Driving to the snow: ski Victoria


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Driving to the snow: ski Victoria

The Victorian snow season runs from June to late September and, with a moderate drive from Melbourne, you can enjoy all that the snow has to offer in popular ski areas such as Falls Creek, Mount Buller, Hotham and Mount Baw Bawi.

Skiing and snowboarding means fun for the whole family.

Mount Baw Baw - the closest ski area to Melbourne and also the smallest of the Victorian resorts - is a 176km east of the Victorian capital.

Falls Creek, Hotham and Mount Buller are a three to four and a half hour drive northeast of Melbourne in the Victorian high country. If you'd like to make a day of the longer drive to the three larger resorts, there are a range of sights, towns and experiences that can be enjoyed along the way.

Take a break or have coffee or a meal in towns like Wangaratta, Myrtleford, and Harrietville. If you love locally made artisan produce, it's possible to stock up for the duration of your ski week as you drive to your chosen resort. Buy some of the locally produced cultured butter at The Butter Factory in Myrtleford and pick up some seeds from the Australian Pumpkin Seed Company for your muesli. Tour, taste and buy honey at Beechworth Honey, and stock up on cheese at Milawa Cheese Factory and Bakery and Locheilan Farmhouse Cheese. Bright Brewery has sales, tastings and a brewery tour, while the Alpine Valley wineries like Gapsted Wines offer sales, tastings and have, in many instances, restaurants.

For inspiration, visit websites including the High Country sections of Visit Victoria and Parks Victoria, as well as High Country Harvest.

One point to note is that you'll be driving in an alpine environment. This means you will need to be prepared for driving in the snow. This includes the need to carry snow chainsii.

Falls Creek

Falls Creek is Victoria's largest ski area, with 15 lifts, more than 92 marked trails and 450 hectares of skiable terrain. The resort has a good mix of terrain for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers.

The kids program is one great reason for a family trip to Falls Creek. Pete the Snowdragon is the resort ambassador and big favourite with the kids, while instructors from the Snowclub 4 Kids program get three to five year olds out there for their first turns. There's even a snow play park, toboganning and tubing - riding down the hill on inner tubes and it's not just for kids! Falls Creek Child Care can also look after babies, toddlers and children from 12 weeks to five years.

The downhill skiing is great, but if you'd like a change of pace, you can also try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, enjoy one of the restaurants or bars, or just relax at the spa.

Falls Creek is also the official home of the Australian national cross-country team and holds the Kangaroo Hoppet, the biggest snow sports' event in the southern hemisphereiv.

Getting to Falls Creek: Falls Creek is 387km from Melbourne. Take the Hume Freeway/M31 north to Wangaratta, turn onto the Great Alpine Road, then Tawonga Gap Road, the Kiewa Valley Highway, and finally onto the Bogong High Plains Road to the resort. During winter, there is no parking in the village. Day and overnight parking areas are available; make sure your car is not in the day parking area before 7am, as snow clearing is carried out. Day and overnight vehicle resort entry fees are charged. On-snow transport is available to get visitors to accommodation. Vehicles - including AWD and 4WD - are required to carry chains. Chain hire is available from outlets on the way to Falls Creek.

Mount Hotham Alpine Resort

13 lifts can be used to access 245 hectares of terrain, so skiers to Hotham can enjoy the resort's 395m of vertical drop at Victoria's highest ski areaiii. The longest run is a heart pumping 2.5km, and there is as much advance terrain as intermediate. Need some more? There's night skiing on Wednesday and Saturday.

For those who want to get inspired to do some serious turns, have a look at Hotham's trail map. Steep and deep might be a cliché for some, but if you're an expert skier it's the order of the day in Hotham's Extreme Skiing Zone. There are plenty of advanced runs - including resort designated double black diamond trails - accessible from the top of the Gotcha and Keogh's chair lifts. The Orchard chair on the far side of the resort offers a selection of intermediate runs, while the Big D Express chair provides suitable terrain for beginners that includes a specially designated slow zone. The Kids Snowzone and day care is located near the bottom station of the Big D Express.

