Never a dull mo­ment in a life on skis

Mt Hotham Falls Creek - - FRONT PAGE - By JUSTIN JENVEY

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.

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