Mount Hotham is widely known as the powder capital of Australian ski resorts…And for good reason: (a) it rocks on a powder day and (b) it rocks on a powder day. We consulted with Hotham local, Scott Newman of Kalyna Ski Club, to find out where he rides when the powder is on. We’ll let Scott do the talking.
Hotham receives some 3m of snow natural powder per annum on average and given its height and location, its some of the driest, lightest snow going around. So if its powder you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. For the past 3 years Hotham’s base has surpassed the elusive 2m mark on all occasions.
Unlike other Australian resorts, the Hotham village is situated at the top of the mountain, not the bottom. So when it snows, you see it and you certainly feel it, whether you are walking to your ski lodge, or gazing out at the slopes as you enjoy your evening meal. It is also only 1 of 2 mountains in Australia with the vertical drop required to hold international downhill skiing events.
Hotham is also well known for its ‘side-country’ which is easily accessible as long as you are equipped for the walk out… as they say for every down there must be an up. In a major boost for the resort, this year Mt Hotham is hosting the Australian Backcountry Festival, to assist the growing number of people interested in developing the skills to safely access and understand the risks associated with venturing off-piste.
But let’s get back to the powder……Within the skiing boundary there are many options to access powder snow, irrespective of your riding ability. For beginners I would recommend the skiers left off the lift, easy street on the Big D. Here snow accumulates next to the fence and if you follow the fence line, you will find little stashes all the way down to the chair lift loading station.
For intermediate skiers I would recommend road runner, sun run and the trees between this space and the basin. You can carry this into Sundowner to the Heavenly chair. Milky way into Lower Imagine in Heavenly Valley are also great options.
For the advanced rider there really are too many options to mention. Much of the wind comes from the north west, meaning that snow drifts blow onto the eastern side of the ridges which are abundant in the Heavenly Valley skiing area. My favourites in this area are Purgatory Spur, Twighlight Zone and Wendix. Although Wendix is a short run, I have had days where I have skied this all day, and it continues to fill in with the snow coming down.
At Blue Ribbon, my picks would be Notice Board, Wood Run and Bondoo. Under the chair lift ‘Audi Quattro’ or for those who have frequented Hotham for some time… the Village chair… Hackers Horror, and Wall of Death and Lower Playground are fantastic runs. But, for Wall of Death, and if on a snow board, keep your line above the chair lift until you can see the bottom of the chair, otherwise, you may end up in the creek at the bottom.
For the experts… I would look at Gotcha, Lindsay’s, Cole’s Bowl and on the other side… Golden Point and One Tree Hill. Golden Point requires a little walking and will bring you out at the bottom of Village Chair Lift (Audi Quattro). It is out of bounds, so make sure you access any of these areas with another person and tell others where you are going.
Avalanche Gully is accessed off the Summit chair lift and can be a great out of bounds run, it is a short 30 minute walk out for the fit and healthy. As the name suggests be aware of the conditions and be prepared, these areas are not patrolled. My suggestion would be to follow the sun in these out of bounds areas, as areas like these can ice over, however when accessed at the right times even without fresh falls, can leave a big smile all around. Understanding the wind and effect on these zones, like the Mary’s Slide area, are key to getting the most out of this great Mount Hotham.