this wkndr: Hotham for first timers

Mar 24, 2017

International travel writer, 

This Wkndr on 'Why Hotham':

"this year I wanted to go somewhere different. So I decided to extend my week in Tasmania by flying to Melbourne and driving up to Mt Hotham in Victoria. As it was my first time skiing in Victoria and exploring Mt Hotham, I thought I would write a guide for first timers. Enjoy!..."

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About four years ago when I was living in London, my friends and I organised a snow trip to France. I hadn’t been skiing in over 15 years and needless to say, I was stressing out. Was I going to fall flat on my face? Would I fall off the chairlift? Could I even remember how to turn in my ski's? However as soon as I clicked my boots into my ski’s and grabbed my poles, it all came back to me. Thank goodness! After that trip I made a promise to myself I would go skiing every year. And so far, I’ve stuck to it. For those of you who don’t know, whilst Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches and deserts in the world, we also have world class mountain ranges for skiing. When I was little, my family would travel to the slopes in New South Wales every year and it was here where I formed some of my most cherished childhood memories. Ski School was awesome guys!

Needless to say, since France I’ve been down the slopes at Perisher and Thredbo in Australia, and Cardrona and The Remarkables in New Zealand. But this year I wanted to go somewhere different. So I decided to extend my week in Tasmania by flying to Melbourne and driving up to Mt Hotham in Victoria. As it was my first time skiing in Victoria and exploring Mt Hotham, I thought I would write a guide for first timers. Enjoy!...

(view from our Arlberg balcony)

STAY When I’ve been skiing, I have never stayed on the mountain. In France, we stayed in a small town and had to catch a quick bus to the base of the mountain before jumping on the various chair lifts. In Australia, we stay in Jindabyne in NSW and drive 45 minutes to Perisher and if we don’t get there early, we usually have to walk for another 10 minutes with all our gear before reaching front valley. And in New Zealand, everyone stays in Queenstown and heads off in their cars to drive up the various mountains for at least 45 minutes. Get my drift?

But not in Mt Hotham. Everyone drives up from the base of the mountain (the drive is simply breathtaking) and it takes about 45 minutes. As soon as we reached the top, we were welcomed by runs on either side of the mountain. Incredible! From here, finding our accommodation was a breeze; just a little bit further down the road was Arlberg Hotham, where we stayed for four nights.

The Arlberg is the largest snow hotel in Australia and is easily the most popular on the mountain; it’s how a snow hotel is supposed to be. With 120 self-serviced apartments, it’s perfect for groups of friends and families. Not only does it have a bistro (where we ate dinner most nights), it has an apres lounge, brewery, pool, spa and sauna, lockers for your gear, 24 hour reception, guest laundromat, mini supermarket and an enclosed bus shelter.

Located near Hotham Central and the main Village Quad chair lift, there are a variety of runs for the beginner, intermediate and advanced. I think what I loved about the Arlberg (other than the Bistro dinners) is that everything is at your fingertips – you arrive, unload and escape. Nothing is more effortless than staying slope side at Arlberg and I am not sure I want to ski anywhere else in Australia now. In fact, guests can drive up the mountain with nothing, get fitted with hire gear at the Arlberg and literally step out the front of the hotel, strap in their snowboards or skis, and go down the mountain! I think they key learning for me is staying on the mountain is the best way maximise time spent on the slopes!

a couple of towns you need to visit on the drive from Melbourne.

Getting to the mountain is where your excitement will be but try and make sure you stop into Bright along the way, it’s a gorgeous town located just over an hour from the top of Mt Hotham. Make sure you stop and enjoy a bite to eat at Food Wine Friends, it's one of the best cafes I've ever been to. We ate here on our way up to the mountain, and on our way back down from the mountain; anyone who serves natural peanut butter in their kale, linseed and fennel sausage salad gets a tick of approval from me!

Remember to pick up chains from Hoys Ski Hire before you leave Harrietville; they are mandatory and you will get a fine if you don’t have them in your car.

When you reach the top of Mt Hotham, the obvious thing to see and do is to hit the slopes. There are 11 chairlifts and over too many runs to count (although there are 50 official runs) at Mt Hotham so you’re going to be entertained all day long.

EAT We ate at the Arlberg Bistro most nights; the food is surprisingly delicious and very well priced. Plus after a long day on the slopes with weary bodies, sometimes you just don’t feel like getting dressed up and rugged up to catch a bus to find somewhere else to eat on the mountain.

Hitting the slopes is all about après ski, the fun after a day on the slopes. But I like to enjoy a little bit of après ski throughout the day. So for the best spots to enjoy a beer in between (and after) runs, I highly recommend The Bird and The General.

If you feel like treating yourself and enjoying a really fancy meal, jump on the free bus to Yama to enjoy the best Japanese you’ll have in your lifetime.

TRIP NOTES What: Mt Hotham Where: Victoria, Australia When: June to September Stay:Arlberg Hotham | +61 3 5759 3618