WORDS: Watkin McLennan
Winter is fast approaching in the Southern Hemisphere, and in that spirit, myself and a group of six Aussie skiers put together Off Grid, a short film to give skiers a taste of Australian skiing. (The skiing starts around the one minute mark.)
The Australian Alps stretch 400 miles from Melbourne to Canberra, span across 11 national parks, and hover around 6,000 feet. They barely poke high enough to get snow. However, for three to six months of the year, the mountains are capped in white.
Backcountry skiing in Australia is reserved for those with the strongest ambition. The approach is long and weeds out those who are not as devoted. Deep valleys of green, home to trees that rival California’s red woods, lie between the roads and the skiing. Most hikes begin with several hours of slogging through mud. But when you finally top out, steep faces and rolling hills covered in white fall away into forest.
Shot for a week in late September 2012, we found cloudy vistas and took some fast turns on "camo snow," the result of winds transporting red iron-rich dust from Australia's central regions across hundreds of miles to the mountains of the southeast. We skied off Mount Ingebrya, a horseshoe-shaped massif that has more terrain than all the Australian ski resorts combined.
Like anywhere else, touring is fast gaining in popularity in Australia. Improved gear technology is only part of the story. Lift tickets in Australia are all over $100 per day, which is like paying for Jackson Hole and getting Michigan. In addition, snow and weather conditions are temperamental. Holidays booked weeks in advance are often ruined by rain. Where as, a last minute backcountry ski trip can strike to make the most of good snow and gear aside, cost little more than a tank of gas.