If a field called Perisher is enough to put you off skiing and boarding, then let yourself be wooed back into the snow sports fold and take a trip on the Hume Freeway and the Great Alpine Road from Melbourne, to slide your way around Mount Hotham, Dinner Plain and Falls Creek. We've sorted out the essentials for a snow road trip: coffee, accommodation, scaring yourself senseless at a lunatic asylum, the lowdown on the slopes, any gear you might need and where to soak weary bones.
Heading out from Melbourne, the trip to Mt Hotham is just shy of 5 hours, (about 388 kms to Dinner Plain), so we’ve added enough “must do’s” and “must see’s” on the way to make it a “must” on everyone’s winter roadie list. Just make sure you’ve got a least three full days for mountain capers and a day each way for travel and roadside exploration.
Caffeine loading and a tasty headstart
Before you start, make sure you get your caffeine fix and a load of avocado and poached eggs on toast, spanner crab omelette or a duck, potato and spring onion waffle, at the hip, industrial styled Code Black in central Melbourne. The coffee is roasted on site and is strong and delicious, so make sure you grab a bag of beans if you’ve rented self service accommodation for your stay.
Walking the wetlands
An example of how nature can regenerate, even when humans truly muck with it, is Winton Wetlands. After a bad irrigation experiment was reversed, the Winton Wetland Reserve restoration project began. The largest wetland restoration in the southern hemisphere, there are 8,750 hectares, with 32 wetlands and 4,900 hectares of red gum and boxy woodland to explore with a huge variety of flora and fauna for you to spot.
So rather than whizz past on the M31, make sure you take a wee detour at Winton, so you can stretch your legs and go for a wander – or even a hike – before leaping back in the car and heading on towards Mount Hotham. If you do decide to put a hike in, make sure you’ve got enough warm wet weather gear and check out Outdoria for all of your hiking requirements.
Scare the living daylights
A roadie is never truly a roadie without a little offbeat adventure, and Asylum Ghost Tours in Beechworth is just the ticket. You can either do a history tour of the former Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum during the day, where guides will lead you through the abandoned halls, cells, surgeries and punishment areas or, if you’re up for a hauntingly moving exploration of this spooky spot, join a paranormal tour after dark and just wait for the ghosts of yesteryear to strut their stuff! Asylum Ghost Tours even offer sleepovers every second month. Go on, do you dare?!
Mount Hotham important deets
It’s a beautiful drive along the Great Alpine Road but you’ll be blown away by the spectacular views that greet you when you arrive, as Mount Hotham village is nestled on a ridge, just so you can be wowed from every angle. Nicknamed the powder capital of Australia, Mount Hotham, is a playground for all snow sports, with 13 lifts and ample terrain for all levels of skier; from the cruisey slopes of the Summit or Milky Way to Mary’s Slides’ demanding chutes and Heavenly Valleys black diamond runs.
Then there are numerous bowls and half pipes if you’re a boarder and for those who prefer cross country skiing there are 35 km’s of glorious, powder covered back country trails to explore. Hotham even caters for those keen on a snow filled holiday but not so keen on skis and snowboards. You can go for toboggan rides, harness your inner polar explorer with sled dog rides or go into full combat mode with snow laser skirmishes.
As it does get understandably cold in the mountains and you will get wet, make sure before you go to kit yourself out with some solid snow gear for all your Mt Hotham adventures.
Submerge your weary self in a Japanese spa
Off the snow there is the Japanese Onsen Spa – to relax those newly discovered ski muscles – and plenty of bars and restaurants to help relax some of the older ski muscles that you wish you could forget at this point.
Our pick is to spend an evening drinking gluhwein and learning how to create (and devour) delicious cheese fondue, under the stars, surrounded by alpine forest, before feasting in their tipi (teepee). Alpine Nature Adventures will guide you on a sunset snowshoe walk through the gum trees to their eco village, where you’ll dine like Swiss royalty in an Australian alpine setting.
Practicalities for driving on the snow
There are a few things to remember if you are staying at Mount Hotham. You will need a valid resort entry pass to get into a Victorian Alpine Resort as all vehicles are required to have either a day, multi day or season entry permit. (You can get them online through alpineeasyaccess.com.au before your trip - which makes things super easy.)
A roof rack to carry skis and boards is a must so make sure you pick one up before you head off. In addition you will need to carry snow chains at all times in the mountains during the winter months as the weather is changeable and you certainly don’t want to risk getting stuck in a snowstorm without them.
Delicious Dinner Plain
Just a hop skip and a jump from Mt Hotham is the smaller, but quaint village of Dinner Plain. The Snow Park at Dinner Plain is the perfect spot for those learning to ski. Set amongst the Victorian Alps bush The Cobungra Platter Ski Slope at Scrubbers End is a gentle introduction to this icy sport.
For the more adept at snowsports there are regular shuttle buses between Dinner Plain and Mt Hotham Alpine Resort (although please do bear in mind you will need to pay the Resort Entry Fee if you are planning on driving yourself to Mt Hotham Alpine Resort. But here’s a little tip, if you do simply drive through Mount Hotham to Dinner Plain without stopping you don’t need to buy a pass.)
For those keen on things other than skiing and snowboarding you can easily opt for sled dog rides, snowshoeing or the dreaded laser skirmish in the snow.
Fab Falls Creek
Another fabulous little alpine resort just a wee deviation off the Great Alpine Road is Falls Creek. A glorious place to visit in summer, Falls Creek has mountain bike trails, hiking trails, cycling on the Alpine loop with it’s 235km of climb (it’s one of the most challenging and beautiful in the country), and water activities galore on Rocky Valley Lake. However we are all about winter so make sure you book into Falls Creek on our Victorian snow roadtrip.
There are loads of different accommodation options, staying on the mountain in the village is super easy as it’s ski in ski out, so no need for transport to the snow, (in optimal snow conditions of course) or off mountain at nearby Bogong Village, or deliciously named Mount Beauty and surrounds.
Falls Creek has ski and snowboard terrain for all abilities with a large percentage made up of intermediate runs that shush through the trees. However if you’re feeling like a slightly different snow experience, you can drive your own snowmobile, go on a snowshoe expedition, take a backcountry tour with an Olympian guide, spend a crazy hour on the snow tube park or hitch a ride on a snow groomer. Look out all you snow bunnies!
Ski area practicalities
If you’re bringing your car, remember you need to sort out your Alpine Resort Entry Pass, and can do this online (which is easy and makes it 10% cheaper than buying at the resort entry gate). And a note for newbies, if you book your lift tickets 14+ days out, they’ll be 15% cheaper than purchasing them on the day.
Pop in for a brew at Bright Brewery
On your way back to Melbourne, after an adrenaline filled snow holiday, make sure you stop in to relax at Bright Brewery on the Great Alpine Road. They have a range of award winning brews (and soft drinks for the driver) and you can pair these with lunch or dinner in their restaurant, whilst looking out over the countryside of Bright.
On their way to being carbon neutral they have covered their roof in a checkerboard of solar panels to power the brewery. And they have joined the ranks of responsible cafes and anyone bringing in their own keepcup will get a discount on their coffee (so remember to pack yours.)