My sons aged 12 and 14 are Americans, or more specifically New Yorkers. They had skied small resorts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania on day trips from the city and ventured to Colorado on a Thanksgiving long weekend when there wasn’t much snow.
Mr 12 says, “I’m like semi-pro.” Translation: he’s a smidge above beginner.
I wanted to introduce them to skiing in Australia. As a kid I had snow-ploughed across Thredbo and Mount Buller thanks to the army ski lodges we stayed in. As a teen and at uni, I visited Perisher, Blue Cow, Guthega and cross-country skied across Cabramurra, Australia’s highest town.
This winter, I chose Hotham Alpine Resort as I had never been there before and I was curious to check it out. I booked accommodation at Dinner Plain, a cluster of chalets and private homes 12 kilometres from Hotham Central.
And off we went.
Before the ski trip, I convinced my eldest to follow Hotham Alpine Resort on Instagram to build excitement and expectations for the trip.
I also really loved the daily email from the resort about snow conditions by Bill Barker. The email was the perfect amount of information and helped us know what was ahead each day.
A quick wrap on what to expect for the day, which runs were open, temperatures and stunning photos from the across resort. And for those on Snapchat, Mount Hotham has some custom geofilters.
We flew into Melbourne and picked up our hire car (ask about rental insurance for the snow). Once we had the car registration details we were able to access Hotham Alpine Resort park entry – available online at $51 per day (this covers day parking and supports snow clearing and village maintenance).
We departed Melbourne at 10am and arrived at Dinner Plain at 5.55pm – just when the receptionist was packing up the Dinner Plain accommodation office. Along the 374km journey we stopped for snacks, op shops and lunch.
Our longest stop was at Myrtleford, where we picked up snow chains from Rays Ski Shop (compulsory in the high country) and went to Coles. I regret not getting more groceries at Myrtleford for the week ahead as the Dinner Plain supermarket is a tad tiny and Hotham Central’s supermarket is even smaller.
As we drove onto Harrietville for the final push up the mountain, I was clueless about how long the drive would take. As we approached the summit, it was like being in a movie. Everything around us was white and we were travelling at 20 km/h in a procession of cars, slowly making their way through an eerily lit cloud.
Before the trip, I made Mr 14 watch a series of Youtube tutorials on how-to attach snow chains.
I also packed a garbage bag to lay on the ground next to the tyre while attaching the chains.
The roads are well signposted as to when you need to attach snow chains and when to remove them. My eldest was a near snow chain expert towards the end of our week.
Mr 12 and Mr 14 were booked into a day-long lesson. Mr 12 loved it. His instructor was a Queenslander who taught him side slipping, hockey stop and more control on his turns.
Mr 14 was a little surly. He’s just at an awkward age. He was too old for the kids class but too young for the adults class. Mount Hotham – could classes for teenagers be an option? Put all the 13-17 year olds together and they can meet new people for Snapchat streaks.
I had a three-hour group lesson with a woman named Kate. She worked part-time at the resort and was on long-service leave from her job in Melbourne. Kate skied beautifully and there’s something about watching someone glide down a mountain perfectly and follow them as they call out instructions. And who doesn’t want to fine tune their technique?
Wifi or wi not wi fi
There was no wifi at our accommodation at Dinner Plain. I had planned to catch up on emails at a cafe, while the boys skiied, and so I ended up using my phone as a hotspot. Mr 14 also used my phone data to watch Season 3 of Stranger Things.
Our neighbours in Dinner Plain told us it was best to make a booking for dinner as the restaurants are swamped with holidaymakers. On the two evenings we went out, we ate wood fired pizza in the bar area of Hotel High Plains.
It was the perfect cosy, family-friendly alpine pub – open fire, kids playing billiards, a dart board. My sons and I went several rounds of Bananagrams while our pizza cooked. It was après-ski bliss.
Win some, lose some
There are 11 lifts and countless trails at Hotham Alpine Resort. The week we were there, it was blizzard-like conditions with new snow but also 70km/h winds sleet). The lifts higher up the mountain were closed due to high winds so there was only four lifts open with most of the school holidays crowd crammed onto a couple of runs. But that’s skiing, a weather gamble.
Please sir, can I have some more
I would love to ski Mount Hotham from one side of the valley to the other on a bluebird day. I would also love to explore the bushwalking paths around Dinner Plain. And I’m sure there are lots more perfect alpine pubs that I am yet to visit.
I would be up for another trip to Mount Hotham, I would just hope next time the weather gods shine on me and my brood.
Felicity was part hosted by Hotham Alpine Resort