The White Stuff: Mount Buller

28 Oct

Australians used to flying to New Zealand and Japan to ski now have several choices at home. For better or for worse for our planet, snow-making capabilities have been installed and the short ski season is now much more reliable.

I selfishly wanted my two Melbourne nieces (aged 7 and 4) to be introduced to skiing while they have low centres of gravity and reflexive learning so researched our local options. Falls Creek and Mount Buller are two Victorian resorts recommended for novice skiers. Mount Buller won out with the shortest driving distance from Melbourne, just over three hours without traffic. Amusingly the route passes through the real Bonnie Doon. (Watch the Australian movie ‘The Castle’ if you don’t know Bonnie Doon).

I recruited son Cameron and his fiancee Eliza who live in Melbourne to help wrangle the kids and booked an apartment near the main Buller lifts complex for two nights on a mid-winter weekend. I chose to teach Lila, the seven-year-old, myself and booked four-year-old Ivy, into ski school for their weekend half-day program (9am-1pm).

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Apartment night view

That first weekend was successful and enjoyable. Lila progressed to hands on knees schussing and controlled stops. Ivy discovered a consuming passion for eating snow. More importantly both girls had huge fun. To cement Lila’s learning we drove up to Mt Buller again a few weeks later with Stuart and both sets of sons and girlfriends. We made the difficult, but sensible decision that more than six hours driving in one day would be too much for a four-year-old and Ivy stayed home with Mum and Dad.

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My impression of Mount Buller is generally favourable. It has sufficient runs of different levels to make a weekend interesting but a week would be pushing it. The kids’ ski school was competent and efficient, although located as it is at the top of a steep path it makes a for a hard slog on ice and snow dragging skis and poles and kids uphill.

The separate free toboggan slope was similarly well managed. Unfortunately daytrippers didn’t seem to know about it. I must have told 20 people that if they wanted to avoid a hefty fine, clearly signed, they had better relocate from the ski slope to the tobogganing area across the road.

Now we come to the main drawback. Money. The short season encourages operators to charge a premium for everything. When costs are aggregated; accommodation, transport, lift pass, ski/snowboard equipment rental, compulsory snow chain rental, park entrance fee, lessons, food etc., I realised what an expensive sport it is for Australian families.

Small wonder Australians don’t feature strongly in winter sports internationally when a weekend of family swimming costs $30 and family skiing $3000.

As for us we’ll try to find a way to keep the girls skiing! Watch this space.

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4 Responses to “The White Stuff: Mount Buller”

  1. Michelle Noble October 29, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Hey Sharon and Stuart. Good to see you are keeping up your ski fitness! Difficult to think of Australia at both end of the extremes at present with snow AND hideous fires. The planet has gone mad…..Wild and wet storms here in the UK these last 24 hours. And our garden furniture in France is apparently strewn across the garden; but no snow on the ground in Venosc yet. It’s on its way! M&B xx

    • Sharon Tickle October 30, 2013 at 12:01 am #

      Hi Michelle and Bryan,

      Saw the TV footage of west European storms and the stats are saddening. So many people caught out. Here we were begging for rain until gentle rain storm answered our prayers last night.

      Hope your garden clean up goes well.

      Stu did his knee playing tennis with a pro (man will never learn…) and is in knee rehab for several more weeks. Can’t even dance at Cam’s wedding in ten days time. Should be fine for skiing in early March. We plan a few days with Martin in St Martin then relocate to Verbier for a week with friends. We are driving so will try to swing by for a cup of tea with you if the roads aren’t horrible.

      Bye for now,

      Sharon xx

      • Michelle Noble October 30, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

        Good job Stu isn’t the flamenco dancer! Would be great to see you as and when you’re back in the Alps. And in the meantime best wishes to Cam and new to be wife. What a fab party you’re going to have 🙂 xx

      • Sharon Tickle October 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

        Thank you my friend ;-))

        Hasta luego,

        Sharon

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