Australia Has A Backcountry?

Straying from the parks in 'Straya

All photos by Jake Sims // Words by ‘Erryn’

Over the last few years, it’s been hard enough getting your head around the fact that Australia has one of the most vibrant park scenes on the planet, what with Perisher’s Playstation pushing both terrain design and contest formats, but what most don’t know is that ‘Straya actually has a pretty decent – though small – backcountry scene.

Whilst you’d normally think of South America or – closer to home – New Zealand as the places to go for southern hemisphere powder lines, these photos and accompanying answers to our questions will show that for those into their splitboarding, backcountry camping and chute bombing, another destination just got added to your bucket list.

Outback, first tracks

Where exactly are these mountains? What’s the nearest city?
These shots are all from Kosciuszko National Park, NSW. The nearest major town is Jindabyne.

How did you access this zone?
We caught over snow transport from Perisher to Charlotte Pass Ski Resort. You can split from Guthega at Perisher, but it’s about an extra nine kilometres each way to access the steeper stuff that we wanted to access, which usually means an overnighter or only enough time to do one steep line. From Charlotte pass we splitboarded out to Blue Lake and then Carruthers Peak. It’s quite remote, on our last day trip we covered almost twenty kilometres!

The Watson’s Crags area is the steepest in the area with some super gnarly lines, but it’s not a day trip, you need to camp. The hike out is excruciatingly painful as its pretty much straight back up.

Vin Diesel only managed three x’s – it’s all about the XXXX here

Did you have any kind of exit strategy if it went wrong? Is there a heli service there?
Both of us are first aid trained: Jake has extensive first aid qualifications and we left a detailed trip plan with some relatives. We also always pack comms – mobiles and radios – plus bivi bags and down sleeping bags just in case if we get any injuries or get stuck in bad weather.

As well you gotta have a first aid kit, crampons and ice axes. We were both wearing transceivers and had shovels and probes. Snowy Hydro Southcare helicopter is available if all goes pear shaped

What’s the highest peak?
Highest peak is Mt Kosciuszko at 2228m. Most peaks in the region are only a couple hundred metres smaller than Kozi though.

Blue Lake, sun baked, look out for snakes - a poem by Whitelines

What’s the best time to go to score powder?
Late July and August are the best times.

How steep would you say these lines get in comparison to other parts of the world?
The steepest lines are about 50 degrees, but they’re only short. 100-250 meters is probably the max vertical for the steepest chutes.

This far away from civilisation, you need some good first aid koalafications.

Is there any tree riding to be had on flat light days?
There is lots of tree riding to be had on flat light days but the terrain where the trees are isn’t massively steep. There’s still plenty of fun to be had making kickers etc. though.

You see a lot of freestyle stuff coming out of Perisher, but what’s the Aussie freeride scene like?
Interest is growing but even then it is still limited. Lots of people do go out there to ride but it is pretty rare to go out there and see someone else in the chutes. Most of the time the places we go we don’t see anyone.

“Totally bushed mate”

Is there any lift-accessed freeride terrain or is it all splitboarding?
I’m either on these steep lines in the backcountry or in the Perisher parks. There is some fun side country in a few Australian resorts but it really doesn’t compare to most North American/European terrain. We have a few fun well kept secrets at Perisher, but if we want steeps we have to go BC.

"Australian backcountry? You gotta be Nicole kidding me!"
Like in Japan, you can ride right to the waters edge, only difference is there’s less Aussies

How long have you been riding? Where do you spend the northern hemisphere winter?
I have been snowboarding 27 years, spending several winters   touring in Canada, France, Switzerland, Italy, Alaska, NZ and the USA.

I now spend the northern hemisphere winter here in Australia working in Canberra, surfing and MTB riding on the weekend.

Jake has been snowboarding for five years and has travelled to Canada, Switzerland and Austria. He also works in Canberra and is away overseas a lot with his job. He spends his spare time in our summer surfing and riding MTB.

Deep. Further. Down Under-er.
The crews been trying to Foster some backcountry talent for a while now
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