Whether it’s by ski, snowboard, snow shoe, toboggan or dog sled, Victoria’s alpine region can be enjoyed be all. Within easy driving distance of Melbourne, Victoria’s snowfields are the most accessible in Australia making for the perfect winter short break.
Falls Creek is the ideal place for beginners to hit the slopes. With more than 65 kilometres of free-to-access cross-country trails, it is also Australia’s home of cross-country skiing. Those happy to stay off the skis are also well catered for, with more snow play options than ever this season. A new toboggan slope is set to open at the Village Bowl, accessible via the free Gully Chairlift.
For a snow adventure of a different kind, Falls Creek’s new Fatbike trails enable visitors to explore the mountain on two wheels. Designed to be shared by snowshoe-ers and cross country skiers, the new Fatbiking trails take adventurous snow bunnies through the alpine terrain, for free. For the first time this season, Fatbikes will be available for hire at the resort.
Snowshoe fans will revel in a new event, The Big Foot Trail Run (17 September) – the first of its kind in Australia. To be completed on foot or on snowshoes (depending on conditions) the extreme race will take place over two distances, 26 kilometres or 42 kilometres, starting and finishing in the resort.
New Kid’s Snowmobiles will be available during peak periods, offering kids the chance to drive their own snowmobile on a specially designed mini circuit. And for the perfect ending to the day, snow-goers can enjoy a one-hour Summit Sunset Tours, departing from the Village Bowl at 5pm on Thursdays to take in breathtaking views over the High Country with a glass of sparkling and a gourmet picnic hamper.
Best places to stay: QT offers a luxury on-mountain experience with 42 designer apartments, uninterrupted views and unrivalled access to the main ski runs. Just a short drive from the on-mountain action, Dreamers Mount Beauty‘s contemporary chalets and luxury eco-apartments are nestled in the foothills of Falls Creek. Award-winning ecologically advanced resort, Svärmisk offers a range of outdoor activities including a golf course, mountain bike park and a labyrinth of walking tracks within easy reach.
Located a three hour drive from Melbourne, Mt Buller is the most accessible major snow resort in Australia. It has the largest lift network in Victoria and is perfect for a “mid-week sneak”. With three terrain parks, it is arguably the best Victorian resort for terrain park snowboarding.
Mt Buller has the largest snow-making system in Victoria; its automated network of 244 guns could cover the MCG in 30 centimetres of snow in about two hours. This year, 11 new snow guns will extend snow-making to the bottom section of The Chute and top up coverage on key runs. Snow bunnies can choose to ski or board Buller’s many runs while tobogganing, sled dog tours and snowshoeing provide great alternatives.
For the first time this year, Mt Buller will offer Mountain Safe courses in response to a growing demand from alpine enthusiasts seeking skills to be safer in the backcountry. An introductory five hour training session at Mt Buller will cover basic skills such as use of safety and rescue equipment, terrain awareness, companion rescue, snowpack assessment and decision making.
Eight new two and three bedroom prestige apartments are now available, thanks to a redevelopment of long-time staff accommodation. New dining experiences on the mountain include a new Fish and Chippery in the Village Square Plaza. Après and Black Cockatoo will undergo refurbishments ahead of the ski season, heralding a new vibe and exciting menu changes under the guidance of new operations manager, Joe Maisano.
Best places to stay: On-mountain, family friendly accommodation can be found at Breathtaker as well as at the ski-in, ski-out Hotel Pension Grimus. Off-the-slope, accommodation in Mansfield and Merrijig are the best bets for easy access to Mt Buller. The new 187 Merrijig luxury boutique accommodation offers two private suites with views of a snow-capped Mt Buller. For groups, Merrindee in Merrijig sleeps 12 and sits on 161 hectares at top of hill with views of the surrounding High Country.
A short drive or stunning snowshoe walk from Mt Buller, Mt Stirling is an ideal destination for backcountry skiing, snowboarding and cross-country trails. The Alpine Winter Camp offers ski-in, ski-out accommodation above the snowline, with seven tents on raised, insulated platforms and a central tepee for dining and socialising.
As Australia’s highest alpine village, Mt Hotham is known as the powder capital of Australia. It is arguably the best Victorian resort for downhill snowboarding with great black runs and back-country skiing. Intermediate-advanced skiers and boarders can advance their techniques here with Master the Mountain and Snowboard Masterclasses lead by Mt Hotham’s top ski and boarding coaches. Females are well-catered for with Hotham’s Women’s Week (25-29 July 2016) and Friday Afternoon Club designed especially for women.
Those who like their snow fresh can be sure to find it here, with Heavenly Valley chairlift set to open at 7.30am Wednesday to Sunday during winter. Mt Hotham’s eight seater Snow Kat goes beyond the boundaries to access untracked powder in the side country. Both are included in the price of a lift pass.
A new Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Village is set to be developed later this year and in the meantime, a temporary new village will be set up providing visitors with all they need during their visit to Mt Hotham. On the slopes, a $4.4 million investment in snow making facilities will increase Mt Hotham’s production area from 25 to 33 hectares enabling better skiing conditions throughout the season.
