Mountain Safety Collective – Backcountry Condition Reports

May 9th, 2022
Mountain Safety Collective ambassador Drew Jolowizc deep int he Australian backcountry. Photo: Dylan Robinson

 Mountainwatch | Alex Parsons

You don’t need me to tell you just how extreme Australia’s mountains can be. Even if you’re not a backcountry person, we’ve all been stuck in a whiteout somewhere, sliding stiff-legged and vertigo-plagued over bulletproof ice, or been hanging on to a T-bar for dear life in gale force Antarctic winds.

Combine this with the frequently underestimated presence of avalanches in Australia’s backcountry and it’s no wonder there are a growing number of alpine incidents every year as ever more people seek out untracked lines. This is where Mountain Safety Collective (MSC) saw a need for access to daily backcountry conditions reports.

Who are the Mountain Safety Collective?

Initially MSC was a small team founded by Simon Murray, who saw the effects of a devastating backcountry season in Victoria in 2014 where two snowboarders tragically died in an avalanche. As backcountry travel exploded in popularity it seemed like the risks were only growing. A group of volunteers came together in 2017 to form a non-profit organisation, with a focus on reporting conditions for the good of our beloved backcountry community.

Fast forward five years and MSC now has hundreds of members and has support from government bodies as well as big snow industry brands like Arc’teryx, Mammut and Marker/Völkl. MSC has campaigned for and implemented a range of information resources and facilities, such as Australia’s first Avalanche Training Centre. They have a team of professionally certified observers and forecasters who head out into the snow-capped peaks to dig pits, tap shovels and stare endlessly at snow crystals all in the name of providing the most accurate backcountry information possible.


Photo: Dylan Robinson

During winter this information comes out in the form of daily Backcountry Conditions Reports so people can make informed decisions about where and when they should head out, taking into account avalanche danger, what the snowpack is doing, weather, ice and other hazards. The team is now led by Craig Sheppard, who has the highest level of Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) qualifications from his 20-year career in Canada before relocating to Australia.

In other words – MSC started out as a group of concerned volunteers but has quickly morphed into a professional organisation that provides world-class reporting for our local backcountry aficionados. Checking the Avalanche Canada report is second nature when heading beyond the resort boundaries in Revelstoke or Whistler and we now have the same essential resource in Australia!


It’s bag wide world out there. Stay up to date on backcountry conditions this winter through the MSC reports. Photo: Teddy Laycock

The MSC Membership Drive

By now you may be in love with MSC as much as I am, so how can you get involved? MSC are kicking winter off with their annual Membership Drive that runs until the season officially starts on June 11, 2022. If you become an MSC member (it’s $50) 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 seriously 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!

At its core, your membership fee 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. Good vibes aside, you also get a bunch of perks when you become an MSC member. There’s the member kit, exclusive access to MSC’s backcountry maps and guides, 35% off merchandise and 25% off Arc’teryx gear. My personal favourites are the MSC maps that break down backcountry terrain into different levels with specific zone names, along with ideal uphill and downhill routes.


Photo:Dylan Robinson

Alpine Education Series

In order to further amplify their safety message, MSC have collaborated with Arc’teryx and Alpine Access Australia to bring their Alpine Education  to VIC  (May 17), NSW (June 2) and ACT (June 7). It’s for beginners and veterans alike, bringing together all who are passionate about the Australian backcountry to have a drink and listen to some tales. Topics include:

  • Backcountry etiquette
  • Avalanche forecasting
  • Essential gear
  • Seasonal outlook
  • Trip reports like ski mountaineering in Greenland
  • Plus, a stack of short films!

You’ll get to hear from MSC Founder Simon Murray, President Craig Sheppard, NSW Director Owen Lansbury and MSC ambassador Alex Parsons. Arc’teryx ambassadors Drew Jolowicz and Lewis Foster will have a yarn, as well as Alpine Access Australia co-owner David Herring and Banff Mountain Film Festival director and intrepid adventurer, Justin Robinson.

Tickets are $20 and can be booked here,with all proceeds going to MSC’s professional development fund.

Come get stoked for winter, start building good backcountry habits, and support safety in the mountains by becoming a MSC member.