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Report on the 2019 VIC backcountry festival

The 2019 Victorian backcountry festival is done and dusted. This year the BC Fest moved to Mt Hotham, and it was wonderful to see the Hotham – and broader BC community – embrace the new location. Hotham is the perfect spot because of the amazing terrain, ease of access and strong backcountry community, both on the mountain and down valley in Bright and Harrietville. Close to 400 people registered. We had 31 tours, skillshares and workshops, an extended speaker’s program, a Protect Our Winters info and film night and a ski-in outdoor bar at Village Lookout in the Christmas Hills.

Thanks

The first thing I need to do is thank everyone who backed or got involved in the festival. Of course, there are too many names, but here’s a start:

Bev Lawrence David F
Bev Lawrence, Environmental Officer Mt Hotham Resort Management [Image: David Flanders]

Resort management and lift company were fantastic in their support. Special thanks to Adam Galvin and Jason Nightingale from resort management and snow groomer Greg O’Donohue. The venues were so supportive – big thanks especially to Sooty, Darren and everyone at The General, Marty at The SnowBird, and Mark at Blizzard Brewery. And the people who pitched in to help, especially Buff Farnell, Kelly van den Berg, who brought in so many skilled tour leaders, and Merrin Jokic, who MC’d an epic afternoon of speakers. Rupert from Bright Brewery, Mel and Luka from Crepe Collective and Steve Belli did the food and drinks at our outdoor bar. The bar itself was a work of art, a product of much digging by my partner Natalie, Dave, Peter, and my brother Mitch, Kyle, Simon and his crew. The speaker’s program was huge and people made a real effort to be there. Thanks to Josh from POW and Stephen Curtain for his film making workshop. Dave, Pieta and Luka from Alpine Access ran avalanche courses as the training partner for the festival. Big thanks to Peter Campbell and all the Bush Search and Rescue crew, Jason Ball from Vic Police SAR, and Rolf Schonfeld for his endless commitment to snow and avalanche safety. A deep bow to head of ski patrol Bill Barker who provided impeccable advice on conditions and inspiring presentations at The Genny. Simon Murray dug snow pits and did most of our graphic design. Chris Hocking and Drew Jolowicz provided amazing sidecountry images. David Flanders was our rego desk guy and podcast interviewer extraordinaire.

BSAR CW
Bush Search & Rescue workshop

Of course, the tour leaders, who brought incredible skills and knowledge and donated their time and insights and were all amazing. And you – the backcountry community, who showed up and pitched in. It really was a fantastic and inspiring weekend.

In my post festival delirium I know there are many more people to thank.

Next year

bar
The outdoor bar at Village Lookout

From resounding feedback, it’s clear that the festival has come home to Hotham. We need to check dates and lock in venues but we’re hoping it will happen over the weekend of September 5 and 6, 2020.

Highlights

As was the case last year, we worked hard to ensure a diversity of voices in the speaker’s program. Melissa Clarke provided a phenomenal level of knowledge about touring the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains and the joys and pitfalls of touring with pulks (sleds). Ash Peplow Ball spoke compellingly of the need for the snow sports community to get organised to protect winter. Bill Barker shared his knowledge of Hotham avalanche hotspots. Tim Macartney-Snape shared more than 40 years worth of incredible images of climbing and skiing big peaks around the world. Bev Lawrence and Georgina Boardman updated us on the plight of the Mountain Pygmy Possum and efforts to protect remnant communities. Hotham legend Buff Farnell shared some of his favourite images of skiing Hotham over many decades, many of them from acclaimed photographers Andrew Barnes and Karl Gray. Climate striker and skier Naimh Smith-O’Connor finished off the POW night with a powerful message. Ted Suurkivi, Mark Frost, Mia Walker, Kelly van den Berg, Lisse Dunser, Simon Murray and Josh Fletcher also spoke.

Georgina Boardman DF
Georgina Boradman, MHRMB. [Image: David Flanders]

We tried to offer a range of beginner and intermediate courses, covering everything from snow shoeing to ski mountaineering. There was self rescue and first aid, navigation and snow camping. After a warm and sunny week, Saturday morning saw the return of winter and considerable avalanche risk, so many tours ended up going ‘south side’ into places like Women’s Downhill rather than onto the higher peaks. Amine from LetsSplit led another successful splitboard outing and with better conditions on the Sunday, there were trips out to the Workshop Chutes, Dargo Bowl, Eagle Ridge and Mt Loch. Daniel Sherwin and Kyle Boys are leading the three day trip out to Feathertop which starts this morning.We also had a strong presence from a number of outdoor brands. The North Face put up their expedition dome, Wilderness Sports made the journey from Jindabyne, and Everest Sports and Snow Sports and Travel and Mammut were also on board, offering a wide range of demo gear and products. Patagonia provided prizes for the POW event, and Blue Dinosaur offered heaps of energy bars. Thanks also to the businesses who offered inkind support through providing venues.

Merrin DF
Merrin Jokic

There were glitches and things that could have been done better. Thankyou to everyone for their good humour and generosity of spirit throughout the festival.

We all love snow

After a huge weekend, I’m starting the final packup and enjoying this fresh snow. There will be an online feedback poll circulated to people who registered this week and I would also welcome your direct feedback via email. It’s clear that we are onto something with these festivals and it now needs to grow beyond being a one man show. The remarkable growth in the festival in just two years and keen interest shows that there is a deep interest in the backcountry. I hope that we can set up an organising team for the 2020 festival soon.

