Never a dull moment in a life on skis
SKIING has taken Bill Barker many places, whether it has been through ski modelling for magazine covers or sponsor ads, ski patrolling or as a tour guide.
For almost three decades Barker, the Mt Hotham Ski Patrol director, has been involved in the ski industry and even still it continues to take him new places.
His latest adventure saw him spend two weeks in Antarctica last November, guiding skiers through the most southerly slopes on the planet.
“There’s a US company that takes ski specific trips over there for two weeks and they put word out to other guides around the world to bring a group of guests along,” Barker said.
“I took a group of clients over and I was their guide, the company leases a ship which you live on and each day they take you on shore and you hike up and ski the mountains.
“It was incredible, gobsmacking really, the mountains were really cool like 2000 metre peaks that run down to the ocean, huge ice cliffs, massive glaciers and crevasses and wildlife everywhere.”
Barker says Antarctica is likely to become a regular thing for him, adding to the ski trips he has been running in the Himalaya’s for the past 10 years.
Back in 2005 Barker and his partner Tasha were employed by the Kashmir government to help establish resort procedures, protocols and boundaries at the Gulmarg ski resort as well as train 12 locals in ski patrol duties.
Since then, when the Gulmarg Gondola -- which rises to an altitude on 3979m, making it the highest ski lift in the world -- was opened Barker has run ski trips for adventurous skiers and snowboarders.
One of his tours last February also created a bit of a media frenzy when one of his guides and a group of skiers witnessed a snow leopard as they made their way down the mountain.
“It’s a part of the Himalaya were the snow leopards live, one of my guides was skiing down with a group and saw what he thought was a log but he couldn’t understand why there was no snow on it,” Barker said.
“As he approached it he saw what it was and nearly ran over its tail, he stopped below and the rest of the group were above the leopard and they just watched it for about a minute before it ran off.
“It was a pretty amazing experience for our guests on their first run of the day. “We see their tracks all the time, I had only
ever seen a juvenile one before but that was the first fully grown leopard any of us had seen.”
After first visiting Mt Hotham in 1987, Barker has been back every year since.
He first washed dishes and delivered pizzas at The General after being offered a job by the publican because he thought his hair would look cool behind a snowmobile.
Now those same dreads can still be seen flowing behind him as he does his ski patrol duties on Hotham more than a quarter of a century later.