Off the beaten track with Drew Jolowicz
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.