Hotham's history as a ski area began in the 1920s, but the Hotham of today is far different. There are over 18 places to enjoy a meal, two spas, a range of specialty shops and supermarkets, and over 7,000 beds at Hotham and nearby Dinner Plain. You'll also find a ski school with adult, women's and kids specialty programs, as well as private lessons.

Getting to Hotham: Hotham is 381km from Melbourne. Take the Hume Freeway/M31 north to Wangaratta, then the Great Alpine Road all the way to Hotham Alpine Resort. Day and overnight vehicle resort entry fees are charged. Vehicles - including AWD and 4WD - are required to carry chains. Day and overnight parking areas are available.

The Victorian snow season runs from June to late September so strap on your skis and get down to the slopes.

Mount Buller Alpine Village

A three hour drive from Melbourne will take you to Mount Buller, second closest of the four ski areas to the Victorian capitaliv. Mount Buller offers activities for everyone, from thrill-seekers to families.

The resort has 300 hectares of skiable terrain, within which are situated 22 lifts - 13 are chairlifts - and three terrain parks. Adrenaline seekers will love helicopter flights, night skiing or the many ski and snowboarding competitionsiv. To get a good feel for the terrain, lifts and resort, look at the Mount Buller interactive trail map.

Families with young children can enjoy the cinema or the Gnome Roam, a self-guided tour of the magical gnome world of the mountain villageiv, and two toboggan parks. A kids centre and creche is available.

The resort has over 30 bars and restaurants, Australia's highest day spaiv, and ski-in, ski-out accommodation. There is a free village shuttle bus to help visitors get around the area.

Getting to Mount Buller: Mount Buller is 236km from Melbourne. Take the Melba Highway to Yea, then the Goulburn Valley Highway to Oathkin, then the Maroondah Highway to Mansfield, and then the final 45km on the Mount Buller Tourist Road to the resort. All vehicles staying overnight - including AWD and 4WD - are required to carry chains, and day visitors may be required to carry chains depending on conditions. Day and overnight vehicle resort entry fees are charged.

Mount Baw Baw

Mount Baw Baw is surrounded by the Baw Baw National Park. While the smallest of the Victorian resorts, it is the closest, too, only a two and a half hours' drive from Melbourne. The resort has seven lifts, three snow play areas, two terrain parks and 10km of groomed cross country ski trails over 35 hectares. The longest run is 750m and the summit height is 1,564m.

Great for families and beginners, Baw Baw has a snow sports school with group and private lessons, as well as special programs. During the school holidays, Mount Baw Baw stages Christmas in July, including a visit from Santa and a Christmas feast.

Activities outside of skiing include snowmobile rides, snowshoe tours, husky sled dog tours, and toboganning, and visitors are even able to go out on a snow groomer. A wide range of accommodation is available including ski-in, ski-out, and there is a sauna, spa and gym.

Getting to Mount Baw Baw: Mount Baw Baw is 176km east of Melbourne. There are three main ways to get there from the Victorian capital: the Mount Baw Baw Tourist Road with many bends, the straighter but unsealed South Face Road, and through Lilydale. Vehicle resort entry fees are charged. Vehicles - including AWD and 4WD - are required to carry chains. Day and overnight parking areas are available, and so is oversnow transport for luggage to your accommodation.


iSkiresort Service International 2014, Season start Victoria - Ski season opening Victoria, viewed 18 April 2014,
http://www.skiresort.info/snow-reports/seasonstart/australia-and-oceania/australia/victoria/

iiNSW Centre for Road Safety, New South Wales Government, 2009, Driving in snow and ice conditions, viewed 12 April 2014,
http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/registration/index.html

iiiMount Hotham Alpine Resort 2014, Driving Routes, Road Conditions and Parking, viewed 18 April 2014,
http://www.mthotham.com.au/plan-my-trip/travel-to-hotham/by-road/driving/

ivTourism Victoria, Victorian Government 2014, Mt Buller, viewed 18 April 2014,
http://www.visitvictoria.com/Activities-and-attractions/Outdoor-activities/Skiing/Mt-Buller