Quick Q&A – 36° South

by Christopher Wills

Quick Q&A – 36° South

By now you've probably caught the Aussie alpine backcountry film 36° South, an incredible showcase of the steepest and sickest terrain our land has to offer. Shot over 15 days and amidst some truly gnarly weather and conditions, the final doco is a great look at the Australian Alps and why they are a must for ski- and snowboard-lovers. We sat down with Chris Wills, who produced the documentary along with Tim van der Krogt and Rampage Media, to get an insight into the makings of this masterpiece.

Question: So tell us about this film…why did you want to make it?

Christopher: The thoughts and motivations for creating this film go back a long time, so it was incredible to finally bring it to life. It all started with Tim, who grew up in Big White BC, in his youth he did a few seasons at Mt Hotham and spent most of it staring off in the distance at the SE face of Mt Feathertop. He spent more time drinking at the 'General Hotel' than touring during those winters, but it planted the seed for future backcountry missions in Oz.

In 2019, Tim got in contact with Aaron, a Jindabyne-based photographer and together they started scheming about making a backcountry film in Australia. The global pandemic ensured that the trip would remain a pipe dream for quite some time. In 2020, Tim moved into my place in Revelstoke BC, we immediately hit it off and he shared his idea for the trip. Having grown up in Victoria and cut my teeth skiing at places like Hotham and Bogong, I immediately gravitated toward the idea.

Fast forward to Winter of 2022 and by chance Aaron, Tim and myself were all in Australia at the same time. We took September off work, garnered the support we needed to make the trip happen and conned adventure filmmaker Divya Gordon into documenting the experience.

Q: Have you done much film-making before? Run us through your resume.

C: Tim has been pushing hard in the snowboard scene for years. Most of his energy goes into the Freeride Qualifying Tour and other contests. He regularly shoots with various photographers and filmers in the Revelstoke area and holds a number of ambassadorial roles in the industry. I personally have very little experience with filming, so it was all new to me!

Fortunately, we linked up with Divya Gordon, who has been working in the film industry for over five years and has recently branched out into her passion of adventure filmmaking. She has released a number of short films documenting high-lining and climbing adventures, so her guidance and creative input was crucial in bringing this to life. I'd strongly encourage readers to check out some of her previous works.

Q: What was the hardest part of the creation process?

C: Weather and logistics! For this film we planned to spend a week in the backcountry at each of our three chosen locations: Mt Feathertop, Mt Bogong and the Main Range. Not only did that mean accessing these remote locations exclusively with human power, we also had to bring a week's worth of food for four hungry people, as well as film gear…lots of film gear! This included, but was not limited to: 3x SLR cameras and lenses, 2x drones, multiple drone batteries, power banks, 2x tripods and the list goes on…

We also had challenging weather. We didn't get a typical spring: storm after storm kept rolling in which meant good snow, but poor visibility and filming conditions. We spent a lot of time hanging out in tents and huts trying to stay warm and waiting for clear weather. Despite having 17 days in the field, we were only able to film in the alpine on four or five days!

Christopher Wills in Mountain Designs Gear
Mt Feathertop Summit

The weather and logistics meant preparation was meticulous (left), and Mt Feathertop in all its glory (right). (Images courtesy of Aaron Dickfos)

Q: And the funniest? Any lol moments you can share?

C: So many…Backcountry users in Kosciuszko National Park are encouraged to pack out their 'human waste' in order to protect the local ecosystem. Tim and I were total newbs to this kind of bathroom etiquette. We were instructed to squat, aim for a square piece of baking paper on the ground, parcel it up, double bag it and pack it into a dry bag. Seems pretty simple until you attempt it in snow and sub-freezing conditions on top of a mountain in a blizzard with a pair of ski boots on - oh and we'd been eating camp food for 3 weeks straight! Brown snow, misfires and a punctured poop bag on the way out kept us entertained in a type two kind of way and ensured a stinky car ride home.

Q: The location - can you describe the region and why you chose to venture here?

C: The mission was simple, to go to the best big mountain skiing locations in Australia. We chose:

  • The Main Range - specifically Watsons Crags and Carruthers Peak, some of the most iconic steep skiing in Australia.
  • Mt Feathertop - The south-east face is incredibly captivating and was the spark that ignited the motivation for this trip.
  • Mt Bogong - The highest mountain in Victoria. It gets great snow and has a variety of fun riding terrain.
Chris on the skis catching air at Mt Bogong
Chris hammering down Main Range of Mt Bogong

Chris catching air at Mt Bogong (left), and hammering down Main Range (right). (Images courtesy of Aaron Dickfos)

Q: You're clearly passionate about adventure and the outdoors - tell us about how this started for you and how you live it every day.

C: I was incredibly lucky to grow up in a passionate outdoors family. My dad spent his youth climbing and mountaineering all around the world and has a stacked resume in that regard. My mum is an avid hiker and backcountry skier. Growing up our family holidays typically involved skiing in the Victorian high country or climbing at Arapiles or the Grampians. I guess this rubbed off on me.

Q: What inspires you to get outside?

C: So many things, many of them hard to put into words. The feeling after a hard day in the mountains, the relationships and friendships formed, the challenge and problem solving it provides, the beauty of nature…

Q: Do you have plans for more film-making in the future?

C: Tim and I are both back in Revelstoke, BC this year riding in Winter while climbing and trail running in Summer. You can check out some of the adventures documented by Rampage Media in the link below!

Rampage Media

Q: MD kitted you out - what item/s did you rate out on location? How did they perform?

C: The support from Mountain Designs was crucial to making this project happen and keeping us safe and comfortable in the mountains. All the gear we used was great, but the particular highlights were the UltraTek Down Sleeping Bag and Expedition 2P Tent. We had some pretty cold nights on the trip and the sleeping bags were so cosy, we slept like logs and were so warm that at times we had to unzip the bags a little in sub-zero temps. During self-supported endeavours in alpine environments, a tent really is your lifeline. The Expedition tents were exactly what we needed: lightweight and durable, the shape of the vestibule means that you can dig down into the snow to create a large functional space for gear storage, cooking and hanging out. We put this gear to the test over multiple days in exposed locations and rough weather and it all held up really well.

Photo Credits

All images supplied by:

Aaron Dickfos




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