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Hotham Legends Share Secret Stashes

Posted 23 July 2022

Right now is the time to find out exactly why Mt Hotham alpine resort is known as THE powder capital of Australia.

We’ve asked five local legends to share their personal faves and secret stashes on the best downhill runs, cross country trails and backcountry terrain at Hotham.

Between them they have notched up close to 200 years experience, exploring every square centimetre of mountain terrain, living, working and even raising kids here. So listen up grasshoppers, these little nuggets are gold! 

You’re welcome!

Hot Tip #1 - Blue Ribbon Trail
A former London-based Reuters photojournalist, Kelly van den Berg’s now a well-known backcountry guide, split boarder, adventurer and all-round mountain legend.

This season her new Introduction to Backcountry tours have been a hit with alpine skiers and split boarders looking to learn how to safely take on the challenges of exploring Hotham’s spectacular backcountry terrain. 

Her own secret happy place to ski is the Blue Ribbon Trail. “I always get excited when it opens - usually quite late in the season. It’s just really charming. I also like turning left at the top of Heavenly Valley. Most people forget that option and only turn right, but when you turn left, there are some really sweet little runs in there because it picks up a lot of windblown snow.

“I’m always surprised at how quiet it is but it’s right there for everybody to enjoy.” 

Hot Tip #2 - Imagine
Sharon Grayson of Altitude Accommodation began her long love affair with Hotham 35 years ago this year when she took a seasonal job at Zirky’s. Over subsequent years she met her husband Peter here and raised two children, Zoe, now 20 and Jake, 18, who were “essentially born on skis”. 

These days their busy business doesn’t allow much time for getting out amongst it but when she can, Sharon loves to be “anywhere there’s snow on snow gums. They’re just so beautiful when the bark goes red”, she says.

Sharon’s favourite for a downhill ski is Imagine “because when you stand at the top the views to Feathertop are fantastic and it’s also a really great intermediate run. She also recommends Heavenly Valley for its panoramic views of the whole of the resort. 

Hot Tip #3 - Mary’s Ridge into Coles Bowl
A superfit trail runner and rock climber in summer and telemark skier in winter, Jordan O'Neill is still excited by the more extreme end of Hotham’s incredible terrain he has been exploring for around 25 years.

Now Ski Patrol Deputy Director, he likes nothing better than getting out and touring the sidecountry around Hotham: “I love scooting across Mary’s Ridge into Coles Bowl. There's usually a beautiful little stash in there on the way down to Swindler’s Creek at the bottom when you follow the trail and pop out at Heavenly Valley. 

“And Spargos when it’s open because you can do a big lap of the whole resort. It’s a bit of an adventure every time - even though it takes a few lifts to get all the way out there you still feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere with great views of Mt Feathertop and a few other peaks.”

Hot Tip #4 Mt Loch Trails
At 75, and after 44 years skiing and working at Hotham, Bev Lawrence is still a passionate skier, although these days she’s swapped her downhill skis for cross country gliders. 

“On days when the snow’s good out there towards Mt Loch, there are little secret places where you ski through big open glades, through trees out towards the Orchard ski run. You can just get out and make your own trails”, she says. On those special days she fills a thermos and packs a picnic, including a stash of chocolate, for lunch in the beautiful snow covered landscape.

Back at the village, Bev is Hotham’s Environmental Officer, overseeing among many other tasks, waste management and recycling efforts on the mountain as well as public education programs.

Hot Tips #5,6,7,8…many!
Ski tech, Paddy Hoy of Hoy’s Mt Hotham Ski shop also has an association that runs into the decades, this year notching up 37 years at Hotham. “I'm part of the furniture up here”, he says. 

He’s also a mine of information: “When the wind blows some amazing secret stashes form, like Coles bowl, Wendix or the Notice Board if the weather is hostile. 

”When the inbounds get tracked out there are days worth of freshies out back. Be the first into Pink Hamburger, Dargo Bowl or drop into Baldy and hitch back up the road (but don't tell anyone I told you!) And when you've tracked all the powder, hit the grooming for some fast laps of Blue Snake or work on your technique on the Drift where it's always hard, fast and flat.” 

Paddy’s tips for skiing Hotham? “Ride hard and take chances!”

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