Off the beaten track with Drew Jolow­icz

Alpine Observer - - News -

HAV­ING grown up in Bright at the foot of the high coun­try, this year marks the 30th win­ter I’ve got to ski at Mt Hotham.

Hotham of­fers some amaz­ing ter­rain both within the re­sort and just be­yond the re­sort bound­aries.

The back­coun­try ter­rain that sur­rounds the re­sort is where my pas­sion lies, and where I spend a lot of time ski­ing.

Hotham’s unique lay­out makes it per­fect for ac­cess­ing the sur­round­ing back­coun­try.

With the vil­lage lo­ca­tion sit­u­ated at the top of the moun­tain, a se­ries of ridges, bowls and gul­lies all de­scend from here.

This al­lows for easy ac­cess and great ski tour­ing, whilst pro­vid­ing in­cred­i­ble views of the Vic­to­rian Alps.

When con­di­tions al­low, qual­ity dry pow­der snow can be found sev­eral days af­ter a snow­fall (or soft corn snow in spring).

This holds true, par­tic­u­larly when we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing such a strong snow sea­son, like the cur­rent one.

Con­sis­tent snow­falls right from the be­gin­ning have pro­vided great con­di­tions for back­coun­try travel sea­son to date.

Ar­eas such as Dargo Bowl, Pink Ham­burg or the Ra­zor­back of­fer var­ied ter­rain on dif­fer­ent as­pects, which af­ford wideopen spa­ces, fewer peo­ple and qual­ity snow.

For me, there is noth­ing bet­ter than storm rid­ing within the re­sort as the snow is fall­ing, and then when the weather clears, head­ing out into the sur­round­ing back­coun­try to look for more un­touched, pris­tine lines.

These re­gions al­low you to slow down and es­cape the hus­tle and bus­tle, as well as of­fer­ing up world class ter­rain.

In re­cent years the pop­u­lar­ity of back­coun­try travel has seen a dra­matic in­crease.

More and more peo­ple are push­ing out fur­ther to ex­plore these zones and find their own piece of soli­tude.

A ma­jor im­prove­ment in tour­ing equip­ment has aided this trend, by be­com­ing more light­weight, stronger and eas­ier to use.

With in­creased num­bers seek­ing to get off the beaten track, it’s im­por­tant to keep the following key safety as­pects in mind when trav­el­ling in the back­coun­try: 1: Never travel alone. 2: Let some­one know your trip in­ten­tions/itin­er­ary (espe­cially for longer tours).

3: Check weather fore­casts, and if pos­si­ble avoid trav­el­ling in bad weather.

4: En­sure you are car­ry­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate safety equip­ment and know how to use it (trans­ceiver, shovel, probe, rope, first aid kit etc).

5: Be sure to check any avail- PHO­TOS: Chris Hock­ing able back­coun­try ad­vi­sories and bul­letins. (www.moun­tain­sportscol­lec­tive.org is a great com­mu­nity lead re­source for this).

6: Al­ways look out for other peo­ple. On steeper tech­ni­cal slopes travel one at a time and se­lect safe places to stop. Avoid drop­ping in on top of other groups.

7: Stay well hy­drated and carry plenty of food and wa­ter for your trav­els.

8: Dress in lay­ers and avoid sweat­ing if pos­si­ble.

9: Let the snow­pack set­tle straight af­ter a sig­nif­i­cant snow­fall.

One of the as­pects I find most re­ward­ing about ski­ing in the back­coun­try is that it’s a con­stantly chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment, which keeps you on your toes.

From day to day, even hourby-hour, con­di­tions can rapidly change, which you need to be aware of.

Even if you have been to a lo­ca­tion many times some­thing is al­ways dif­fer­ent, whether it be snow con­di­tions, wind, sta­bil­ity, weather etc.

As I sit here tap­ping away on the key­board we are ex­pect­ing an­other 20-30cms to blan­ket the Vic­to­rian Alps over the com­ing days.

This will en­sure that con­di­tions for back­coun­try travel sur­round­ing Hotham should re­main ex­cel­lent deep into spring.

See you out there.

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