Why you need to join Australia’s Mountain Safety Collective this winter

Photo: Shutterstock/Lilkin

Following trends from overseas, backcountry participation in Australia has been growing year on year and shows no signs of slowing down.

In the era of lockdowns when we’ve spent far more time inside than ever before, the backcountry offers no crowds, no ticket gates, and wide open spaces as far as the eye can see. It tempts us with remote snowy peaks, snow gums glistening with ice, and plenty of terrain where you can have first tracks every run.

The downside of having more people in the backcountry is that we expect to see more mountain rescues. Even if everyone plays by the unspoken rules (always carrying beacon, shovel and probe, taking an AST1 course, adhering to good backcountry etiquette), it’s just a statistical truth that there will be more incidents.

That’s why it’s more important than ever before to become a member of Australia’s “the Mountain Safety Collective” and access their daily Backcountry Conditions Reports if you’re venturing beyond the boundaries.

Mountain tragedies inspire Mountain Safety Collective launch

While not as dramatic as the mountains in Japan, the US or Canada, our Australian mountains are still wild places with their own hazards. Blizzards, white outs and avalanches cause a number of rescues in the mountains every year.

In 2014 Mt Bogong in Victoria had a devastating season that led to 5 parties requiring rescues and two deaths as a result of an avalanche.

After this the ‘collective’ started issuing backcountry observations, and by 2017 the group was a non-profit organisation with a focus on keeping backcountry users informed.

Backcountry Conditions Reports

At the core of MSC is the Backcountry Conditions Reports which informs backcountry users about the various mountain hazards for the day.

What’s the avalanche rating, on what elevations and aspects?

Is slipping on ice a concern today?

Are we likely to end up in a blizzard?

MSC aims to provide reliable and consistent information so that people can make informed decisions about where and when they should head out into the mountains.

These reports are similar to those found overseas, such as the Avalanche Canada report. It’s a huge asset to have world-class reporting now available in Australia and is the first of its kind to come from a professional body.

In line with this professionalism, the MSC team is led by Craig Sheppard, who has the highest level of Canadian Avalanche Association qualifications (CAA Ops Level 3) from his 20 year career in Canada, which included several seasons as the lead forecaster at the Lake Louise Ski Area.

Where does your membership money go

MSC has seen huge growth in the past few years and now has hundreds of members, support from government bodies and snow brands like Arc’teryx, Mammut and Marker Völkl.

They have also campaigned for and implemented a range of information resources and facilities, such as Australia’s first Avalanche Training Centre.

Upcoming backcountry education events

The community is committed to educating backcountry skiers and boarders and have a series of education nights coming up pre-season. Check out the information nights in VIC (May 17), NSW (June 2) and ACT (June 7). 

Join MSC and WIN big swag

As a non-profit organisation, much of MSC’s work has been possible due to the membership fee people pay when they sign up to become an MSC member.

The $50 membership fee pays for a team of professionally certified observers and forecasters to head into the mountains, collect data and provide the most accurate backcountry information possible.

Ongoing member support means that MSC can keep putting out their daily backcountry conditions reports that thousands of backcountry users rely on to make better decisions on their trips. As a bonus, becoming an MSC member grants you exclusive access to MSC’s backcountry maps and guides, 35% off merchandise and 25% off Arc’teryx gear.

But wait, there’s more.

MSC are in the midst of their annual Membership Drive that runs until the season officially starts on June 11, 2022. If you become an MSC member during this time you can win spot prizes like caps and T-shirts, as well as going into the draw (alongside current MSC Members) to win some cool Grand Prizes. Think Arc’teryx outerwear, a Burton splitboard, Black Crow skis, a Mammut avalanche safety kit, guided backcountry tours at Thredbo, AST1 courses and more.

Grand Prizes will be drawn on June 13 so there’s never been a better time to join up and support backcountry safety in Australia.

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Alex is a writer, snowboard instructor and backcountry mountain guide in Australia. After throwing in a desk job and leaving her home town of Sydney in 2014 she's snowboarded and worked in Canada, Australia, South Korea, the US and Japan. She is also the name behind www.bigworldlittlecat.com