The best place to head to unwind after a day on the slopes is Yama Kitchen and Bar, a collaboration between Michael Ryan and Jeanette Henderson of two-hat Provenance Restaurant in Beechworth, and Hamish Nugent and Rachel Reed of chef’s hat Tani Eat and Drink in Bright. Launched last year, Yama serves Japanese and Asian inspired cuisine.
Best places to stay: The quirky Blowhard Chalet and luxurious Absollut apartments are great on-mountain options, and to escape the altitude, there are also plenty of options in the foothills in and around Bright. House at Smoko is a luxury retreat, nestled on 11 acres between the towns of Bright and Harrietville and in Bright, self-contained accommodation can be enjoyed at Leader Reef and GGs by the River.
Just 10 kilometres from Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain is an all-seasons alpine village with more than 200 private chalets nestled among the snow gums, alongside restaurants, cafes and bars. Complete with new snow making guns, Dinner Plain acts as a great village base for beginner downhill skiers while those who prefer cross-country can enjoy over 35 kilometres of groomed trails.
Its new Snow Park offers snow tubing, skiing and snow play in winter, and tubing on artificial snow year round. New light towers enable night skiing and tubing on Wednesday and Saturdays in peak winter season while gentle slopes and fully automated snow making provide great conditions for learning to ski and snowboard.
Dinner Plain is also home to Onsen Spa & Retreat, a massage and wellbeing centre that features a Japanese-inspired outdoor onsen as well as an indoor heated pool – the perfect location to recharge and de-stress. An alternative place to unwind is at Australia’s highest brewery, Blizzard Brewing Co. where beer crafted from melted snow can be tasted. When in need of a feed, Stones Throw Restaurant is the perfect place to refuel after a big day on the slopes.
Best places to stay: Peppers Rundells Alpine Lodge is renowned for its alpine charm with a big open fire in the lounge and restaurant, Graze – a champion of seasonal regional produce. The ideal location for couples to snuggle up by the open fire place or share a decadent spa bath, Under the Moonlight‘s private chalets offer open plan living and towering glass windows with stunning views at every turn.
Easily accessible from Bright and other sub-alpine towns of the High Country, Mt Buffalo National Park offers a range of winter activities for first-time snow-goers and families. With its gentle undulating landscape and over 14 kilometres of marked trails across the plateau, Mount Buffalo is an easy-to-access destination for cross-country skiing and other snow activities.
Throughout the winter, Adventure Guides Australia will run cross-country lessons and tours; “Snow Shoe Shuffle” adventures will take visitors on an easy tour of the mountain (perfect for those on a budget) and its safe tobogganing and snow play areas will provide fun for the whole family.
Best places to stay: Kiln House in Porepunkah, offers a choice of three houses, each in a separate part of a working angus cattle stud. Villa Gusto in Buckland Valley recently reopened to the public and offers five luxury rooms complete with marbled bathrooms, tapestries and porcelain. In nearby Beechworth, 1860 Luxury Accommodation combines luxury with rustic charm and Albertines offers five suites on an acre of landscaped grounds.
Victoria’s most accessible alpine playground, just a two hour drive from Melbourne, Lake Mountain provides families with year-round adventure and during the alpine season, becomes a winter wonderland. With nearly 40 kilometres of well-marked and world-class cross country ski trails, toboggan slopes, snowshoe trails, and the popular Flying Fox and tube run, visitors can take advantage of an affordable family day out at a convenient location.
A first-rate team of instructors is on hand to guide share tips and tricks with all levels and all ages – from the basics all the way to refining racing skills. At the Lake Mountain’s Fischer Fun Park, kids aged 4 -10 can get a taste of cross country skiing with a free 20-30 minute lesson including professional instruction and equipment. This year they can also try snowboarding while mum and dad watch on.
Best places to stay: There is no on-mountain accommodation at Lake Mountain, so the best place to stay is Marysville, at the foot on the mountain just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Vibe Hotel offers 101 rooms, a spa and wellbeing facility and Radius Bar & Grill, where ingredients are sourced from local producers. Marysville Garden Cottages is the ideal destination for couples, with eight cottages featuring luxuries such as a claw foot bath and gas log fire place – all nestled within an old-style garden.
Mount Baw Baw
Melbourne’s closest downhill ski resort, Mt Baw Baw Alpine Village offers fun, safe and affordable snow experiences throughout winter. More than 35 hectares of downhill terrain, seven lifts, two terrain parks, 10 kilometres of cross country ski trails, three snow play areas and unlimited terrain offer visitors the chance to explore the slopes amongst the snow gums.
The resort will offer a host of activities and events for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and levels throughout the winter season. First time skiers and boarders will be safe hands with the team of trainers, while a range of activities will keep the whole family occupied. These include sled dog tours, snowshoeing, snow groomer tours, a gym and spa pool.
Best places to stay: Tanjil Creek Lodge and Altitude Apartments are both great on-mountain options at this family-friendly alpine village. Nestled in its foothills, Walhalla’s Star Hotel provides twelve modern suites in the centre of the historic township.