Mountainwatch | Drew Jolowicz
Situated in the heart of the Victorian Alps, Hotham Alpine Resort is a ‘must visit’ for anyone looking for breathtaking mountain scenery and terrain to match.
Nestled along the spectacular Great Alpine Road, Hotham is regarded by mot as being ‘Australia’s Powder Capital’ with its unique topography perfectly suited to catching snow from low-pressure systems spiralling up from the Southern Ocean.
Having said this though, it’s not all about deep snow and double black diamonds. There is plenty of terrain to suit all abilities from the first timer to intermediates right through to the expert powder frother looking to get after it. Below is the inside scoop on everything you need to know when considering a road trip to Hotham.
Hotham is accessible from Melbourne by road in two directions. Option one takes you along the Hume Highway to Wangaratta, then follow the signs onto the Great Alpine Road, which takes you directly to Hotham. Distance is 380km and approximately 4.25 hours of travel time depending on weather and road conditions.
If the weather is adverse option two takes you on the Monash Freeway/Princess Hwy to Bairnsdale, then Omeo where you merge onto the Great Alpine Road for the last part of your journey. Whilst the 460 km travel distance is slightly longer this can be a better option if it is snowing heavily.
First timers and beginners will love the gentle slopes and wide-open spaces that the Summit and Big D offer. On a sunny day the top of the Summit chair affords majestic 360degree views over the Victorian Alps. If the weather is a little on the wild side head to the Big D for protection from the elements.
Intermediates are also well catered for, the Road Runner and Orchard Quads offering moderate perfectly groomed blue runs for the ultimate cruiser. Be sure to ride the Orchard Chair on a sunny day for spectacular views of the Razorback Ridge and Mt Feathertop’s south face.
When it comes to advanced terrain, this is where Hotham really comes into its own. On a ‘powder day’ head straight for Heavenly Valley where you can enjoy steep gullies and ridgelines as well as some great tree skiing in snowy weather. From here it’s time load the Gotcha chair which accesses some of Australia’s best heart pumping expert terrain. If your legs aren’t spent by now, then finish a powder morning with a lap on ‘One Tree Hill’ accessed from the Orchard Chair.
Backcountry (where to find the goods)
Now, without revealing all the hidden gems, Hotham has some breathtaking side country just beyond the boundary ropes, for those willing to earn their turns. Areas such as Dargo Bowl, Eagle Ridge and the Razorback offer wide-open spaces and great snow days after a snowfall. As with any backcountry travel, know before you go. Avoid travelling alone and be sure to check avalanche advisories, whilst ensuring you are carrying appropriate safety equipment.
Also making a return this year is the Victorian Backcountry Festival. After moving online last year due to Covid, this year’s event is back bigger, better than ever! The three-day event will take place from September 3-5 with the full speaker and outdoor events program to be released soon. Keep up to date with details at www.backcountry-festival.com.
New for 2021 – Snowmaking Central
Hotham’s seen a significant upgrade to its already impressive snowmaking system for the 2021 season. Ready and raring to go are eight new state-of-the-art mobile snow guns. These TechnoAlpin T40 and TR 10 machines have already been busy laying down a base to complement natural snowfalls.
A major advantage of this upgrade is the ability to manoeuvre resources around. Essentially the operations team can assess which areas need an extra boost and move guns to make more snow in these areas, helping secure some of Hotham’s favourite terrain earlier and later in the season.
Where To Eat and Après
For lunch head straight to the Snowbird for great well-priced hearty lunches and a warm open fire. Sit out on the ‘Bird Balcony’ and enjoy a beer in the afternoon sun. Alternatively, jump on the free village bus and get off at the General Store where they offer an exceptional lunch and dinner menu as well as great views off their balcony. When it comes to après The General shines as the sun goes down, including sets from the legendary DJ Eddy on Monday nights.
If you’re looking for a quick caffeine pit stop, head straight to Hotham Hotel or the Chill Bar for great coffee and snacks. If you really want to maximise your time on the snow, stop in at Snake Gully Hut for coffee right next to the Heavenly Valley Chair.
Where To Stay
There is a wide variety of accommodation on offer in the village, which is uniquely located at the top of the mountain. There’s everything from lodge style options, self-contained apartments right through to luxury chalets conveniently located right next to the Village Chair. The team at Hotham Holidays have got you covered when it comes to organising where to stay.
See here for accommodation options.
One thing for certain is there’s heaps of fun to be had on a road trip to Hotham. Jump in the car and come visit for breathtaking mountain vistas, great terrain and a unique village atmosphere.
Vail’s ownership and the Epic Australia Pass
On April 5, 2019, Vail Resorts announced they’d officially acquired both Hotham and Falls Creek ski resorts. What does them spending approximately AU$179 million on the resorts mean for the everyday skier?
Well, we might take Perisher as a case study, considering they were subject to a similar acquisition in 2015 and no doubt Perisher regulars will be pleased to hear their season passes just got a whole lot ‘epic-er’.
Those with an ‘Epic Australia Pass‘ can now ski Hotham, Falls Creek and Perisher on the one season pass and are also connected to Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Park City, Breckenridge and more in North America, as well as Hakuba Valley and Rusutsu in Japan.
Ski Level – 20% Beginner / 20% Intermediate / 40% Advanced
Lift Serviced Skiing Area – 245 hectares
Vertical Metres – 395m
Peak Elevation – 1861m
Longest Run – 2.5km
Lifts – 13
Snowmaking Area – 38ha
Official Opening Day – 10 June 2018.
On Mountain Beds – 7000
Longest Run – 2.5km