June 2021

When I sat down last year to write the annual review, we were only at the start of the first lockdown. A year and a bit later, it all seems like a blur. While I have strong memories of being in the mountains, watching the seasons slowly cycle through, and a couple of amazing snow storms, work life – and much of 2020 – is just an out of focus memory of zoom meetings and phone calls. Its hard to recall when things start and finish. It was a year long in the living, yet it hardly exists in memory. 

Into the second year of covid, the world is a different place. As Victoria experiences yet another lock down, that free summer and autumn earlier in the year seems like a lifetime ago. It’s just one week til opening weekend of the ski season and it looks like it will be a pared back event again. 

Last year started with fires, then various lockdowns, with huge impacts on mountain and valley economies, especially in Victoria. A number of friends have closed their businesses down, others struggle through, hoping for a good winter. The people who usually manage to make a living around the mountain economies are, for the most part, still struggling. 

But the mountains remain. My times at Mt Hotham last winter were kind of how I imagined a great mountain resort could be: people walking, skiing, boarding everywhere. Kickers built on mountain sides. Impromptu parties at The Cross or Summit. Toboggans and beers on a camp chair by the car, that endless expanse of blue ridgelines extending to the horizon.

As everyone knows, last winter was mostly a disastrous season snow-wise, so people who weren’t on a hill or able to travel didn’t miss much. Boom and bust cycles of snow made for a mediocre season (and then there was that late season slide into Avalanche Gully at Hotham, where deep snow built up on a base that had melted back mostly to grass).

As always, there was lots of politics, and that was borne out in the statistics for 2020:

Most visited pages and posts on Mountain Journal were

  • The ever reliable side country guide to Hotham resort. There was also a lot of interest in other backcountry ski and boarding terrain, like the Bluff to Howitt guide
  • My ‘best 3’ backcountry trips in Australia (here)
  • Stories on First Nations and the mountains
  • The efforts to reduce wild horse numbers in the Victorian and NSW Alps. This was a big political issue, with various court cases to try and stop horse removal
  • The fact that the federal government refused to act on the Royal Commission investigation of the 2019/20 fires and establish a publicly owned air fleet to fight fires (here)
  • Stories on logging in the Alps and threats to the Alpine Ash forests and Snow Gums
  • Plans to allow commercial tourism in wild places like Lake Malbena in lutruwita/ Tasmania and at Mt Feathertop in Victoria
  • Late in the year, logging on the Dargo High Plains became a huge issue, with plans by VicForests to build a road through a section of the Alpine National Park (following a major outcry, they have now backed down from this plan, although logging continues)

Here’s to a good winter of deep snow and open resorts! Please get there when you can, enjoy some mountain goodness, and support local business.

Some photos from winter 2020 in the Hotham/ Dinner Plain area.