Hit the heights
Runs on the board for a Falls Creek ski lodge
Forget threadbare carpet, noisy oil heaters and cook-ityourself ski lodge kitchens. Australia’s newest alpine accommodation raises the (T) bar dramatically. Under renovation since the summer of 2014, everyone in the ski industry has been closely watching the unveiling of Victoria’s freshly designed 27-room Astra Lodge.
This season sees the three-year project completed, with an additional wing of studios and family rooms. There are five accommodation styles, from deluxe rooms and family studios to two-bedroom apartments, and the design is sophisticated but simple. Sustainable European oak has been used for the floors and selected walls, heavy curtains keep out the cold, there’s an inviting ensuite and a stylish but practical kitchenette. Expect plenty of wardrobe space for hanging heavy jackets and the usual skiing paraphernalia. Fun touches include cushions patterned with deer heads.
Sydney-based owners Rosy Seaton and Seumas Dawes have thought of everything (although if you ask Dawes, he’ll give all the credit to his wise wife). Take the in-room kettle, for example. Impressively, it has temperature settings to suit whatever T2 tea takes your fancy. Oolong at 90 degrees, anyone? “Green” guests will be pleasantly surprised by the use of 100 per cent recycled Who Gives a Crap toilet paper and all-natural Triumph & Disaster toiletries.
Astra Lodge, a quick ski from Falls Creek’s main chairlift, also has a cosy library with views of rolling ridges through snow gums, along with a day spa (book the Ayurvedic balance with lemon salt scrub and ask for therapist Emma). A rare treat in a property by the slopes, there is a heated magnesium pool, which is great for circulation and soothing sore muscles, plus spa, steam room and traditional sauna. There is also a smart and welcoming children’s room for days when Mother Nature is in a bad mood and it’s best to stay indoors.
When apres-ski hour rolls around, Astra’s inviting lounge and bar area is the place to be. Enjoy Wild Brumby schnapps from Thredbo Valley and sink into leather lounges beside an open fireplace. The adjoining Astra Bar & Restaurant offers unpretentious dining and, after a long day skiing, it’s fabulous to refuel on modern Italian fare. My pick is the eye fillet with cauliflower and burned onion puree or the gnocchi with sage and burned butter. Finish with the chocolate cacao “pod” and espresso semifreddo. For breakfast there’s house-made granola with saffron-poached pear, berries and yoghurt on the menu, alongside an alpine platter of cured meats, cheese and pickled vegetables.
If you’re after a mid-ski mountain meal, head to hip Huski Cafe, also owned by Seaton and Dawes, next door to Astra Lodge and a top spot for a quality lunch that should keep you going until last lifts. Try the “grains bowl” with quinoa, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and turmeric chicken for a hearty, healthy option. The cafe is also open for breakfast and dinner, and although it attracts the cool crowd, it’s a down-to-earth venue where no one would feel out of place in last season’s ski get-up. All of this is lovely, of course, but one of Astra’s biggest selling points is something only serious skiers will appreciate — the ski and boot room. I’m impressed with the space and functionality of this modern and purpose-built “drying room”, with plenty of large ski lockers.
Although Astra Lodge was only fully completed this season, it has already been recognised on the international stage, named Australia’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel at the annual World Ski Awards in Kitzbuhel, Austria. Falls Creek caters primarily to beginner and intermedi-
Astra Lodge; the lodge bar, below left, cosy guestroom, below