Hit the heights

Runs on the board for a Falls Creek ski lodge

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - NEWS - JEN­NIFER ENNION

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

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