We are the Australian Backcountry Usergroup Association. We deliver Backcountry Conditions Bulletins. The place to go for the latest on the backcountry conditions in the Vic and NSW alps, in one single easy view.
We issue information regarding alpine travel safety across all aspects of the prevailing conditions (from 1 June - 31st October ). This includes firstly the weather, by observation and predictions, and the effect the weather has on the snow pack. In Australia this ranges from 'Bulletproof' hard ice, through to loose snow and the associated avalanche danger.
The rate of incidents in which individuals or entire parties become overwhelmed by the alpine conditions was increasing year on year. Not that conditions are necessarily worsening. Simply more people are heading 'out', and potentially, collectively less prepared.
The winter of 2014 showed an alarming increase in incidents across the range. In the North East Vic alone 5 parties became overwhelmed by the conditions and requiring rescues from remote areas by PSAR / ASAR alone. Unfortunately two people lost their lives in an avalanche event. For each rescue, teams of more than 30 people are assembled. All remote alpine rescues involve rescuers engaging in difficult and dangerous operations. As a testament to their training and ability they have a strong success rate. Yet in reality, the less 'call-outs' the better.
What we do: We deliver up to date observations specifically on snow conditions that anyone travelling into unpatrolled alpine environments should consider in regards to their travel safety. Wether you are on skis, snowboard, snowshoes or trusty old walking boots, the bulletin delivers info on what snow conditions to expect, and any relevant safety precautions to consider when travelling in snow bound terrain.
How we do it: We harnesses a network of specialists with vast experience in interpreting snow and weather conditions and potential hazards. The core network consists of Ski Patrol organisations from the relevant alpine areas, Meteorological sources and an 'In the field' network based on voluntary observations. It is admittedly an ambitious project. No small task. We archive and cross reference weather events with previous observations which will ultimately help us better understand the degree of accuracy with which we are reporting.
Delivery: The bulletins will be reviewed and updated on a 48hr cycle once there is significant snow on the ground in the backcountry, or more frequently depending on storm cycles and conditions as they evolve. We also deliver the bulletin on social media via Instagram (@mountainsportscollective). Issuing specific alerts as they come to hand.
Mountain Sports Collective is a varied bunch of human powered backcountry participants. At the governance level we reflect our membership with an equally varied crowd. Punters, frothers, avy pros and patrollers. Meet the crew below.
Founder / President
Recreationalist / Alpine & Telemark Touring
Simon kicked this whole thing off in the wake of the 2014 Bogong fatalities and generally in response to that season. With 14 other people involved in rescues, in the Vic alps alone, mostly critical situations. The ‘collective’ started as a small bunch issuing observations and ratings for weather, ice and avalanche, via a site he built. At the time the general understanding of alpine hazards in the Australian backcountry was alarmingly low. The lucky survivor of a D2 slide at Mt Loch himself, he was keenly aware that avalanches, among other hazards, are just as deadly here as they are anywhere else in the world. The four year behaviour change campaign culminating in this platform he dedicates to Marty and Dan, whom whilst he never knew them, walked the same mile, strangely survived and has done his utmost to ensure none who follow would make those same mistakes.
Director / Founder
Avalanche Professional: CAA Ops1 / Splitboard Touring / Ski Touring.
Frothlord on High. Adam is one of the founding directors that has been publishing snowpack data from the NSW Main Range since 2015, with hours of shovel work and detail to the observation bulletins. Adam and Simons efforts in the early days lead to them joining forces and creating the Mountain Sports Collective. Prior to MSC, Snow Safety Australia (NSW obs website) and Snow Sence (VIC obs Website) were the Australian observation options for snow safety reports.
He’s an Avalanche Safety training provider. He’s also the host of the Australian Splitfest. He runs a Tour company in Gulmarg, Kashir, Himalayas in the Nth Hemisphere winter. He’s a man who up-cycles snowboards into splitboards as well!
Narelle ‘Nez’ Watters
Recreationalist / Alpine Touring
The smart, strong voice of reason and the person who does a heap of ‘behind the scenes’ work on members and money. ‘Where would we be without Nez?’ Nez is a mountain enthusiast with decades of experience, although having only come to the backcountry ski thing over the last decade or so, considers herself a beginner / intermediate participant which is awesome to have. Someone who when the room starts rattling off into tech/snow science speak will reign the communication back to her level. The perspective of the usergroup.
