Australia is famed for a variety of reasons, not least some very snowboardable mountains, one of which is Victoria’s Mount Hotham. Here is our guide on how to make the most of a weekend up there.
Now, to really make the most of any weekend spent at any mountain resort in the world, you ideally want to get there on the Friday night. Otherwise – and this is making the presumption that you’re staying or living in Melbourne – you’re going to have to get up super early on Saturday morning to drive the four-and-a-half hours to the mountain if you want to get a good day’s riding in. In our opinion, that is not worth the hassle or the early start. So, make your excuses to your employers / throw a sicky and leave work early on the Friday. Not only will this ensure you maximise your time on the slopes, but it will also mean you can get a slap-up dinner in Hotham itself!
With that in mind…
The General – or the Genny as it is known by everyone who has spent more than 20 minutes inside its snug interior – is exactly what you want in a mountain pub. The meals are hearty, filling and warming, and soothe the stomach after a long day on the hill, as a hot bath restores the muscles. Think chicken parmigiana, steaks, fish and chips, pasta and pizza. It’s carb-loaded to ensure you’re not going to waste away after spending all day – potentially – picking yourself up off the slopes. The gourmet pizzas in particular really hit the spot, accompanied by one of their lovely beers. They also have live music, sport and throw a mean party if you’re feeling like risking a sore head and an early start.
Obviously, this is why you came. That dusty feeling that normally goes hand in hand with a particularly frivolous night is easily shaken off when you know that you have the opportunity to lay down some fresh powder tracks, or – if the groomers have been out – carve the first freshies into the corduroy.
From Wednesday to Sunday, weather and snow cover permitting, the Heavenly Valley chairlift opens at 7.30am. Now, the initial investment of $220 AUD for the weekend might strike you as steep – and it is – but there are two things you must remember. Firstly, you’re in Australia and everything is expensive here. Next, when you cost it out per hour, it isn’t actually that extortionate. It’s really all about how you use your time.
The better you know a mountain, the more you get out of its terrain and the more smartly you can move around it. Hotham runs informal mountain tours through its guest services department. Tours are free, cover mainly intermediate terrain and run on request, usually from 10am. It can be worth sacrificing a little time early on so that you can save time through the weekend, and the next time you visit.
You get an idea of how big this mountain is when you make your way all the way out to the Orchard area with Mount Feathertop looming large in the background, its huge winter cornice hanging in suspense along its ridge. If the view inspires adventure, then keep your speed up from the top of the Orchard chairlift to get across the relatively flat terrain out to the top of Spargo’s Run. There, when the snow’s right, you’ll find a snow grooming machine waiting to drag you up the incline so you can board through the trees and back to the lifts.
If you fancy some more intensive exercise than just snowboarding, then you can always switch your board out and grab some cross-country skis. There’s a combined network of more than 35 kilometres of trails at Mount Hotham and down the road in Dinner Plain, and one long, 13-kilometre link trail that connects the two villages. It’s a serene experience, gliding through the silence and the snow gums, but cross-country skiing can also be active and athletic if you want to increase your acceleration and heart rate.
When the sun goes down
If you’ve totally utilised your eight hours and 50 minutes of snowboard time then it’s fair to say that you’ve earned some refreshment. The restaurants, cafes and activities beyond snowboarding and skiing are evidence of Mount Hotham having come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. The nightlife to be found at Zirky’s and The General are as good as any you would expect in much larger resorts, and you’ll meet a lot of great people up here.
It’s all about maximising your time on the hill. Get familiar with the runs, download the Hotham app and grab a trail map, so that you can plan where you want to go.
Make sure you are up early to beat the lift queues, because this is a holiday destination in the winter and people like to sleep in, almost as much as you might love to snowboard.
And make sure that you have a hell of a time.
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