What’s so special about the Australian backcountry that keeps you coming back here?
The Australian backcountry offers terrain that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, definitely not within Australian resort boundaries. Our unique sub-alpine environment allows you to ski amongst the Snow Gum and Woollybutt trees — an experience in its own right, but our unsheltered alpine landscape leaves insane crags and wind lips with up to 800m of vertical drop. What more could you want? There are also possibly the most incredible sunrises and sunsets you’ll see anywhere.
But what keeps me heading back into the Australian backcountry is that its home, and there’s something pretty special about getting to ski and camp in a country most of the world wouldn’t believe there’s snow in, let alone world-class skiing.
I had the chance to work with We Are Explorers on a trip to the Mt Kosciuszko Main Range with photographer Tim Clark and cinematographer Hayden Griffith to capture the beauty of the Australian backcountry. Whilst the weather didn’t play ball for most of the trip and we felt the full brunt of winter on the peak of Caruthers mountain, the one clear day we did get was a clear reminder of just how amazing the Australian landscape is.
What is your most memorable experience in the Aussie backcountry?
My first camping trip on the Main Range. We camped out on the western faces of Mt Townsend for the week and were blessed with 5 sunny days. Every afternoon we skied all the way down to the tree line to collect water for the next day, which, from the 2200m Mt Townsend, was a long descent. But the real treat was getting to walk back up in the glowing pink sunset. Looking out from the Australian mountains, the sunset seems to go on forever.
Where’s your skiing taken you this year?
The past 12 months on the 2 planks has been one of the biggest rollercoasters since I began chasing winters in 2010, from success to injury. Last year in the Australian winter I was coaching at Mt Hotham full-time for the Hotham Freeski team. As well as this I made the trip to Mt Buller for Buller X in September which is one of the best competitions I’ve ever been involved in. I got to spend a week touring the main range with the We Are Explorers crew to add the icing to an incredible winter.
I followed the change of season over to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in December where I was based for most of the season. I got the incredible opportunity to compete in the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s freeride competition and film with Teton Gravity Research on a project for Buller X. I also made the trip to the Great White North for most of January and got to experience one of the best seasons they’ve ever had.
Measuring risk is an integral part of backcountry skiing. Have you had any close encounters with avalanche danger?
I’m fortunate enough never to have been taken in an avalanche myself (touch wood) however, I have been witness to both natural and human-triggered avalanches. Skiing steep terrain with fresh snow regularly puts you at an increased risk of getting yourself in a tangle with an avalanche, so one thing I like to practice regularly is turning down skiing things when something in your gut doesn’t feel right.
What’s the most random item you always carry in your backcountry backpack?
I like to buy a fruit I’ve never heard of for a backcountry dessert. Always adds a little excitement to the trip.
What do you want to say to people that are afraid to take the next step & try backcountry?
The backcountry is not a place to be afraid of, it’s a place to take yourself out of your comfort zone, learn something new and challenge yourself at the same time. If you’ve ever dreamt of skiing untracked lines without the crowds, there’s no-one to steal you fresh tracks in the backcountry. A good place to start is getting some backcountry and avalanche knowledge with an Avalanche Level 1 certification and also checking in with your local Ski School and booking a backcountry lesson to be shown the ropes. Mt Hotham and Thredbo currently offer backcountry-specific programs.
All photos taken by Tim Clark in Kosciuszko National Park