Hitting the Slopes: The High Country Ski Resorts
Most of Victoria's ski areas are in, or on the edge of, the Alpine National Park . Victoria's main snowfields are Mount Buller, Mount Hotham, and Falls Creek, all of which have a wide range of on-mountain accommodations. Closer to Melbourne, Mount Baw Baw offers gentle slopes for beginners, while Lake Mountain and Mount Stirling are for cross-country skiing. The ski season in the Victorian High Country is June through October, with July and August the most popular months.
373km (231 miles) NE of Melbourne
Hotham Snow Resort (1,750m/5,740 ft.) is the only resort in Australia with its own airport and summit-top village. Just 10km (6 1/4 miles) from the ski slopes of Mount Hotham is the alpine hamlet of Dinner Plain. There are 14 lifts (including those at Dinner Plain) servicing 320 hectares (791 acres) of terrain ranging from beginner to advanced. A shuttle bus service runs between Dinner Plain and Hotham Village. Ski lift tickets are available from Hotham Skiing Company (tel. 1800/468 426 in Australia, or 03/5759 4436; www.hotham.com.au). Full-day lift tickets cost A$102 for adults and A$51 for children ages 6 to 14, or A$166 adults and A$95 children with gear hire. The resort also offers some good cross-country skiing, including a route across the Bogong High Plains to Falls Creek. Resort entry costs A$35 per car for a day, payable at the entry gates or at the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management office. If you are traveling by bus the entry fee is A$12 adults, half price for kids.
Getting There -- From Melbourne, take the Hume Highway via Harrietville, or the Princes Highway via Omeo. The trip takes around 5 1/2 hours. (The Hume Hwy. is slightly quicker.) Qantaslink (tel. 13 13 13 in Australia) flies to Mount Hotham Airport from Sydney during the snow season.
Snowball Express (tel. 1300/656 546; www.snowballexpress.com.au) runs buses to Hotham daily from mid-June to mid-September. They depart Melbourne's Southern Cross Station on Spencer Street at 9am. The trip takes 6 hours and costs A$115 one-way or A$165 return for adults, and A$75 one-way and A$115 return for children under 15, or A$445 return for a family of four. There are also coaches from Bright to Hotham. Bookings are essential.
Visitor Information -- The Dinner Plain Visitor Information Centre is at 572 Big Muster Drive, Dinner Plain (tel. 1300/734 365 in Australia; www.dinnerplain.com), and is open daily 9am to 5pm (except Christmas Day). Another source of information is Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management, Great Alpine Road, Mount Hotham (tel. 03/5759 3550), which has plenty of brochures. It's open daily from 8am to 5pm during ski season, and Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm at other times. The general Mount Hotham website is www.mthotham.com.au.
Where to Stay -- Hotham Holidays (tel. 1800/468 426 in Australia; www.hotham.com.au) has more than 180 properties for you to choose from, ranging from motel-style rooms to luxury chalets. They can book rooms and advise you on special deals, including flights. Another option is the Mount Hotham Accommodation Service (tel. 1800/657 547 in Australia, or 03/5759 3522; www.mthothamaccommodation.com.au). During the ski season, most places will want you to book for a week. Prices are significantly lower outside the ski season.