It’s cold in Melbourne at the moment. The temperature hangs around 10 or 11°C. during the day and gets down around zero during the night. There is a bonus however.
Since we are now sliding off the back of the winter season, there are a few spring type days creeping in where the temperature gets around the 20°C mark. Now this is hardly a get-your-gear-off-and-lets-go-swimming situation, but it does let us enjoy some winter activity.
Now, Melbourne is not renowned for skiing. The best we can muster locally is a couple of flakes of the white stuff on the nearby hills during winter cold snaps. All is not lost, however. Melbourne is a few hours drive from some reasonable skiing and there is a whole industry which caters for those of us who hanker for a slide on the slopes.
There are about ten major ski resorts around Eastern Victoria and six in
Free newspapers such as the “Australian Alpine News” can be found in most “Surf Shops” and Ski hire places around town. Grab one of these and have a read. Aside from the advertisements for 4 wheel drive vehicles and fashion, there is plenty of information to help you to choose where you might want to go and how you are going to get there. The slopes are patrolled for your safety and well maintained. Transport to and from the slopes is well organised and co-ordinated. The relatively short ski season brings on a period of intense activity.
There is an official opening to the season and a closing, but, due to the weather, this is not always in line with what is really happening on the slopes. There are plenty of people on the mountains who are there for fun and the absence of snow never seems to reduce the festivities. It is a good idea to check that there is snow and that the lifts are operating before you shell out for an expensive day of non-skiing. Most of the Melbourne radio stations introduce a ‘snow report’ with their news bulletins, and this is always a good way to find out what is going on. You can even get slope weather reports over the phone – check out the front of the Yellow Pages for a list of dial up numbers.
Downhill skiing has a reputation for being expensive. Most of the resorts are controlled by the National parks, so there is the entry fee (A$17 to $A$25 per day), which usually includes the bus ticket up the hill, ski hire (A$25 to A$40 per day), lift tickets(A$35 to A$65 for a day ticket), and the seriously overpriced after-ski drinkies (I can’t give any indication of price. My memory blurs at this point). Lessons are available too (around A$35 per lesson).
Accommodation is available in most places. If you are lucky enough to ‘know someone’ you may be able to get into one of the lodges and score some accommodation on the mountain, but otherwise it’s a case of digging deep and paying the price or staying somewhere on the lowlands. University students, or youth hostellers, may find some cheap accommodation through the student union but you will need to book a lo-o-o-ong way in advance.
You can get some idea of the accommodation by pointing your browser at -
The Mt. Beauty Accommodation service,
For those who don’t want (or can’t afford) to stay, you could consider a
day trip. There are several companies that run a bus to various resorts
during the season, or you can elect to team up with a few friends and drive yourself. It makes quite a long day if you want to maximise your ski time and for this reason the bus is not a bad proposition.
A bus trip to Bulla will set you back about A$85. To have someone else do the driving while you sleep in the back makes it a whole lot easier. (The other reason is that there is always plenty of Police presence to remind you that you are driving too fast with a souvenir photo and a hefty fine.)
There are a lot more opportunities if you prefer to Cross country ski. Some of the smaller mountains, and the backs of the big ones, have well marked tracks and regular ski patrols. (It would be foolish to suggest that you should not plan to be able to manage on your own.) Maps and local information is available from the national parks service.
Most bushwalking clubs schedule snow trips at this time of the year and you can get in touch with an organisation such as the Melbourne bushwalkers or the Victorian Mountain Tramping Club if you would like to travel with experienced people.
Transport is not quite so easy for the X-Country venues. You usually need to travel in your own vehice, or with a group. (It’s worth the effort – I find that the harder a location is to get to, the less spoilt and populated is the area.)
Ski hire on the mountain is EXPENSIVE. There are plenty of hire places in Melbourne, or on the way. You’ll get a much better deal if you go for them.
There are a couple of places on the web you can look at for ski hire -
Paddy Palin, and
deja vu for starters. Just make sure that you can transport the gear if you do elect to take it with you.
Some more links to look at:
And a final word of advice to the beginners – Don’t eat yellow snow!
Late breaking news
We have had a warm patch of weather over the last week or so, turning many of the snowfields (and my credibility) to shit. I would advise you to check with the resorts before you go (otherwise, take plenty of drinking money).
Until next month…
If you want to know more about Melbourne look at the following links:
And best of all …. a picture of my boots