Mt Field has some fantastic backcountry skiing, with a variety of terrain and some truly inspiring mountain scenery. It is relatively close to Hobart (a drive of about an hour and a half). There is a fairly decent walk up the mountain from the car park at Lake Dobson, past the small ski village. From here it is mostly very open country and largely above treeline, so make sure the weather is appropriate if you're heading out. Key areas for a visit are the Rodway Range, Tarn Shelf and Mount Field West itself.
In condition its incredible.
- RATING: Approach Steepness
Access and Trip
From Hobart, drive to Mt Field national park. The entry point is at Russell Falls and from here extra care needs to be taken as the road is narrow and winding, and can be covered in snow and often slippery. Ensure you have snow chains. As with other national parks an entry fee is charged. There is parking at Lake Dobson, where there is a small picnic shelter and toilets, but no other facilities.
From here it is a uphill walk of about 30 minutes till you reach the Mount Mawson ski field, just on the treeline. This is basically a club run ski area with four rope tows, and details can be found at: http://stsa.webbed.com.au/ or: http://wikiski.com/wiki/index.php/Mt_Mawson
From here you are in serious country, and the usual gear and experience requirements become important. Follow the obvious well worn ski tracks up above the village to access the main ranges.
From Mount Mawson, there are two main routes up onto the actual range, and this part will be clearly marked as there is a rope tow and ski runs at the edge of Tarn Shelf, where the two options present themselves. Earlier on, it can be slightly confusing as you leave the village for the first time as there are two options, rightwards up past Oldina ski club (this takes you through a rocky area, following a walking track) or left/uphill - the more obvious way, which comes out of the trees near near Sitzmark Lodge, where there are three ski tows. This second option is easier, but they both meet up a bit higher on the ridge.
Once the Rodway Tow and shelter overlooking Tarn Shelf come into view, two main options present themselves here:
- Tarn shelf
Ski downhill slightly to the right, past the small Rodway Shelter Hut and Rodway Ski Tow and into the wonderful maze of lakes that make up Tarn Shelf (a very popular deciduous beech viewing spot in autumn). If you explore through here the best bet is to come out the same way. There is a great old hut at Twilight Tarn with a ski museum of sorts that is certainly comfortable enough to stay in. It is lower here so loses snow earlier. You can descend from here, then walk out direct to the carpark if conditions are really bad up on top or you don't want to reclimb onto Tarn Shelf. If camping in the Tarn Shelf section please be aware that these small lakes get a lot of visitation (especially in the 'beech viewing' season), so be very careful with human waste. Poo tubes would be a great idea to reduce impacts, otherwise, go below the Shelf. Newdegate Hut is higher up on the Shelf itself. It is weatherproof and a decent size, but pretty basic.
As you travel through Tarn Shelf you run parallel to the Rodway Range - there are lots of good runs coming off this.
The other main option for skiing is to head up onto the main range:
- continue on up the ridgeline rather than turning to the Rodway shelter following the ridgeline to eventually top out on the Rodway Range. From here on out you are completely above the treeline. You can turn right here and follow the range along to descend to and exit via Tarn Shelf, or continue on to Mount Field West. It can be wild up here, with icy conditions and high winds, no visibility, etc, so be mindful about the weather and what it is doing. It is not recommended you proceed if visibility is poor as you get to the top of the range.
The most exciting big runs are found out on the higher exposed ridges between Rodway Range and Field West. This is rocky country and can be incredibly wind affected, especially on the western side. This means sections of otherwise good snow can be scraped bare by the wind, while other sections will have huge piles of loose and deep snow, making for scarey and potentially dangerous conditions. It is also a good couple of hours travelling in most conditions back to the sheltered area around Mawson village so factor this in.
The southern extension of the Rodway Range, down towards The Knobs and Florentine Peak is equally nice and exposed, with steep drops off the range directly down fairly straight forward slopes and also into gully systems. In average to poor conditions you can normally find remnant snow fields down along some of the southern side of the cirque that stretched from the Florentine Ridge and arching northwards past the tiny but comfortable Peterson Memorial Hut at K Col to Naturalist Peak and Mt Field West itself.
For a nice series of images which give a sense of whats on offer (in a good winter) check out: http://www.pbase.com/tasmart/mt_field_skiing. A good video of backcountry skiing at Mt Field can be viewed by clicking here.
There are big and steep slopes on the end of the range around Mount Field West: they tend to be rocky and very exposed, so take due care (and phone coverage is minimal, if not non existent on this side). Tarn Shelf is a far more protected option for skiing in bad conditions.
This steep country can be prone to slides after heavy falls, and there was a death due to an avalanche in the 1970s on the area known as the Golden Stairs.
Cliffs. The area was heavily glaciated and it is possible to blunder over a cliff in a whiteout, so know where you are on the map.
Frozen lakes. The ice on most of the lakes is not terribly thick, so don't walk or ski on them as you may fall through the ice and be unable to extract yourself.
Mobile Phone Coverage
Quite limited, so don't rely on it
TasMap. Mount Field National Park. 1:50,000, 1999. A very good general map, although a larger scale map may be more useful in winter.
Tasmap. 1:25,000 series. Sheet names and dates needed.