Skiing in Australia? Yeah right. Well, believe it baby! Just when you thought the land down under had everything apart from good places to ski, someone only goes and blow your mind and tells you that just a few short hours drive from Melbourne you can find yourself your very own Australian Alpine experience at Mt Buller.
As well as being the most accessible ski resort in Australia, it is also the priciest so make sure that you book in advance to get the best rates on lift passes and equipment hire. There are a range of experiences to be enjoyed on Mt Buller including tackling the thrills of a downhill course, hiring a toboggan, popping off on a guided snow-shoe walk or if you long for some culture (hmm…) you can always pop to the Alpine Museum.
The terrain consists of around 25% beginner, 45% intermediate and 30% advanced terrain so it is nice and varied to keep you on your toes. Bourke Street and Burnt Hut Spur tend to be the best places to get your snow legs and if you laugh in the face of a black run, head to Chamois or the back of the summit for some truly hair-raising runs.
Snow…really? How much?
History dictates that Mt Buller gets peak snowfall towards the end of July and beginning of August. Between 2 – 3 metres seems to be the average – which will do nicely thank you very much. There is also a super hi-tech snow-making machine which pumps out powder when Mother Nature is being a bit lazy.
How to get there?
Mt Buller is a mere three-hour drive from the city streets of Melbourne, meaning that if you were determined and wanted to pop there for the day, it is doable. There are a few routes that you can take, Plenty Road, Hume Highway and the Melba Highway. Like any journey, it’s best to have a look at traffic reports before you set out to make sure you have a good run.
Snow chains for your wheels might be the last thing on your mind when all you can think about is busting out your goggles and getting down to business but the fact is that, as Mother would say, “it’s better to be safe than sorry!” You can hire snow chains at a number of spots around Mt Buller and ladies, fear not, there are an abundance of hunky mountain men just waiting to show you how they are fitted.
What’s it going to cost?
Firstly, expect to be hit with a gate fee of around $30 when you arrive. Before you whinge and whine, this goes towards the essentials of the resort including the free shuttle bus, car parking, upkeep of the village and to those poor beggars stuck shovelling snow so that you can get from A to B without difficulty. When you think of it that way, $30 seems very reasonable.
Prices vary depending on how many days you are staying for but your best bet is booking online to save yourself significant coin. Visiting mid-week can prove much cheaper as well, for instance a two day lift pass and bed and breakfast will set you back about $159. You can budget that it will cost you a little over $100 per day for a lift pass but the more days you stay, the cheaper it gets. Snowboard or ski hire comes in at around $100 and helmets are around $19.
Now, here’s the kind of insider info we know you’ve been waiting for – if you’re new to the snow and plan on taking lessons, the wonderfully FREE Discover Programme is the way to go. Well, free in the sense that it comes included in the price of your lift pass – but that’s just a technicality. The two-hour lesson takes you through the basics of turning and stopping and before you know it you’ll be off on your own.
Visit www.skivic.com to purchase your ski passes.
Accommodation in Mt Buller
Mt Buller offers a variety of accommodation above the snowline from backpacker rooms to cosy lodges and chalets. If your budget is a little tight then your best bet is to bunk down off the mountain in the nearby towns of Dinner Plain, Bright, Mansfield, Mount Beauty, Bogong Village or Harrietville. There are also a number of self-catering lodges and apartments around which are a fantastic money-saving option if you are travelling in a group.
Bars and Nightlife
With all of the other stuff out of the way, lets turn to the important thing – the après!
The aptly named Apres Bar at the Mt Buller Chalet Hotel is a buzzing after ski-venue located right off the Bourke Street run. There are always great happy hour specials and good pub grub.
Materns at the Alpine Retreat is a great shout for a drink or three and The Arlberg Hotel is known for its raucous “Pot & Shot” pool comp nights but let’s be clear, as midnight approaches all roads lead to the Kooroora Hotel in the Village Square. It’s a debauched late night drinking establishment that’ll keep you dancing until the lights come up.
You can find more information to help you plan your trip at: www.mtbuller.com.au and www.skivic.com. www.snowscene.com.au also provides lots of information, including resorts and snow reports, so get booking!
Mt Buller Resort Management
Phone: (03) 5777 6077
Fax: (03) 5777 6219
Buller Ski Lifts Pty Ltd
Phone: (03) 5777 7800
Phone: (07) 3392 1722
Toll Free Phone: 1300 766 911
Fax: (07) 3392 0741
By Amy Baker