Many of us like to get beyond the ski area boundary and enjoy the pleasures of the backcountry when we’re visiting Mt Mawson. I’ve observed people in some dangerous locations since the opening of the ski season, so this post is a reminder to be aware of the Ski Area Boundaries and the dangers that are present in the more Extreme Areas.
The Cornice/Drift area, along towards the Mt Mawson peak is well outside the ski/patrolled area boundary, and is a highly unstable feature. It builds up each year and regularly avalanches. See the pics below that I published in 2013. The first pic indicates the Cornice with arrows. The second pic shows the area that actually avalanched, note that it was well away from the obvious “slowly breaking wave” feature that is more to the left of the view. I you do go over that way, then give this area a wide berth and don’t go anywhere within 30-40 meters or even more of the edge and don’t ski/board that slope. A person or persons standing/skiing/boarding on the feature, wind and snow loading, rain events and even extra humidity can all be triggers that may release an avalanche.
The other Extreme danger area that you should be aware of is what is know as The Golden Stairs. These slopes are between what you’re looking at in the pictures all the way back the edge of the Mawson Run. They are steep and especially dangerous when icy, when they turn into Slide & Die zones. This is because if you fall on these slopes, then there is little hope of arresting your fall. You will accelerate quickly and end up at the bottom of the slope at a high velocity, where there are trees and rocks. You will likely collide with these. Several years ago, a snowboarder lost control here, hit obstacles at the bottom and broke his leg badly. To those of you who may not know a lot of the history at Mt Mawson, I should also mention the tragic accident that occurred on The Golden Stairs back in 1979. A skier died here in a skier triggered avalanche after heavy snowfall. Mount Mawson Ski Patrol and the Southern Tasmanian Ski Association does not recommend skiing/boarding/walking these slopes.
Other areas have avalanched in the past, I remember seeing the aftermath of a big slide off the Rodway Range, above Lake Newdegate, in the early 1990’s. That took out trees and all! So don’t be complacent, study up, ask around, speak to ski patrol and do your avalanche assessments. Mount Mawson and the surrounding alpine environment is a beautiful and exciting place to visit, explore and play. But like all alpine areas, the dangers are real and present.