Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps



Will this snow last til winter?

Snowfalls during May have got all winter lovers excited. With more on it’s way this week (and ‘opening weekend’ getting close) lots of people are saying the current snow is likely to form the basis of this winter’s snowpack, at least at higher elevations.

The image above is a rendering from Sentinel, showing the Snowy Mountains on Monday May 22. The deep valley in the foreground contains the Thredbo resort, with ski runs clearly visible.

Continue reading “Will this snow last til winter?”

Deep powder. The long arc of climate change. And the beauty that lies between.

After a day of grey clouds and drizzly rain, I woke up to the silence of deep, dry cold powder snow across the mountain. I jumped on the skis and meandered up through the old trees to one of my favourite hills, to be greeted by views of the higher mountains. It was pure, blissful magic. The world felt perfect. If you have ever seen the psychedelic ski film Valhalla, the words will come back to you: you can always find ‘brilliance, awe and magic running through life‘ if you wish to see it.

Two days later, more rain and a warm burst, and the snow was gone from the lower elevations and I was walking through green forest. It is mid August – when snow pack should be at its deepest. After that brief moment of bliss at feeling that things were ‘right’, I felt back in the ‘real’ world, where climate change is coming for all the places and people we love.

If you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the mountains – longer fire seasons, more erratic weather, variable snow pack and shorter winters – then its natural to feel anxious and depressed. It’s a human reaction to what is happening to the world – and the specific places – that we love. It’s the same story everywhere, from the deserts to the rainforests to the mangroves, to the forests of the Central Highlands and south west WA.

Continue reading “Deep powder. The long arc of climate change. And the beauty that lies between.”

How much snow is on it’s way?

There were some snowfalls across the Alps last week, and now snow lovers are getting excited about an incoming air mass that could start to deliver significant snowfalls over the weekend or in to next week. As always, the hype probably outweighs the reality. But to be a skier or rider in Australia is to be an eternal optimist.

Continue reading “How much snow is on it’s way?”

POW launches new campaign: #weallmisswinter

Protect Our Winters Australia has launched a new campaign, drawing the link between winters missed and climate change.

POW says:

‘Winter 2020 was one like no other. With limited or no access to our favourite mountains. It was difficult no being able to see our shred buddies, no fresh morning mountain air and for those who did manage to get some on-snow time, what snow did fall was well below average. But what if Winter 2020 was a look into the future? What if missing winter was the new norm?’

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Finding the beauty at home

So, chances are that not many of you are heading off for a skiing, walking or climbing adventure in the northern hemisphere this summer. Luckily we have lots of amazing country on our doorstep.

It’s a great chance to get out somewhere you’ve never been or go back to that place you’ve been dreaming about for years.

If you need a bit of inspiration, check here for some links to films on backyard adventures.

Where are you heading this summer and what are your plans for 2021?

Some of my plans:

  • a long walk on the central plateau of Tasmania
  • a winter camp out on The Twins
  • a long ski in over The Bluff to Mt Howitt
  • lots of hitting the groomers at Hotham
  • maybe a winter road trip to TAS to check out Ben Lomond, Rufus and Mt Field
  • an end of season trip and camp on Mt Loch

Please feel free to share yours.

Backcountry film festival – should we go virtual?

The Backcountry Film Festival is a pre-winter tradition in Melbourne, with screenings usually happening in autumn. Other towns and cities in Australia sometimes also host the festival. Sadly, in 2020 the festival couldn’t go ahead as a screening because of COVID-9 lockdown.

We want to test whether to host a virtual festival before Christmas, or wait until next year in the hope we can hold a ‘real’ (face to face) screening.

Continue reading “Backcountry film festival – should we go virtual?”

Backcountry Film Festival 2021

The Backcountry Film Festival is a pre-winter tradition in Melbourne, with screenings happening each autumn. Other towns and cities sometimes also host the festival. Sadly, in 2020 the festival couldn’t go ahead as a screening because of the COVID-9 lockdown. Hopefully we will be back to ‘business as usual’ in 2021!

The program is put together by the Winter Wildlands Alliance, who say: ‘We believe in the power of humans and their spirit. Our mission is to manifest that power in communities through stories of activists, adventurers, and the outdoors to inspire and activate’.

