BELIEVE it or not, winter is a season for outdoorsy, energetic endeavours too. As Rebecca Di Nuzzo finds out, from first-timers to student athletes, there’s something for everyone.
It’s tempting to enter hibernation mode during the cold winter months and retreat to the warm cosy confines of our lounge rooms to indulge in mindless daytime television.
But there are many mountainous peaks and national parks in Victoria offering great skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing opportunities, which once you have experienced, may just convince you to greet the cold with enthusiasm.
Organised ski trips
If the hassle of organising a trip to the snow is proving a little too overwhelming for you, you’ll find most universities have snow oriented social clubs.
Other cultural student clubs also regularly arrange trips for students to popular snow destinations, which are a great way to make new friends while exploring Victoria’s slopes.
We know the Malaysians of Melbourne University holds an annual ski trip for its members, but non-members are welcome to sign up too.
This year, it’s a three days and two nights trip from August 2 to 4, and the club is headed to Falls Creek, with accommodation at the 4.5 star Falls Creek Country Club.
Falls Creek claims the title of Victoria’s largest alpine resort, with 65 kilometres of free cross-country trails, downhill skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and terrain parks with awesome rails and jumps – think the snow version of a skateboard park.
It’s a five-hour drive from Melbourne and a journey and a half to get to, but with transport sorted, all you have to do is turn up at departure time.
The cost is $615 for members and $645 for non-members, which covers coach transfer (transport), the entrance fee, a ski pass for two days, ski/snowboard hire for two days, an experienced tour guide, and two tw0-hour lessons whether you’re a beginner or expert wanting to up the ante and tackle the steeper slopes.
For those who are interested in competitive sports, you may want to pit your skills against others at the annual Australian University Championship Snow Sports in August.
Featuring 13 events across board, alpine, cross country and freestyle disciplines, the AUC Snow Sports will be held in Thredbo New South Wales from August 25 to 30.
Only tertiary students can compete, and it’s the premier university snow sports event in Australia, attracting students from across the country and with more than 350 athletes expected to attend this year’s event.
Registrations are now open for competitors, and for more information, you can visit unisport.com.au.
If you’re wondering which club to go with on an organised ski trip in Victoria, or if you’re better off organising a trip with friends, you can check out our Guide to Victoria’s Ski Slopes. But here’s a quick rundown of popular destinations other than Falls Creek mentioned previously. Snow gear, clothing and equipment can generally be hired on site or in nearby towns.
Mt Baw Baw
Ideal for day trips, getting to Mt Baw Baw is a cinch, with V/line trains running from Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations to Morwell, Warragul and Rawson railway stations. From here you’re only a 4WD transfer away from the mountain. It’s also an easy two-and-half hour drive from Melbourne, with barely any turns. You will need snow chains for your car tyres though, these can be hired in Neerim South. Mt Baw Baw offers visitors a range of activities from skiing and snow boarding to husky dog sled tours and free tobogganing (score!).
A little bit further out, Mt Buller is approximately three hours drive from Melbourne. Public transport is also available, with V/Line operating a coordinated coach service with Mansfield Mount Buller Buslines. It’s one of Australia’s most famous ski destinations and is a hub of activity during the winter months. Its slopes cater towards all levels of skill, from beginner to pro, and ski and snowboarding lessons are available on site. It also has the largest lift network in Victoria, with 22 lifts capable of moving 40,000 people an hour (meaning less time getting up the slopes with your gear and more time speeding down them). Mt Buller also offers two toboggan sites and helicopter flights if you feel like a splurge and want to take in the awesome scenery. From personal experience I can say prices are as steep as the slopes at Mt Buller, so make sure you bring a bit of cash.
Four-and-a-half hours from Melbourne, Hotham is probably more suitable for weekend getaways. Diamond pattern snow chains are also a legal requirement for all vehicles entering the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort during the snow season. These can be hired at the base of the mountain in Harrietville and Omeo. Hotham boasts downhill ski runs up to two and a half kilometres long, and all the usual snow activities are available at Mt Hotham (snowboarding, skiing, tobogganing). There are also slopes at Hotham to cater for all levels of skill and lessons available for all ages. Night skiing is also a cool feature at Mt Hotham, as are the mini snowmobiles.