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Hotham's Best Backcountry Touring

Article by Drew Jolowicz

Posted 18 August 2019. Updated 9 July 2022.

The inside line for backcountry skiing and snowboarding adventures around Hotham

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.

Is it the best place for backcountry skiing in Australia? Read on, experience it for yourself and we'll let you be the judge.

One of the key features that makes backcountry skiing around Hotham so unique is its terrain orientation. No matter the time of year or day, you can chase the sun to find great snow conditions. After a mid-winter storm, south aspects can hold powder in the bowls and gullies long after a snowfall. On the same day, you can 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 for Quick Laps

If you’re a relative newcomer or time poor Eagle Ridge is an excellent choice to get started. Access is easy straight off the Heavenly Valley or Gotcha chairs. Eagle Ridge has everything from rolling gladed snow gums, 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 backcountry lines.

Dargo Bowl in 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. 

On a clear day, enjoy incredible views across the Victorian Alps. Dargo is easily accessed from the Drift T-bar, or 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

Pink Hamberg is one one of my absolute favourite backcountry lines! This north-facing gem is one I try to ski multiple times 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 a golden sunrise over Pink Hamberg, highlighting the surrounding peaks in a brilliant dawn glow. Because of its north orientation, this face also holds silky smooth corn snow on warmer days or in spring. Pink Hamberg is easily accessed from Loch car park or the top of the Summit. It is unique as you get to make the turns before you earn them, making it ideal for multiple runs.

Mount Loch

Mount Loch hosts some fantastic backcountry lines and is easily accessible from Hotham. On a powder day, the early bird gets the worm, so why not start out at Heavenly Valley First Tracks at 7:30am. Venture over to the Gotcha chair at 9am for a couple of laps in the Extreme Zone.

Then it's time to head further afield towards Orchard. From the top of the chair, Mount Loch is under 15 minutes away and opens up east facing lines with open bowls and well spaced trees. If you head further along the ridge line, you'll find Machinery Spur's delightful long runs suitable for intermediate or advanced skiers and boarders.

Razorback Ridge and Mount Feathertop

For the more experienced, this zone is one of the crown jewels for backcountry touring in Australia. It provides a huge range of options. Choose from shorter day trips along the Razorback to multi-day tours out on Feathertop’s majestic faces (Victoria’s second highest peak at 1922m). This breathtaking region offers steep lines and jaw dropping views unlike anywhere else! 

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. This area is best suited to experienced and fit backcountry travellers. Depending on your line choice, additional equipment like crampons and ice axes may be required to tackle steep icy sections along the journey.

Backcountry Safety

Backcountry skiing and backcountry snowboarding is experiencing a boom in popularity in the Australian alps. Never before has it been so accessible to venture off the beaten track with the rapid advance of lightweight alpine touring gear. 

Prior to heading out be sure to check all available avalanche bulletins and advisories. In short, make sure you know before you go. Completing avalanche safety training and carrying the right equipment is essential in backcountry terrain.

Hotham offers a range of backcountry guided tours and lessons to help you find the best secret spots. Whether you're new to alpine ski touring or a seasoned backcountry pro, there's a tailored tour option perfect for you.

Before any backcountry ski trip, checkout the daily backcountry conditions report from Head of Hotham Ski Patrol, Bill Barker. And stay tuned to Mountain Safety Collective's more detailed backcountry reports. For longer tours, lodge a trip intention with Ski Patrol or let family and friends know of your trip plans. 

As the snowpack builds through the season, we look forward to even more alpine ski touring around Hotham well into spring. Stay safe in the mountains and we'll see you out there.

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