‘The 16th Annual Backcountry Film Festival will be screening documentaries and ski movies about athletic pursuit in the mountains, artistic vision, friendship, and how the snowsports community is adapting to a changing environment’.

We hope to screen it in Melbourne in March or April 2021. Stay tuned for details.

There are 10 films in the 2021 season (you can check them out here) covering everything from slacklining in the mountains of Norway, climbing and skiing in Svalbard, doing the “Vallée Blanche” ski route in Chamonix, to gorgeous clips from the Revelstoke backcountry.

Check here for further background on the festival.

HEADER IMAGE: From Life beyond Fear.


Winter of The Little Things

I don’t know about you, but I’m a winter person. I daydream about snow through summer, sneak off to the mountains in autumn to get that sense of oncoming winter, and once the snow arrives, I’m there. My New Year’s Eve is the end of the ski season. Having New Years in the middle of endless summer heat never made sense to me, but the end of the season, when thousands start to head off the mountains and quiet returns, really marks the end of the year for me.

Like other snow addicts I anxiously check the season outlook. Those big falls in May and early June gave me hope for a good season in 2020, in spite of the fact that we just had two great winters and three in a row was going to be pushing our luck. 

Then came lockdown 1 and 2, the closure of the VIC resorts, and a pretty ‘uninspiring’ winter.

Continue reading “Winter of The Little Things”

WINTER LIGHT: the Tasmanian mountains in winter

Well known Tasmanian landscape photographer Grant Dixon is launching a new book. Grant has been exploring the Tasmanian wilderness for some 40 years and undertaking trips to the mountains in winter for much of that time, capturing images featuring both grand vistas and intimate details of the winter landscape.

Grant says ‘I’m publishing a high quality, hard cover photographic book in the Tasmanian tradition of fine art productions and of using photography to activate awareness of the environment. The book features 89 images, captured over several decades, of the Tasmanian mountain landscape in winter’.

In his foreword, writer and photographer David Neilson states, “this exceptional collection of alpine images clearly reveals Grant’s outstanding artistic vision. ….. The human spirit desperately needs wilderness and Grant’s photos speak to us passionately of that need.

Grant has organised a pre order crowd fund to print the book. You can buy a copy of the book, please check here for details, and collect in Hobart, or have it posted to you. There are some great images and calendar on offer for people who are able to contribute more.

Continue reading “WINTER LIGHT: the Tasmanian mountains in winter”

Celebrating the Winter that (almost) Wasn’t

What a winter! After several early starts – good snow falls in May and early June, it turned into a roller coaster of a ride, with continual boom and bust – big storms dropping impressive amounts of snow, then warm weather and rain hammering the snow pack. While the NSW mountains fared much better than in Victoria, conditions were often a bit ‘ordinary’ – icy, windy, etc. Tasmania had its usual boom and bust conditions, but with some fantastic snow pack, often an elusive and brief reality on that mountain island.

Because of the lock down, resorts closed early in VIC then never re-opened, so resorts have resembled ghost towns for much of the season, and businesses, who were suffering after a terrible fire season, had almost no trade. Lots of small business owners have been forced very close to the wall economically, and all businesses that managed to stay open had to get creative.

Now, as we move into Mud Season, the resorts in VIC are opening again as regional Victorians are allowed to travel. The good news is that the national parks are opening as well. Stalwarts are chasing the runs still to be had on Bogong and other high peaks in VIC, and the Main Range still has a good base in many places.

Hope the remaining ‘winter’ is a good one for you and that you manage to get out and enjoy it. And remember to support your local mountain business! Here’s to a better Winter of 2021.

Stage 3 and 4 lockdown impacts on VIC resorts

The pandemic has thrown yet another spanner in the works for Victorian skiers and riders. With the authorities struggling to keep a lid on infections in metropolitan Melbourne, the premier has now announced stage 4 restrictions for the metro area, and stage 3 (stay at home) restrictions for the rest of the state until at least September 13.

This means that basically all resorts and mountain areas are closed.

Continue reading “Stage 3 and 4 lockdown impacts on VIC resorts”

The Winter of Awesome

Now that we know that ski resorts will be open at least for some of the winter we can really get on with our planning. In NSW an announcement on the ski season is expected this week, and the season will start in VIC from June 22. I hope this helps with your planning for trips and events. Here are some events that I am aware of. Please feel free to send in details on others.

Continue reading “The Winter of Awesome”

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