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Exploring Australia's surprisingly good backcountry terrain

By Chris Pew on
Who knew Australia had such good backcountry snowboarding terrain! We spent winter splitboarding around the kosciuszko national park on the main range, NSW.



And you thought Australia had no snow!


This past winter, one of the promises I made to myself was to check out the Australian backcountry. Specifically, the snowy mountains of New South Wales in the Kosciuszko National Park. I've had a season pass the last 4 years at Perisher. It was time for a new challenge, some light and shade to my weekend warrior escapes. Get away from the crowds and find some of that decent terrain I've been told about...

Get the right gear for your backcountry adventure: Mens | Womens 

So most weekends, myself and a few friends camped out at the Snowy river, rising just before dawn to get amongst the main range terrain. Accessible from Guthega dam, the Illawong footbridge (a 2.5km traverse from Guthega), or Charlotte's Pass; over the season I trialled the access from each of these areas, each offering 3 different options to cross the Snowy River... your first major obstacle!.


Backcountry Australia crossing the Snowy River

Crossing the Snowy River from Charlotte's Pass Oct long weekend.. On the afternoon return, the river was raging well above my knees! Hectic.
Photo Damon Miller


Australia is a funny place at the best of times and the mountains are no different. Like the rest of the country, the distances are HUGE. It takes a bloody long time to get anywhere and this includes getting to a rip-able backcountry terrain. Looking at a day roundtrip, we were covering anywhere from 12-15km in 7 or 8 hours, leaving a few hours of sunlight safety. Then we drove the 6 hours back to Sydney. It takes passion, commitment and a pinch of insanity to do that most weekends. Something me and my crazy/amazing friends have in droves!


Camping at the snow Australia style

Roughing it or loving it - this is how I like to camp. Keeping it simple down at The Snowy River.


I won't go into detail on the individual objectives for each different backcountry mission. You can see where we went from the pictures below (or get a better idea of suggested routes on Oz backcountry or Main Range Backcountry). What I will say is that the road to Charlotte's Pass is closed until the October long weekend which is a real shame as accessing the terrain from Charlotte's was by far the most enjoyable (less of a mission to get to lines and I quite enjoyed the challenge of crossing the ice cold, thigh-high, raging Snowy River in bare feet!). You can get the over-snow from Perisher to Charlottes for like $60 before October, but I feel that paying for this access detracts away from the spirit of backcountry adventure. During winter, Guthega is my preferred route, crossing over the Dam below the Guthega car park and heading straight up the face (no messing around but also a good run home, back to the dam through the trees).


Guthega Trees photo by Steve Wall

Guthega trees, a fun ride home but a steep climb up for your first leg from the dam.
Photo Steve Wall


Going via the Illawong footbridge was challenging. The 2.5km traverse back to Guthega in the afternoon sun after the hard day riding, almost killed me! That's a 5km round trip to add to your total distance, before you've even got to the bottom of the mountain. It would be great to stay the night before in the Illawong Lodge so you can get going from here at dawn, as access to Blue Lake and some other sick lines is easy from here. Each access point obviously opens up different riding options so depending on what you want to ride, pick the most suitable entry point. Just remember to leave yourself LOTS OF TIME. The distances you have to cover are huge, you should not under estimate them. Keep an eye on the weather (it changes so quickly out there), give yourself enough time and make sure you have packed a solid backcountry pack with enough food and water (the Australian sun will dehydrate you FAST!).


kosciuszko national park

Looking towards the backside of Watsons Craggs and Twynham West Spur. The light was so beautiful.
Photo Alexa Hohenberg


Twynam West Spur NSW backcountry

Looking over to Twynam West Spur thinking, do we have enough time to get there and back before dark?
Photo Craig Brokensha


Adventuring at the snow. Australia

Photo Alexa Hohenberg


Surf snowboarding in Australia

Matt laying out some surf styles.
Photo Craig Brokensha


Illawong footbridge kosciuszko national park

Crossing the snowy river at the Illawong footbridge.
Photo Matt Ward


Snowboarding and splitboarding with friends

A good crew for an adventure.
Photo Steve Wall


Outback Australia in the Subaru Outback

The Outback in the outback (kinda!)... This thing is pretty much my winter home :-)
Photo Steve Wall


Camping in the snow Australia

Tea and freshies... I'm a happy girl!
Photo Blake Lindley


Backcountry Snowboarding Australia

Blake imaging J-Bay blow-tails off every wind feature he sees!
Photo Craig Brokensha


Watsons Craggs, main range backcountry

Looking over to Watson's Craggs. That's where the good, steep stuff is. Just a big ole mission to get there.
Photo Craig Brokensha


Guthega backcountry splitboarding in Australia

One final slog to get back to the top of Guthega trees.
Photo Craig Brokensha


Twynam West Spur

Matt 'guide pointing' over to Twynam West Spur in a T shirt I swear he hadn't changed for weeks!
Photo Craig Brokensha


Spring snowboarding in Australia

Earning my turns about 5 hours into the day.
Photo Steve Wall


Snowboarding makes me happy

Pure joy and mega smiles.
Photo Craig Brokensha


Sunshine slash snowboarding australia

Matt Ward getting a sunshine slash for Craig's camera.
Photo Craig Brokensha


Splitboard transition from snowboard to skis

Another splitboard transition :-)
Photo Craig Brokensha


Australian backcountry snowboarding

Clean lines.
Photo Craig Brokensha


Alexa Hohenberg backcountry snowboarding

Jumping with my pack... forgetting how heavy it is! I recommend not securing your poles to the outside of your pack. They stabbed me in the head when I landed! #Fail
Photo Craig Brokensha


Club Lake chutes NSW backcountry. kosciuszko national park

Riding one of the chutes on Club Lake on the October long weekend (it was 19 degrees!).
Photo Damon Miller


Camping after a big day snowboarding with a beer

Getting that fire going before the sun goes down and the temperature drops.
Photo Steve Wall


Camping after a big day snowboarding with a beer

One thing is for sure, at the end of the day you will be knackered & that beer will taste damn good!
Photo Craig Brokensha 

What a season! Thank you to everyone who came out to play safely in the mountains with me this winter. I'm very blessed to go on such epic adventures :-)

This article is by Alexa Hohenberg from

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1 comment

  • role moduhl on

    nice to see everyone was wearing a beacon while promoting a backcountry article.

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