Want to Get Serious Skiing Hotham? Check these..

snow action team 27.05.2021

Want to get serious skiing Hotham? There are plenty of serious lines to choose from, if you have the skills and know where and when to go says long-time local and occasional Snow Action contributor Sam Leitch. He has done some great stories for us from La Grave to Kashmir, never mind spring on Bogong in a low-tec K-Mart tent – see the links for those below.

Gun lensman Mark Tsukasov has the images that really show how serious Hotham skiing can be.

Sam is heading into his 13th straight season at Hotham, after a few more there from 2004, then heading to NZ for a few more, as you do. But he calls Hotham home since 2009, so bear in mind before even thinking about emulating him that is a LOT of local knowledge, never mind skill.

Sam Leitch skiing extreme steep slop Parachute Bowl, Mt Hotham
Sam Leitch shoulder to the wall showing how steep it is in Parachute Bowl © Mark Tsukasov / Hotham

From Europe to Jackson Hole, I’ve been fortunate to ski steep terrain.

Places with high consequence exposure. This exciting type of skiing is also possible at Hotham when the snowpack is solid in mid winter.

Like the backcountry off to the side of the Hotham summit, including Parachute Bowl.

There are a lot of lines here that only appear for a week or two. So you need to watch and wait for the right day. Steep and rocky terrain is perfect for freeskiing, but can have traumatic or deadly consequences if you get it wrong. 

Finding sweet terrain is the key to catching air and getting rad at freeskiing. And as you enjoy this fun journey you will find yourself looking for steeper lines and bigger jumps.

A closer look – we always figure if your shoulder touches when you turn it’s getting bloody steep.. © Mark Tsukasov / Hotham

Mt Hotham has some good stuff like this. Inbounds is the place to start. Heavenly Valley and the Extreme area have lots of fun hits and lines. As you improve you might want to move to the backcountry.

However, unlike the resort, the backcountry is an uncontrolled environment. Variable snow, ice, wind crust, rocks, weather, packs of wild dogs from Omeo — the Hotham backcountry is a wild place. September is a great time to explore it. Slow moving high pressure systems replace the winter storms providing clear visibility and melt/freeze snow conditions perfect for soft snow.

Skier jumping cliffs at Mt Hotham
Sam sending the Drift Cliffs © Mark Tsukasov
And landing it © Mark Tsukasov
Coming out with speed © Mark Tsukasov
And more speed .. © Mark Tsukasov

It would take a lifetime to fully explore the Hotham backcountry. A great place to start is Machinery Spur off the back of Mt Loch near the Orchard area.

Simply traverse straight over from the top of the Orchard chair and you will find some really nice ridge lines with amazing views of Mt Feathertop. Isolated but relatively safe.

A more serious option is Eagle Ridge. It is clearly visible from the top of the Heavenly Chair. It is easy to traverse to, but requires a bootpack or skinning to exit. Super fun cliffs with long landings and also some great chutes.

There is no shortage of steep ski terrain at Hotham if you feel like pushing your limits. But I would suggest being super cautious when hitting the back country. Powder days are best spent in the resort. Powder days also come with winds that scour the snow to ice in the backcountry. Those September slush days are the best for testing yourself in the backcountry steeps.

Enjoy! – Sam Leitch

Like this? Check out more of Sam’s big adventures: