Astra reaches for the stars
IT’S a race against time, and snow, as one of Falls Creek’s seminal developments rushes towards an opening weekend unveiling of its multi-million dollar refurbishment.
When Astra Lodge was first built in the early 90s it was THE lodge.
Architecturally it set the bar – sweeping staircases and the use of rock and timber blending into the natural environment at least five years ahead of what was to come here and at Hotham.
The aim was five-star and the tourism bodies fell over themselves to hand out the awards – Best Restaurant, Best Accommodation, Best Alpine Accommodation, Best, Best, Best. You get the idea.
But a quarter of a century is a long time in the tourism industry and particularly exposed to the elements above 1500m.
So when a family from Sydney with a love affair for the resort and memories of Astra’s glory days bought into the property before the 2014 winter it was only a matter of time before the Sitzmark Street landmark was going to be restored to a mountain leader.
The off-season has been Stage II in the development – hump summer really.
Inside the construction zone all the rooms have been brought into the 21st century while they’ve added a library/ reading room, cellar, salon, and massage and spa treatment rooms.
Its restaurant will be under the guidance of executive chef Emma Handley – who has been at the helm of the highly regarded Villa Gusto in the Buckland Valley in recent times.
Astra Lodge general manager Tom Simpson said early snowfalls was an impost on the project’s critical path but remains focused on the goal.
“This summer has been the second of three stages and by far the biggest of those stages,” he said.
“When the Traverse Alpine Group purchased Astra they had a clear vision.
“The family loves skiing, loves Falls Creek and knows the part Astra played in the redevelopment of the village – their goal was to set new standards in the same way Astra set those benchmarks when it was first built.
“The lodge needed some love and I think people will be impressed.
“We’ll be more than a ski lodge with a day spa, hairdressers, barbers and a fulltime stylist.
“The restaurant under Emma Handley will be Italian fine dining, in peak season we’ll have an apres bar operating on Saturday nights.
“We have an oversnow vehicle that will pick up people from the car park and deliver them directly to the front door – no stops along the way.
“This was all about developing the premier ski lodge in the Australian Alps and I believe we are well on the way to doing just that.”
Stage III of the Astra Lodge development will see extensions added to the building.