Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come along to the inaugural Victorian backcountry festival (BCF). More than 200 people attended over the two days, with more than 20 sessions being held, including clinics, tours, skillshares, presentations, and a film festival.

BCF grew from the world telemark day celebrations that have been happening at Mt Hotham the last 5 years. After deciding to bring it to Falls Creek, the idea morphed into an ‘all things backcountry’ event which would aim to bring together some of the backcountry (BC) community and offer an opportunity for ‘first timers’ to get involved. We focused on many forms of human powered winter adventure – including cross country, snow shoeing, alpine touring, telemark and splitboarding.

Falls Creek Cross Country (FCCC) was our host and generously provided a range of clinics and tours. Thanks especially to Sally, Tony, Geza and Pete from FCCC. The Windy Corner Nordic shelter was our base for the day, with additional ‘optics’ provided by the expedition tents that were set up by The North Face and tent full of demo gear provided by Bruce Easton of Wilderness Sports.

A range of individuals also offered sessions, from basic touring skills to navigation and beacon searches. There was a group skiing in resort and tour groups heading to Mt Nelse and Mt McKay. In the afternoon, Peter Hull from local brewery Sweetwater in Mt Beauty hosted an outdoor bar, with Jimmy Naylor doing tunes.

The film festival saw some great presentations, including an excellent one on backcountry safety – and details on a range of rescues that have happened on Mt Bogong – from the head of the Falls Creek ski patrol Matt O’Keeffe.

Sunday was focused on world telemark day, and we were lucky enough to have Ben Jackson offering clinics. Feedback from these was that Ben is a fantastic instructor.

‘You can’t be what you can’t see’.

I feel keenly aware of the fact that many of the prominent people in the BC scene tend to be men. I wanted to have strong women as keynote speakers at the festival and was lucky enough to have Olympic skier Katya Crema and Tamara Hutchins from Melbourne Girls Outside speak at the film festival and also at a session held in the windy corner shelter.

The afternoon session focused on women in the backcountry, the need for leadership and support networks so more women can find their place in the outdoors, and the barriers that still exist to full participation. This lead to a great conversation with the people who were present. Watching that conversation unfold was one of the best moments for me at the festival.

I hope that at future events we can continue to develop a sense of inclusion so all people who feel drawn to the backcountry feel they can fully participate.

Building BC culture

Another highlight for me was seeing Stephen Curtain’s film. He re-cut some parts from his classic BC film Winter Dreaming especially for the BCF, adding details around his motivations and inspiration as an outdoor film maker. Stephen shares my passion for helping to build Australian mountain culture and the range of speakers (including Simon Murray from Mountain Sports Collective and Josh Fletcher from Protect Our Winters) and the films which featured much loved spots like the Main Range, Feathertop, and Hotham, felt to me like a great moment in local outdoor culture.

Ski/ ride hard. Do good.

My intention in running the festival was to show that we can have low impact events and that care for the environment is a cornerstone of backcountry culture. This was expressed in various ways, from Pete’s use of reusable glasses (unusual for an outdoor bar event), the ride sharing initiative, etc.

The film festival and tshirt sales raised slightly over $1,000 for our three recipient causes. Many thanks to Bogong Equipment, The North Face and Wilderness Sports for providing items for the raffle. Thanks again to Simon Murray for designing Barry, our wonderful totem animal for the festival.

No shows are not cool

I was disappointed that there were a considerable number of ‘no shows’ for the clinics that FCCC had put on. All their sessions had booked out, so they turned people away on the saturday morning, but then had people who had booked not show. Given they were providing staff for these free sessions, this impacts on their bottom line and will make it hard to offer the same deal next year.

It’s fine not to show up, but a quick email would be appreciated.


This festival was a product of a lot of good will by a lot of people. As we planned the event during the lead up to the festival, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support that people expressed. Big thanks to the Falls Creek Resort Management staff, especially Xena, for the behind the scenes help.

Thanks to Bogong Equipment, who kicked in some funds. Thanks to the many snow, outdoor and regional media outlets who ran stories on the festival (full list of stories available here).

Thanks to the people who volunteered their time to lead a session, including Andrew Stevenson, Ben Jackson, Daniel Sherwin, Ern Reeders, Luke Frisken, Marg, Narelle Watters, Stefaan Steyn (who stepped in to lead my tour to Mt Nelse when I wasn’t well enough to go), Richard Snowdon, Rolf Schonfeld, and Thea, Jono and Brendan Sydes – who led the Kids BC tour.

What’s next?

There is an online survey where you can provide feedback on the festival (available here). Based on the initial feedback, there is clearly a desire to see this become an annual event. While FCCC and myself are keen to base it at Falls Creek, a key question to resolve is whether we base it at Falls Creek or turn it into a mobile event which might rotate through Hotham, Mt Stirling and elsewhere (this would require a fair bit of additional work, which may well beyond the ability of our current resources).

Check out the pictures on the #VICbackcountryfestival hashtag and the event page on facebook.

The 2019 festival

We have set the date for the 2019 festival for the weekend of September 7 and 8. Location: TBC.

Thanks again to everyone who showed up. I hope you enjoy the rest of the season.

See you next year!