Director / Environment & Events
Recreationalist / Telemark Touring
Great sage of the Victorian Backcountry. Steward of the alpine environment. Enthusiastic and passionate backcountry community figure Cam brings a wealth of experience to this tribe. He has a pragmatism and understanding, through working with people. Everyone from individuals, agencies and departments to federal government. Its this contribution that helps MSC navigate and represent the user group interests outside our sphere. No better example of this exists than his passion for the Victorian Backcountry Festival. You can stay tuned to Cams inner narrative via his awesome exposé of mountain culture and history via his blog here: The Mountain Journal
Director (acting Secretary) / Community Engagement
Recreationalist / Alpine Touring
‘Rolfy’. A ‘living treasure’ of the Victorian backcountry scene. ‘An enigmatic figure who emerges from the mist to share a cuppa and then hucks a cornice with a signature European lilt to vanish into the vast expanse of the east face of Feathertop…’
In reality Rolf is on the ground working diligently on a raft of initiatives. Community nights, clean up bees, and importantly the provision of an Avalanche Training Centre. An automated ‘multiple burial’ simulator that is initiated at the press of a button. Standard fare in the his home turf in the European Alps and an asset to the whole backcountry community. We are about an eighth of the way there. Find out more here.
Our network spans contribution from a whole bunch of people. Importantly it’s the people who we work in ‘the alpine hazard’ space professionally and daily who provide you with the best information on whats happening on the hill. These people we thank for their knowledge, time and ongoing collaboration.
“If I’ve seen further than others, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants” seems an apt expression of what this crowd provides the MSC.
CAA Ops Level 2 Avalanche Consultant / Forecaster
Alex is relatively new to the fold. Mild mannered and considerate of where we have come from, Alex is helping usher this platform into a recognised credible outfit. The likes of which she’s worked with extensively abroad. An Australian, who thankfully for us left these shores for Canada to pursue her passion all things for winter (sport and science) who has returned ‘down under’ as a very well researched, seasoned avalanche expert and young mum to boot. Welcome back Alex.
Mt Hotham Ski Patrol Director
CAA Ops Level 1 Professional / Ski Guide
Bill barely needs an introduction. Internationally renowned pioneer of world class mountain venues: Gulmarg & more recently Antarctica. Ski explorer, climber, surfer, former dirtbag turned poster boy turned ‘boss’. One of the people you hope will be coordinating your rescue in Vic (see Matt below). Dawn patrol is Bill’s jam, and the unofficial early morning assessment from his office has been the backbone of the avalanche warning on this service since our inception. And to this date saved countless hapless avalanche contenders.
Falls Creek Ski Patrol Director
Avalanche Professional / Ski Guide
Another patroller par-excellence, and the kind of person who you’ll also be hoping turns up when your messed up in the BC. ‘Matto’ and the MSC could be said to have had a ‘frenemy’ relationship in the beginning. Matt has a strong understanding of the need for following process. Vital for his role coordinating responses to critical incidents on his mountain and out the back. Our ‘rogue’ service simply wasn’t ticking those boxes. And with good reason… That’s changed recently as we’ve upped our process and now we share a reciprocal appreciation and respect for the pressure and shared risks of providing ‘public’ observations and advice.
Field Observations North East Victoria
Avalanche Professional: CAA Ops1 / Splitboard Touring / Trainee Ski Guide / Volunteer Ski & Avy Patroller
One of the hardest working independent avalanche educator and mountain safety communicator in Victoria (and NSW for a fair part of the season). Luke spreads his craft across the range providing education and guiding packages from Stirling to Guthega and most of the accessible BC terrain between. Makes a good ‘Pancake’ too!
Dave & Pieta Herring
Avalanche Professionals: CAA Ops1 / Ski Touring / Ski Guides / Volunteer Ski & Avy Patroller
Field Observations Directors - Main Range NSW
Dave and Pieta are living the dream. Avalanche training providers, ski guides and event coordinators. They live and breathe alpine starts and long skin trails year round. Be that around the Main Range (an increasingly Hotham) in the southern winter, or Niseko in the north. These two spend more time both commercially and recreationally in the Main Range than anyone else we know and through this provide valuable and qualified observations from the field.
Field Observations - Vic Central East
Another Frothlord contender, Josh is never far away. Be that at events, lift lines, boot packs or shot skis Josh has been a fixture on the fast swerving trail of white smoke that is the Australian backcountry community since the early daze. He devotes lots of time and effort not only to studying crystals and weather but also to sharing ideas and pushing for change via the Protect Our Winters platform which he’s leading Australia’s charge on.