MOUN­TAINS OF FUN - SNOW SEA­SON

Mt Buller, Falls Creek, Mt Hotham and Din­ner Plain have much in store for the snow sea­son in the Vic­to­rian Alps.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Vanessa Ba­con- Hall pho­tos Mark Tsukasov, An­drew Rail­ton, Char­lie Brown PHOTO: Mark Tsukasov, Mt Hotham

One of the great draw­cards to the North East, the snow­fields have some­thing for

ev­ery­one!

NORTH East Vic­to­ria is home to some of the most dra­matic and pic­turesque land­scapes that Aus­tralia has to of­fer and among these vis­tas, the alpine ‘High Coun­try’ is in a class of its own.

Com­pris­ing less than one per­cent of Aus­tralia’s to­tal land­mass, the alpine re­gion, while truly unique to the ‘sun­burnt land’, af­fords those who visit a host of ac­tiv­i­ties to par­tic­i­pate in, and none are more true to the word ‘alpine’ than in the win­ter months, when the key re­sorts of Mt Buller, Hotham and Falls Creek are blan­keted by snow.

Whether a lo­cal or vis­i­tor to this beau­ti­ful part of Aus­tralia, each re­sort has some­thing dif­fer­ent to of­fer and here we take a look at each of the re­sorts and the towns that com­prise North East Vic­to­ria’s ‘Alpine High Coun­try’.

First cab off the rank and ar­guably one of the big­gest of the three re­sorts is Mt Buller and the moun­tain can cer­tainly lay claim to this ti­tle with the largest lift net­work in Vic­to­ria. A to­tal of 22 lifts en­able guests of all abil­i­ties to ac­cess close to 300 hectares of ski­able ter­rain.

Ski runs are coded in colours from green, blue and black and Buller has a de­cent amount of runs in all cat­e­gories, as well as pro­tected ar­eas where adult be­gin­ners and young chil­dren can learn the very foun­da­tions of ei­ther ski­ing or snow­board­ing.

Buller also has the ‘snow play’ vis­i­tors catered for with two to­bog­gan parks, com­plete with their own snow­mak­ing ma­chines and other ac­tiv­i­ties such as snow-shoe­ing and scenic chair­lift rides to tempt those who don’t want to strap on skis or a board.

Prob­a­bly one of the great­est at­tributes to this big moun­tain is Buller’s prox­im­ity to Mel­bourne and the fact the re­sort can eas­ily be ac­cessed as a ‘day trip’. Lo­cated around three hours from the Mel­bourne CBD, Buller is easy to ac­cess for those vis­i­tors keen on tak­ing one of the many char­tered tours that travel daily to the moun­tain in win­ter and close enough for the ded­i­cated pow­der hounds to get to with short no­tice when the snow is on.

If one day isn’t enough, Buller has ac­com­mo­da­tion pro­vi­sions of en­vi­able pro­por­tions. From bud­get back­pack­ers, lodges that are akin to quaint b&bs, self-con­tained apart­ments and re­sort style hotels, Buller has a bed, more of­ten than not, lo­cated on a ‘ski in and ski out’ ba­sis for all bud­gets and can host solo trav­ellers, fam­i­lies, cou­ples and school and so­cial groups.

Only an hour away by self-drive car or lo­cal bus, the town of Mans­field, which is passed through on the way to Buller, has a huge ar­ray of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions as well and is def­i­nitely worth a visit on the way to or from the moun­tain.

Mans­field is a great pit stop on the way to Buller and many peo­ple do this in or­der to pur­chase sup­plies for their alpine adventure. The beau­ti­ful lit­tle town has a cou­ple of good su­per­mar­kets, lots of shops of­fer­ing snow gear and ap­parel, such as the cus­tom­ary snow chains (a re­quire­ment for those self-driv­ing up the moun­tain), which can be pur­chased or hired. Some may say prices are of­ten some­what cheaper off the moun­tain than on top. >>

MT BULLER

HOTHAM

Next on the alpine tour­ing sched­ule is the moun­tain re­sort of Hotham, where steep ter­rain and black di­a­mond ski runs rule the pistes.

Af­fec­tion­ately known as the moun­tain for the ‘se­ri­ous skier’, a trip to Hotham will not see the less skilled with noth­ing to do.

Be­fore ar­riv­ing at the high­est re­sort in Vic­to­ria, guests will travel through the pic­turesque town of Bright. As with all of the towns that flank the moun­tain re­sorts, nat­u­ral beauty is un-de­ni­able and Bright de­liv­ers in un-sur­passed amounts. With his­toric roots laid in the gold rush times, Bright also boasts a huge ar­ray of ‘ foodie’ es­tab­lish­ments to tempt the taste buds and also has the nec­es­sary pit stop ne­ces­si­ties such as ap­parel and ski gear hire that make a trip to the snow easy.

