Back Country Awareness Please read the following articles bfore considering going back country and research widely. Do not use information provided here as textbook accuracy as anyone can edit it. Double check anything found here and consult with experts before heading beyond the resort boundaries. People die in the back country every year, don't add your name to the list.
- Backcountry Run Rating - generally variable, dependning on the weather
- RATING: Approach Steepness
Access and Trip
Cradle Mountain National Park
Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair national park sits in the centre west of the state and is world famous for its walking. Given the vagaries of snow in Tasmania and hard access in getting to most good skiable areas, it is not about to become a major skiing destination any time soon. But it does have some incredible mountain country and you can access the park from north, south and east.
The various (and most obvious) ski areas are listed from north to south.
Cradle Mountain offers some of the most accessible and impressive skiing in Tassie. The hike in from Dove Lake is only about 4 hours (best option is over the Marion plateau, which can have great snow cover in many years, and then on straight up the rocky face of the mountain).
When you are there its all fairly obvious – especially the many steep gullies and chutes on the northward facing side of the mountain - these are visible from the Lake Dove car park and offer some exciting skiing. The south side (which collects more snow) is steeper and a bit more serious, especially near the summit. It’s really worth scoping these out before dropping off into some gullies as they can end in cliffs. There is a less intense bowl out towards Mount Campbell that has some excellent runs.
For extended skiing trips, Waterfall Valley hut makes a great base, even though it is at least an hours walk back up to the mountain each day.
If the conditions are good, a trip up Barn Bluff is highly recommended. It can be quite icy, so take care on ascent. The south facing slopes above Lake Wills have less cliffs but there is still a lot of rock so skiing on the upper parts of the mountain requires good control and lots of sharp turns.
The overland track
On rare occasions you can ski all the way through the park. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare week when its been dumping, then go for it. Highlights are Mount Ossa’s gullies, the passes, and the moors between Lake Windemere and Barn Bluff. Pelion West is a big bulky mountain that obviously has some good lines on it when its in good nick, but honestly, the whole place is incredible at all times and when there’s lots of snow, you’re just in heaven: you really can’t go wrong. Many people tend to take snow shoes rather than skis as they are easier to carry on the hard slog walking sections.
Ducane Range/ Mount Gould region
This range of wonderfully glaciated country is generally reached from the south during winter.
You can either walk in from the road at Lake St Clair/ Leeawuleena, or catch a ferry in (NB: minimum rates will apply to actually book it as opposed to the regular summer schedule). For details, contact the company that runs the boat - phone (03) 6289 1137 or email email@example.com for details of cost and running times.
From Narcissus River, where the ferry will drop you at the northern end of the lake, it is a cruisey 3 hour walk in to Pine Valley hut, and from there about 1.5 hours up onto the plateau above.
From here you have two main options, either follow the rock cairns right, under the Parthenon to the wonderful tangle of lakes that make up the Labyrinth. This is ringed by rocky hills. Head northwards and you climb onto the Ducane Range, and eventually the peaks of Geryon and Hyperion.
The other option is to turn left and navigate under the right hand (western) slopes of the Minotaur towards Mt Gould (or then climbing right onto the Guardians plateau, an incredible high plateau overlooking lake Marion). An alternative access is via the Gould plateau, then up towards Mount Gould.
There is some great skiing on the Ducane Range and lots of gullies: check out the major gully system on the main face of Walled Mountain, in deep snow it would be amazing. You can get out of the weather a bit and camp near Lake Helios (great views towards Mt Ossa) and walk/ scramble up Mt Geryon. In excellent conditions, the most incredible traverse would be from the Ducane Range, over Mt Massif to Castle Crag and Ducane Gap. However, this is rocky country, pretty much boulder fields the whole way and there are some gnarly sections (climbing on the Massif ridge from Big Gun Pass, then descending off Massif towards Castle Crag (take the gully system on the left rather than staying on the ridgeline, which would be very dangerous is icy conditions), then as you climb the next hill along the ridge there are big slots amongst the boulders, not much fun with heavy pack and skis.
Needless to say, this is remote country and subject to intense weather, especially mid winter. Zero viability and wild winds can make movement impossible. You can get dumps of snow of up to a metre, making retreat almost impossible in some circumstances. Much of the region is rocky, with big cliffs, and in marginal snow conditions the rocks can be a real hazard in terms of skis breaking through and catching. Slides/ small avalanches are possible in some gullies, especially after heavy falls and there is occasional loose rock in some gully systems. To make matters harder, Tasmanian weather can easily swing from snow to rain, making camping sometimes a miserable experience: in this sense synthetic sleeping gear and fleece are better options than down.
So, the short version of what you need to bear in mind is that you should not consider skiing in the region unless you are suitably experienced and have all the appropriate gear.
The Labyrinth, in particular, is very heavily visited in summer and under considerable pressure, so please bear this in mind. In particular be careful about waste. When needing a toilet break it is imperative that you do so outside the catchments of the enclosed lakes on the Labyrinth (Ophion, Elysia, etc)– walk or ski out to the edge of the plateau, or consider taking 'poo tubes' with you. Some interesting research into the impacts of human waste on the Tasmanian high country can be found [here http://www.geog.utas.edu.au/faecalmatters/].