Alpine cosiness is a warm open fire, snow pattering on the window and a hot chocolate or gluhwein in hand.
Throw in some conversation about the day’s skiing, and a hearty goulash dinner to come, and you could be at one of the laid-back, convivial ski lodges dotted through Australia’s alpine regions.
Despite a recent proliferation of high-end apartments, hotels and designer homes at Australian snow resorts, lodges are the stalwarts of our snow scene.
They mostly popped up in the mountains in the 1950s and ’60s when like-minded people shared the excitement of establishing a base on the snowfields, and they have doggedly endured through the winters ever since.
The lodges’ long shelf life is probably due to their affordability and family friendliness, as well as being very social places where you meet other guests and amiable hosts.
Lodges generally fall into two categories: commercial and club.
The commercial lodges are catered and vary in standards from luxury to basic and charge accordingly. The club lodges usually require a joining fee, an annual fee, a token nightly fee, and possibly participation in working bees.
At Falls Creek, Diana Lodge (commercial) charges about $120 a night in low season, including breakfast and dinner, while a member of a self-catering club lodge may pay as little as $35 a night. But either way, it’s good value and smashes the perception that skiing is only for the elite.
Most lodges these days have private bedrooms with ensuites, but they have shared common areas such as kitchens and lounges where you get to mingle with other guests and swap those skiing stories around the fire.
Some of the lowest-cost lodges are self-catering, so you need to bring food and drink, but others have their own little in-house restaurants and bars.
Diana’s manager Lisa Logan says food is the way to every skier’s heart. “And by providing meals, it means people don’t suffer from wallet fatigue by constantly having to dine out or shop for food.”
Any lodge manager will tell you they have guests who come back year after year, and Lisa gives the example of two families who met at the lodge more than 10 years ago.
“They have stayed friends and the parents and the children now regard each other as family. I have watched the kids grow up and I have stayed with them, or joined them for meals and experiences away from Falls Creek. To me it is the epitome of what I do and why I do it: making friends.”
Lodges we like
Ski Club of Victoria, Mount Buller
Diana Lodge, Falls Creek
Nelse Lodge, Falls Creek
Karnulurra Lodge, Mount Hotham
Pegasus Alpine Lodge, Mount Hotham
Boali Lodge, Thredbo
The curtain will rise on the Australian snow season on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend on 10 June. Here are some of the new developments waiting for skiers.
- Mount Buller has installed a $1.6 million snow factory. Shipped from Italy, it is an Australian first and can produce snow 24 hours a day, seven days a week in temperatures up to 15 degrees. Resort managers say skiers can confidently look forward to skiable snow on Bourke Street on the opening weekend.
- Mount Hotham will complete a two-year, $4.4 million snowmaking expansion this season, increasing coverage from 25 to 33 hectares, including Heavenly Valley trails. Group lessons (for 15 years+) have been lengthened by 30 minutes to 2½ hours.
- At Falls Creek, there are four new mobile snow guns and two extra winch-cat groomers to keep the snow nice, but the big news is that the Eagle Chairlift will be replaced after this season with a high-speed lift along the same line. There’s talk of another new lift, too, but details are under wraps.
- Across the border, New South Wales’ Thredbo is celebrating 60 years. It is installing a commemorative bell at 2037 metres (at the top of Karels T-bar, the highest lifted point in Australia) and also releasing a coffee-table book in June about the resort’s pioneers and legends.
See Australia’s favourite ski runs.