The Alpine Vil­lage of Din­ner Plain is lo­cated on the Great Alpine Road only 10km past Mt Hotham head­ing to­ward Omeo. This ar­chi­tec­turally stun­ning vil­lage of­fers snow play ac­tiv­i­ties, ac­com­mo­da­tion and sled dog tours. Be­gin­ner group lessons and pri­vate lessons are also avail­able at Din­ner Plain and novice skiers and snow­board­ers can mas­ter their tech­nique be­fore hit­ting the more chal­leng­ing runs at Hotham.

Lo­cated un­der five hours drive time from Mel­bourne, Hotham is for those seek­ing the ex­tra thrill of a moun­tain of­fer­ing steep, down­hill turns. Its of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics con­firm Hotham equally di­vides an 80 per cent split of ski­able ar­eas be­tween in­ter­me­di­ate and ad­vanced ter­rain.

Hotham also boasts the great­est pro­por­tion of black runs in Aus­tralia and the area of ‘Heav­enly Val­ley’ is renowned for pro­vid­ing skiers and rid­ers with the stuff of steep pow­der dreams.

If a hol­i­day over­seas is out of the ques­tion and ex­treme ski­ing is your thing, then Hotham will test your skill set and the ‘Ex­treme Zone’ is the place to cut your ski­ing teeth. The runs in this area com­pris­ing ‘Gotcha Ridge’, the ‘Chute’, ‘Mary’s Slide’ and ‘Coles Bowl’ are steep, iso­lated, off-piste but are lift ac­ces­si­ble.

Of course, for the more ad­ven­tur­ous there are some ‘earn your turns’ lines that are ac­ces­si­ble and for those who ven­ture this way, the ski­ing is well worth the hike.

We fin­ish our alpine tour­ing on a ‘rocky moun­tain high’ with a look at Falls Creek re­sort which over­looks the im­pres­sive ‘Rocky Val­ley Lake’. The lake was pur­pose built for hy­dropower and is also utilised for snow mak­ing. The lake forms the back­drop for many im­ages that ac­com­pany this fam­ily-friendly moun­tain re­sort.

Jour­ney­ing to Falls Creek will see vis­i­tors travel through the lit­tle town of Mt Beauty. The town lives up to its name and a stop off is def­i­nitely war­ranted for ei­ther an hour or a day.

From Mt Beauty it’s an easy drive along the ‘Bo­gong High Plains Road’ to Falls Creek, which is de­signed for all abil­i­ties, ac­com­mo­dates fam­i­lies well and has an im­pres­sive 450 hectares of ski­able ter­rain.

Be­gin­ners are well catered for with Aus­tralia’s long­est ‘green’ run, ‘ Wom­bat’s Ram­ble’ and in­ter­me­di­ate snow lovers have an im­pres­sive 60 per cent of ter­rain to ac­cess at Falls Creek.

Falls Creek is renowned as Aus­tralia’s premier cross­coun­try re­sort and each win­ter boasts 65 kilo­me­tres of groomed trails that are ac­ces­si­ble for free. A lift pass is not re­quired to ac­cess these trails, so cross-coun­try ski­ing is an af­ford­able way to en­joy the snow on a bud­get.

For more de­tailed in­for­ma­tion on all the alpine re­sorts and their gate­way towns, be sure to log onto the of­fi­cial High Coun­try tourism site at www.vic­to­ri­ashigh­coun­try.com.au.

WITH the big re­sorts of­fer­ing some­thing for ev­ery­one, new ad­di­tions are be­ing added ev­ery year, from new lifts to in­creased snow-mak­ing fa­cil­i­ties to new bars and restau­rants as well as great deals on ac­com­mo­da­tion and lift tick­ets. For all the ‘ whats new’ in 2016, be sure to pick up a copy of the Aus­tralian Alpine News in mid June. This FREE mag­a­zine is avail­able on­line and is also avail­able from all ski and snow re­lated shops across Aus­tralia as well as cafes, shops and tourism op­er­a­tors across North East­ern Vic­to­ria.

FALLS CREEK

BEAU­TI­FUL MT BULLER \ Mt Buller boasts the largest num­ber of ski lifts within the Vic­to­rian alpine re­sorts.

PHOTO: An­drew Rail­ton

NICE LINES \ There is noth­ing like get­ting first tracks on groomed slopes.

PHO­TOS: Mark Tsukasov

HOTHAM MAGIC \ Steep and chal­leng­ing ter­rain makes Hotham the one stop shop for ad­vanced skiers who want to test their abil­ity on runs that are ac­com­pa­nied by ‘ black di­a­monds’. Drew Jolow­icz is pic­tured get­ting fresh tracks in Avalanche Gully.

CROSS COUN­TRY \ Aus­tralia’s num­ber one cross- coun­try re­sort, Falls Creek has an im­pres­sive 65 kilo­me­tres of groomed cross- coun­try trails which are ac­ces­si­ble for free dur­ing the win­ter months.

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