Guidebook Snow business

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Snow business

"When my editor asked me to report on a 'luxury Australian ski holiday'," writes Tim Martin in Executive Style, "I immediately thought I had misheard. Surely he meant Austrian rather than Australian?" No, he heard correctly.

Downhill skiing in Australia is incredibly popular and cross-country skiing at various mountains is also a common pastime, says Powderhounds, and if the quality of skiing in Australia might not match the very best of North America or Europe, "it's still super fun particularly if the snow is on." The elevation isn't particularly high and the vertical isn't particularly long - "it's definitely not like many Europe ski resorts where it feels like you can ski forever" - but significant snow making equipment has been introduced at the major resorts "which has reduced uncertainty about the snow base on the main trails," says Powderhounds.

"Australia is actually a secret winter wonderland," says Concrete Playground, and to top it off there's great après ski on-mountain dining and drinking options at the Mount Buller and Falls Creek resorts near Melbourne, says Rachael Oakes-Ash in Traveller: "My liver can attest to that."

Here are some of the best ski destinations near Melbourne:

Mt. Buller: farmland to the west and forested wilderness on the other sides. "The views of green, snowless valleys and distant snowy peaks on just about every chairlift ride are incredible," says Anthony Sharwood on "An American ski coach once described this as the most beautiful place he'd ever visited in his years travelling the globe. He wasn't kidding." A three-hour drive from Melbourne, Buller has 25 runs, five miles of cross-country trails, three high-speed chairs, 10 surface lifts, three terrain parks and two toboggan parks. The best time to go is early June to early October, says On The Snow, and Buller has "more than 30 bars and restaurants and around 7,000 beds, some of which are ski-in/ski-out properties … there's also a ski school, a range of shops, a movie theatre and ski rentals."

Mt. Hotham is known as the "powder capital of Australia", reports On The Snow. "Expert skiers can conquer steep valley runs and the many natural gullies, half-pipes and tree runs," or attempt Mary Slide, one of the country's steepest and most difficult runs. But "all skiers and riders can find terrain to their liking here, not just experts," and Hotham also offers night skiing twice a week, three terrain parks and snowshoeing, dog sledding, snowmobiling and toboganning for non-skiers. Hotham is a 4.5 hour ("very scenic") drive from Melbourne or take a direct flight to Hotham Airport, just 12 miles away. And if you want to take a break from doing all the work, join a dog sled ride, "which involves a bunch of huskies whooshing you across the snow, or book a snow mobile journey in back country," reports Concrete Playground - or slip into an on-snow day spa or grab a gluhwein (a traditional Austrian beverage with red wine, cinnamon, oranges and cloves) in your pick of 20 bars and restaurants.

Falls Creek is the largest ski resort in Victoria: 450 hectares, 15 lifts, 65 kilometres of cross-country trails and more than 90 runs. "There is no prettier alpine village in Australia than Falls Creek," says Traveller. "Even if you had no intention of hitting a slope you would enjoy a stay here, admiring European-influenced alpine architecture nestled amongst the snowgums." The terrain is less dramatic than at other spots," says Concrete Playground, "which means that a whopping 80% of it suits beginner and intermediate skiers." Falls Creek is about 380 kilometres or four-and-a-half hours' drive northeast of Melbourne.

Lake Mountain is the place to go if your main objective is to get to the snow ASAP.. Just two hours' drive from Melbourne, it's only cross-country skiing, no downhill thrills. "The adventure here is more about strapping on a pair of cross-country skis or, if you'd prefer to walk, snow shoes, and having a bit of an explore of the 37 kilometres of trails," writes Concrete Playground. Lake Mountain is the ideal winter wonderland for a family "snowcation," says Kidspot. "The toboggan runs are great for little ones and with snow making machines in use when the snow isn't hanging around, there is sure to be enough to spend the whole day heading up and down the run!" reports Mamma Knows East. "And of course enough to roll up some snowballs and chase Mamma around!"

"Mt Buffalo is a sanctuary for cross-country skiing," says The Culture Trip. The sub-alpine environment "caters to experienced skiers who can carve up Cresta Run as well as families, with toboggan runs near Dingo Dell and Cresta Valley" and camping is available on the mountain in the warmer months; in the winter visitors stay in the nearby town of Bright "where you'll find accommodation no matter your budget.

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