reducing climate change. It is an initiative of the Climate Reality Project. They have been represented at the recent climate change negotiations in Paris, and have a range of ‘snow ambassadors’ who advocate for action in various forums.

It does seem a bit fluffy – focusing on awareness raising rather than hard asks – and light on in terms of providing suggestions about tangible actions that people can take. But at this point we need all hands on deck when it comes to finding solutions to the merging climate crisis, so all power to them.

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