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Hotham's best backcountry

Article by Drew Jolowicz

Posted 18 August 2019


The inside line for outside adventure

Hotham has long been regarded as the gateway to some amazing backcountry touring.  No matter what your ability or experience, there’s terrain for everyone’s fancy.  From rugged ridges, steep chutes or wide-open powder bowls, the backcountry surrounding the resort is vast and visually striking.

One of the key features that makes the Hotham backcountry so unique is its terrain orientation.  No matter the time of year or day, chase the sun to find great snow conditions.  After a mid-winter storm, south aspects can be holding powder in bowls and gullies long after a snowfall.  On the same day jump over to the north solar aspects where smooth corn awaits.  Ease of access is also a major advantage.  Many descents and ascents are accessible from the resort village perched on top of the mountain.  This allows for quick lap times resulting in maximised vertical.  Read on below for some local knowledge, a few secrets stashes and the inside line on where to go and when.

Eagle Ridge, quick laps:  If you’re a relative newcomer or time poor Eagle Ridge is an excellent choice to get out amongst it.  Easily accessible from the Heavenly Valley or Gotcha chairs this zone has everything from rolling gladed trees, right up to steeper ridges and chutes.  Hit the resort for first lifts then venture out to Eagle Ridge mid-morning in search of pristine untracked lines.

Mid-winter, post storm:  Hotham’s just received a signature dose of powder from the northwest.  Dargo Bowl is a great place to explore in this scenario.  As the name suggests this large horseshoe shaped bowl offers a series of powder fields separated by a prominent ridge running down the middle.  On a clear day enjoy uninterrupted views across the Victorian Alps.  Dargo is easily accessed from the Drift T-bar, or alternatively from the “Cross Corner” on the Great Alpine Road.  Relatively short skinning times allow for multiple laps ideal for a half-day adventure.

Pink Hamberg:  One of my faves!  This north-facing gem is one I try to ski multiple times during a season.  Gentle in pitch at the top this long ridgeline steepens the lower you descend into a complex drainage.  After fresh snow there’s nothing better than experiencing a sunrise over the Aussie Alps illuminating Pink Hamberg and the surrounding peaks in the most brilliant dawn alpenglow.  Because of its north orientation this face also holds silky smooth corn snow on warmer days or in spring.  Easily accessed from Loch car park or the top of the Summit, Pink Hamberg’s unique in the fact that you get to make the turns before you earn them, making it ideal for multiple runs.

Razorback Ridge/Mt. Feathertop:  For the more experienced this zone is one of the crown jewels for backcountry travel in Australia.  From shorter trips along the Razorback, right through to multi-day tours out on Feathertop’s majestic faces (Victoria’s second highest peak 1922m).  This breathtaking region offers steep lines and jaw dropping views!  The trailhead begins at the Diamantina Hut on the Great Alpine road.  From here the touring route meanders across the rugged and exposed ridgeline offering endless lines along the way, reaching Feathertop 11km later.  As alluded to before this area is best suited to travellers with a higher skill set and increased fitness levels.  Additional equipment such as crampons and ice axes may be required to tackle steep icy sections along the journey.

Backcountry skiing and snowboarding is experiencing a boom in popularity currently.  Never before has it been so accessible to venture off the beaten track.  Prior to heading out be sure to check all available avalanche bulletins and advisories.  For longer tours lodge a trip intention with Ski Patrol or let family and friends know of your itinerary and plans. 

As we move deep into August we’ve just received close to a metre of snow from a vigorous polar outbreak.  As if conditions couldn’t get any better there’s more snow forecast for the coming week. This will ensure a deep snowpack well into spring and excellent touring conditions…. see you out there!

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