TR: Hotham & Mt Loch BC Mon 27th Aug 2012

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Nicole dropping into Machinery Spur
Nicole dropping into Machinery Spur
Snowy Ranger
Snowy Ranger

After Friday’s lovely storm skiing it was time to spend the weekend completing our Level 1 AST Avalanche Course.

Quite frankly this course was long overdue for us given how much time we like to spend in potentially avalanche prone terrain. I’ve had an interest in the topic for a number of years and am fairly well-read on the theory side of things, there is still a wealth of information still to be learned, and it was great to tie it all together in a formal curriculum.

Saturday was spent indoors at the Dinner Plain Onsen, and we spent Sunday outdoors working on beacon searching/simulated rescues and also some snowpack analysis and basic routefinding skills. The curriculum can be found by clicking this link.

Our instructor Damian was extremely knowledgeable, thorough and professional, and the entire class was grateful to have participated. You can check out his website here: http://www.avalancheschoolhakuba.com/ and take a course in future either in Australia or Japan.

Australians have a terrible (actually it’s worse than that) reputation for their laissez-faire attitude to avalanche safety while at foreign resorts – if you’re one of the hordes of bogans heading outside the gates at Niseko without a beacon/shovel/probe I’m talking about you – and you owe it to your friends and loved ones to educate yourself how to ski/ride safely in uncontrolled terrain.

Digging out the 'Victim' - Damian with the stopwatch
Digging out the ‘Victim’ – Damian with the stopwatch
Richard & Scott
Richard & Scott
Looking over Eagle Ridge
Looking over Eagle Ridge
Isolating a Column in the Pit
Isolating a Column in the Pit

Nicole wisely elected to Chuck a Snowie for Monday – heading to a ski resort and not ski for a weekend would not be a smart move so we stuck around for a long weekend. We slept in a little on Monday due to the efforts of Sunday on the course and made our way up to Hotham. It was a stunning bluebird day and the snow was beautiful packed powder. If I was on my Prophet 90’s and Alpine boots I would have been having a ball ripping up the natural halfpipes under the Heavenly chair, but unfortunately our touring gear wasn’t up to the task so we decided to head outside the ropes & have a sniff around.

Ready to Ski
Ready to Ski
Putting on Skins at the top of Orchard
Putting on Skins at the top of Orchard

Skiing Hotham as a child/teenager Nicole had always wanted to ski out the back of Mt Loch, so that’s where we headed. Without any prior knowledge of the area we didn’t want to stray too far but once we got to the top of Loch the near bowls on the Eastern side of Machinery Spur were a nearby and obvious option so we de-skinned, took some great photos of the view across the Razorback (I still can’t believe I traversed it – link here).

Feathertop from Mt Loch
Feathertop from Mt Loch
Machinery Spur
Machinery Spur

So we dropped into the bowl which varied from velvety cold settled powder on the shady side, or sunny corn on the opposing face:

Richard dropping off Machinery Spur
Richard dropping off Machinery Spur
Richard dropping off Machinery Spur
Richard dropping off Machinery Spur
Our Tracks off Machinery Spur
Our Tracks off Machinery Spur
Our Tracks off Machinery Spur
Our Tracks off Machinery Spur
Nicole Skinning out of Machinery Spur
Nicole Skinning out of Machinery Spur
Nicole dropping into Machinery Spur
Nicole dropping into Machinery Spur
Nicole dropping into Machinery Spur
Nicole dropping into Machinery Spur
Nicole dropping into Machinery Spur
Nicole dropping into Machinery Spur

After a couple of laps out on Machinery Spur I got a message that Damian, his wife Mio and Peter from the ski.com.au forums were out skiing the Orchard, so we headed back into the resort to do some laps with them. We couldn’t have been happier than when we met them and the call was made to go for a coffee! So we took a well-earned break and skied a little more until the sun started going down & temperature dropped which signalled time to head back to Melbourne.

Thus ended a pretty epic week in the Hotham area. We started it with a pretty amazing backcountry adventure, followed by a rain-enforced day off that I was actually quite grateful for, then a fantastic powder day, followed by the Avalanche course and finally a small taste of the vast & easily accessible slackcountry.

Huge thanks go to Gina, BT and their team at the Hotham SkiCo, I was made to feel most welcome at all times and was a grateful recipient of their generosity. We’re looking at another potential trip later in September when Spring (by far my favourite Oz skiing) is in full-force.

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