Josh DF
Josh Fletcher from POW. [Image: David Flanders]

By definition, skiing and riding in the backcountry is something we tend to do in small groups. It was wonderful to see and meet some many great people, share a beer around a fire on a gorgeous mountain top, and see the energy and enthusiasm as people came back in from their tours. We’re a diverse bunch and have the shared love of mountains, deep snow and winter and it was great to have had the chance to help bring a good chunk of the BC community together to enjoy some turns, have good conversations, and some wonderful time out in our wild and beautiful mountains.See you next year. Cam

IMAGES.

A couple of images from the festival. Please send me yours for use on the website and promos: cam.walker@foe.org.au or post on the event facebook page.

BSAR3 CW

crowd at POW DF
Watching ‘Treeline’. Image: David Flanders]

demo CW

sat tour Peter Robinson
Saturday snowshoe tour [Image: Peter Robinson]
Naimh DF
Climate striker and skier Niamh. [Image: David Flanders]
Mt Loch Vincent Cover
Mt Loch trip. [Image: Vincent J Cover]

 

Continue reading “Report on the 2019 VIC backcountry festival”

Lets Split trip to Guthega

Lets Split is a volunteer based initiative, designed to expand and strengthen the Australian Splitboard community.  They say ‘We are a group of experienced SplitBoarders, who invite others to join us touring in the backcountry – hoping that the important skills needed for safe backcountry travel can pass into the younger generation of riders who are perhaps less experienced than us’.

Here is a report from Lets Split founder Amine Yasmine on their recent trip to Guthega in the Snowy Mountains.

Continue reading “Lets Split trip to Guthega”

Lets Split trip to Dead Horse Gap

Lets Split is a volunteer based initiative, designed to expand and strengthen the Australian Splitboard community.  We are a group of experienced SplitBoarders, who invite others to join us touring in the backcountry – hoping that the important skills needed for safe backcountry travel can pass into the younger generation of riders who are perhaps less experienced than us.

Here is a report from Lets Split founder Amine Yasmine on their recent trip to Dead Horse Gap in the Snowy Mountains.

Continue reading “Lets Split trip to Dead Horse Gap”

High Plains Festival

Falls Creek Cross Country are excited to announce the first High Plains Festival!

It will happen over the weekend of August 31/ September 1, operating from the Centre at Windy Corner in Falls Creek resort.

LEARN NEW SKILLS – TOUR – MAKE TURNS

Continue reading “High Plains Festival”

The ultimate backcountry festival guide

The second Victorian backcountry festival will happen at Mt Hotham over the weekend of September 7 and 8.

Here is a summary of what’s happening:

Highlights of the program

  • Meet at 8.30am on Saturday morning, upstairs at The General Store (just next to the Big D lift) for the festival opening.
  • Most tours start Saturday am.
  • Speaker’s program will run Upstairs at The General Store from 12 noon – 4pm. Great line up of speakers.
  • The outdoor bar will happen from 4 – 6pm on the Saturday, straight after the conclusion of the speakers program.
  • Kick on Saturday night at Blizzard Brewery at Dinner Plain.
  • Tours continue on Sunday.
  • Finish the weekend with a Protect Our Winters info night and films at The Bird in Hotham Central on sunday night.

[Full details are in the program, see below]

For details on tours that have just been offered, please check here.

Continue reading “The ultimate backcountry festival guide”

Lets Split – 2019 tours

Lets Split is again hosting splitboarding tours this winter. There will be 3 days trips and 2 overnight trips in 2019, both in Victoria and NSW.

Continue reading “Lets Split – 2019 tours”

Winter 2019 is go!

With continued snowfalls expected this week, we’re looking as if we will have a proper (settled) base across higher ranges and hence an early start to the ‘season’ (yes, ‘ski season’ is just a capitalist construct).

You’re probably planning trips. Here are a few resources that might help:

Continue reading “Winter 2019 is go!”

Backcountry festival program launch

The Victorian Backcountry Festival will happen at Hotham, over the weekend of Sept 7 and 8. The program has just been released and is available here.

So far the program has 27 tours and workshops, from beginner to advanced, covering snow shoeing, splitboarding, alpine touring, telemark, and cross country. There will be skillshares in fat bikes, snow and avalanche safety, navigation, snow camping, rescue and a film making workshop.

The program:

  • Start the weekend with a drink at the Snowline in Harrietville on Friday night
  • Meet at The General early on sat for a briefing and tours (there are currently 19 tours and workshops on offer)
  • Speaker’s program from midday at The General
  • Then head to the outdoor bar (1 km ski/ skin in) and then kick on at Blizzard brewery in Dinner Plain
  • Sunday is mostly longer tours (there are currently 8 tours planned for that day)
  • The weekend finishes off with an evening brought to you by Protect Our Winters, featuring great speakers and 2 films, at The Bird
  • Then Monday morning, the 3 day Feathertop camp out starts
  • Alpine Access Australia is offering 2 day AST 1 avalanche courses before, during and after the festival.

The program is here.

Please remember to buy tickets for the weekend if you haven’t already (it’s $10 a person for the weekend)

Backcountry festival program launch

The program for the 2nd Victorian backcountry festival will be released via the website next week.

People who have pre registered (you can register for $10 for the weekend here) will receive early notification of the program, and be able to sign up for tours, by the end of this week.

The program looks fantastic, with offerings from Hotham ski school, Traverse Hotham, LetsSplit, Melbourne Nordic Ski Club, Mountain Sports Collective, Bushwalking Search and Rescue,  and many individuals.

Continue reading “Backcountry festival program launch”

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