Victoria is an ideal place for snow-based activities, whether it be skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, or just sight seeing or building a snowman. The Victorian High Country region is home to three major ski resorts - Falls Creek, Mount Buller and Mount Hotham. Each resort has accommodation to suit all budgets, shopping, restaurants, nightlife and even day spas.
All types of skiers and snowboarders are catered for, with runs to suit all abilities. For those just starting out, there are skiing and snowboarding lessons available. Equipment can be bought or hired on the mountains. All three resorts also have terrain parks for freestyle skiers and boarders. Sliding down the slopes on a tube or toboggan requires less skill than some other snow activities but is still lots of fun. Each resort has toboggan parks and Falls Creek and Mount Buller also have tube parks. Each also offers snow shoe tours for a more sedate way of enjoying the snow gum forests and spectacular views on the mountains.
The largest of the resorts is Falls Creek. Located by the Bogong High Plains, it is accessed from the north-east of the state via Mount Beauty. For alpine skiers and boarders, there are fourteen lifts and over 90 runs to choose from, while cross country skiers can enjoy a network of 65km of groomed trails. For something a bit different, try kiteboarding, snow biking or a snowmobile tour.
Falls Creek is also the site of the annual Kangaroo Hoppet cross country race, the premier race of its type in Australia. The event is held on the last Saturday in August each year and covers a distance of 42 kilometres. It is part of the Worldloppet series of international cross country ski events, held in a number of countries around the globe. There are also shorter races of 21 and 7 kilometres on offer.
Only a three hour drive from Melbourne, Mount Buller is the most easily accessible of Victoria's major ski resorts for those coming from the state's capital. Access is via Mansfield.
Better known for alpine skiing, there are 9 kilometres of cross country trails. Twenty-five lifts give skiers and boarders access to over 80 downhill runs. For a change from the usual skis, try telemark (free heel) skis, or figgles which are short skis also known as skiboards. Both can be hired on Mount Buller, and telemarking lessons are also available.
- Mount Buller: www.mtbuller.com.au
Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain
Mount Hotham village is set atop a ridge overlooking the surrounding countryside and provides superb views of the Alpine National Park. It can be reached from either north-east Victoria via Bright and Harrietville or Gippsland via Omeo. The Great Alpine Road, which connects these two parts of the state, passes through the village. Or for a quicker trip to the mountain, there are flights to Mount Hotham airport during the ski season.
At Mount Hotham, there are more than 80 runs on offer, with 13 lifts in operation when conditions are at their peak. For cross country skiing, there are over 35 kilometres of trails at Hotham and nearby Dinner Plain. At Dinner Plain, you can also take a snow sled dog tour. Other activities at Hotham include kids' mini snowmobile rides and scenic helicopter flights.
Mount Baw Baw
On Mount Baw Baw there are several different accommodation options available on the mountain, ranging from lodges to hotels. It is the closest alpine resort to Melbourne, located 160 kilometres east of the city. It is also accessible via Gippsland's Latrobe Valley. With around 30 hectares of skiing area, it is much smaller than the main resorts, which each cover at least 300 hectares. Its lower elevation means that the slopes are gentler, with most of its runs graded for either beginner or intermediate skiers. There are lessons available for those wanting to improve their skills. There are 10 kilometres of groomed trails for cross country skiers, giving access to places including the Baw Baw Plateau and Mount St Gwinear, or for a slower tour, don snow shoes for a walk on the snow. For freestyle skiers and boarders, the features at the Cactus Rail Park include rails and kick boxes. Another feature at Baw Baw is the Big Air Bag, a giant air cushion which provides a soft landing for skiers and boarders practising aerial stunts. Sled dog tours are also available.
- Mount Baw Baw: www.mountbawbaw.com.au
Mount Buffalo also provides alpine and cross country skiing without the crowds of the larger resorts. Accommodation is mostly off-mountain at nearby towns including Bright, Myrtleford and Porepunkah. There are two ski areas at Mount Buffalo - Cresta Valley and Dingo Dell. Slopes are mostly gentle and suitable for less experienced skiers and boarders, though there are also areas for the more advanced in Cresta Valley. Lessons are available. For cross country skiers, there are 9 kilometres of marked trails. There is also a toboggan slope, and snow shoes, along with other equipment, can be hired on the mountain.
- Mount Buffalo: www.parkweb.vic.gov.au
Lake MountainLake Mountain, near Marysville, is around two hours drive north-east of Melbourne. It's suitable for cross country skiing, tobogganing and snowplay. Day visitors are catered for with a bar and bistro, equipment hire, a shop and ski school. There are three toboggan runs, as well as over 30km of groomed trails that can be traversed on cross country skis or snow shoes.
- Lake Mountain: www.lakemountainresort.com.au
Mount StirlingAnother main cross country skiing area is Mount Stirling. Located near Mount Buller, it offers almost 70 kilometres of maintained trails, around half of which are groomed. Guided snow shoe tours are available through the alpine ash and snow gum forests. Snowboarding and telemark skiing can also be undertaken though there are no lifts up the mountain. For something a little more relaxed, there is snowplay and tobogganing. Facilities on the mountain include a bistro, equipment hire and ski school.
- Mount Stirling: www.mtstirling.com.au