The western faces of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains contain the largest section of big skiing and riding terrain in Australia. In good snow conditions you can find runs of up to 1,000 metres of vertical.

While most serious backcountry skiers and riders have the western faces on their ‘to do’ list, do not underestimate the serious nature of the terrain. They contain steep and serious slopes, with cliffs and chutes, often in dangerously icy conditions. The main faces and ridges, such as Watsons Crags, are not suitable for beginner skiers and riders. Do not drop in to one of the major lines without scoping it first (eg from an opposite ridgeline) to ascertain how icy or wind affected it is, or whether it may be subject to avalanche danger. Do not ski/ ride here alone. Ensure you have all appropriate backcountry gear, including avalanche beacon/ probe/ shovel, and know how to use it. And be aware that even in spring like conditions, soft snow can quickly become dangerously icy in the afternoon as you climb out – I would recommend ski crampons as a minimum. Some teams also carry ice axes.

Be aware that whatever you do, you need to head UP to get help, not down into the trees. If injured or exhausted seek help via calling 000 rather than heading DOWN.

And make sure you check the MSC backcountry conditions report before heading out.

Watsons Crag in winter

After a slow start, the winter of 2014 is shaping up to be a great season.

This trip report comes from John Blankenstein who lives on the Far south Coast of NSW. John has been frequenting the mountains since he was 15, where he fell in love with the sport of snowboarding.

He has just returned from boarding the iconic Watsons Crags on the western face of the main range of the Snowy Mountains.

Watson Crags provide some serious and challenging terrain. John timed his trip to be able to experience perfect conditions.

The trip report is available here.