Jamies Backcountry Adventure in Mount Hotham


One week rolls into the next, teaching one school group the basics of skiing before the next group roll in and you start the whole process again. It gives a great buzz to see a group of people go from never having seen snow to a position where they can ride blue runs comfortably. Private lessons, correcting slight errors in people's riding are an incredible, penny drop moments and watching your student start to carve it up on black runs are an make the cold moments worth it.

This week however has eclipsed all others, the lessons themselves, the outcomes and finally an incredible day off. Firstly a customer who wanted to learn the basics of skinning, the backcountry basics, how you make it uphill efficiently and effectively, with my passion for all things backcountry I jumped at the oppurtunity. Talked her through the slide and glide, the rest step and how to use the terrain features to help you meander your way up a slope, it was such a success the Snow School set me up with a reward of a free steak, chips and wine at the local pub... Quite the result!

Friday yielded an epic adventure to score the peak of Mt Feathertop, we attempted the second highest mountain in Victoria and the beautiful jewel in Hotham's crown.

Following that the Snowboard supervisor sprinted across the Hotham meeting area proclaiming to have found me the perfect lesson, and not only that, that I was the perfect instructor for the job. So, for 3 hours every afternoon all week I guided a family around the resort, commenting on the parents skiing techniques and teaching the son the rip on the snowboard, the benefit of being a crossover. It culminated in the family dropping their first double black runs and the son spinning his first 180, it doesn't get better than that! Or does it?

Friday yielded an epic adventure to score the peak of Mt Feathertop, ‚Äčtogether with a Swedish Level 4 Ski Instructor and my Scottish namesake (Jamie McPhee,) we attempted the second highest mountain in Victoria and the beautiful jewel in Hotham's crown.

A 5am start, 30 minute drive and headlamps were the order of the morning. Following that a 6 hour hike across the Razorback Ridge to find the peak. All the experience gained last season on Snow Rehab's backcountry course came to the fore, route setting, avalanche awareness, group dynamics, equipment failures, the lot... Hiking back in white out conditions tested us to the limit, route finding our way across ridges and steep faces mistakes were always waiting to be made and eventually we made them. A simple choice of following the wrong track left us halfway down the wrong spur off our ridge. This lead us into an aggressive skin across a massive face and back to what we hoped was the correct ridge. It wasn't, we had followed the wrong track a second time finding our way back to our original error, and beyond it, taking us back towards the summit of Feathertop. It was then a long a demoralised 5 hour hike into the night to get back to the car.

In total 13 and 1/2 hours in boots and the majority of them hiking hard. Worst of all we missed the last call at the Onsen, a hot tub perfect for recovery and debrief. Still an epic day and an awesome experience, lessons learnt. The two 8 hour days that followed may have been hard at the time but that's the life of an instructor, squeeze in a day off for something incredible and follow it up with teaching people the arts of our incredible sport. Not a bad week all in all! Check out Jamie Chalkley's first hand experience with a Snow Rehab Backcountry Course.

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