B’rush featured in Onya Magazine

This article first appeared in Onya Magazine, 2009

If you were to look up Australian holiday in the dictionary, I am pretty sure the definition would read something like:

Australian holiday: typically; Sun, Sand and Surf.

As an Aussie girl, I love that kind of holiday as much as the next bronzed body, but for a few months every year, Victorians are privy to a very different kind of getaway – one that consists of Snow, Skis and Schnapps.

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Mt Hotham is Victoria’s premier ski resort, with 320 hectares of terrain covering all levels of ability at an elevation of 1861m. With 13 lifts covering the mountain, 20 restaurants and bars, and nearly 30 places to stay, Hotham offers so much for everyone; you’ll want to come back year after year.

I have been visiting Hotham for as long as I can remember. As a kid, my cousins and I would toboggan down the slope closest to our lodge, while as an adult I have skittered down this same slope in the wee hours of the morning after a night at the pub. Hotham is as much about the snow play as it is the nightlife. This year I spent a week at Hotham, accompanied by my Dad, brother, a friend, an Aunt and Uncle, as well as various friends of friends. Whether you are in a group or on your own, the snow is a brilliant place to visit and enjoy the ‘other’ type of holiday Aussie’s love.

It will take you a good 5 to 6 hours to drive to Hotham from Melbourne, or jump on Qantaslink and be there before the sun is up. Driving through Hotham Village will set the mood for your stay, cars and people line the street and buses carrying day-trippers host curious faces at the windows. For those who have never visited the mountain before, the all white landscape is incredible, and if you are lucky enough to arrive while it’s snowing, you will be sold on the magic of it forever.

The weather will play a major role in your snow adventure. Perfect days with blue skies, fluffy clouds and a minor increase in the mercury will see you out on the slopes by 9am, barely pausing to refuel around noon and sending you out again until the last lift rides at 5pm. On the flipside, a grey day with rain and fog will keep you inside with the hopes of a dumping of the white stuff overnight, but all is not lost if the weather hasn’t come to the party. Hotham has as much to do inside as they do out – I am sure there are even guests at Hotham who have never strapped on a pair of skis or a board. The many restaurants and bars are the perfect place to ride out a storm, or perhaps a trip to one of the two day spas to rest up weary muscles before another day on your feet.

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Our first day on the slopes presented clear and bright. We joined the other snow bunnies and boarder boys on the Summit, to warm up our out of practise bodies and within hours you would never have known this is a sport I only participate in a few days of the year. The Sun Run, Village and Heavenly Valley followed – and the feeling of exhilaration and speed as I come down the mountain is something I love so much. As an intermediate skier, approximately 60% of Hotham’s playground is available to me, 20% of which is basic beginner stuff. Lessons are available for those out of practise or new to the game, and will quickly get you on your feet and headed vertical down a slope.

Zirkys is somewhat of an institution at Mt Hotham, and we stopped here on the first day for a quick lunch and to compare notes. Inspired by ski lodges in Austria and Germany, Zirkys is fitted out with wooden features and ornate soft lighting that takes you back to the ‘70s. The wood décor and open fire can make you feel warm on the coldest of days, while steam rising from the simple meals reaches right to the tips of your fingers and toes. A hot chocolate or a beer go down equally as well after a day on the slopes, and on the more pleasant of days this can be enjoyed in the sun on the deck, while more determined skiers whiz past. Zirkys isn’t cheap – a bowl of chips and a hot chocolate in the bistro will set you back close to $15, but even if you just call in for a look, Zirkysdemands your attention when visiting Hotham.

A long day on your feet deserves a good nights’ sleep and B’rush Ski Lodge is located a just a few minutes walk from the main road. B’rush can house families, friends and singles – the accommodation reminds me a bit of being on school camp, but with all luxuries a snow holiday deserves. There are 8 rooms, able to sleep 40, each divided into doubles and bunks. You may have a room on your own but you may also be sharing with someone you have never met – great when you are travelling alone or just wish to meet new people with a shared interest. The large commercial kitchen gives all guests the space they need to prepare gourmet meals, and the communal dining room is another opportunity to meet with your hosts, lodge managers Rosemary and Norm, and share a drink while mingling with other guests. After dining, the entertainment opportunities are endless – relax in the outdoor spa, or sweat it out in the sauna. Take in a movie in the home cinema room, or enjoy the open fire and views over the mountains.

Days of average weather followed, but literature, cinema and cards games prevailed. Walks to the local store for the newspaper or the shuttle bus to Hotham Central for a spot of shopping kept us entertained and endless bottles of wine ensured laughs were had and new friends were made. Our final night took us to the Last Run Bar at Lawlers Apartments for dinner, a restaurant that again uses a lot of wood in the décor, and brings together a high end menu in a family style restaurant. You won’t find pub favourites on this menu – kangaroo, duck and salmon are the order of the day. I enjoyed the salmon, with a seeded crust and served with a buckwheat noodle salad, and I can say it was divine. My companions ordered king prawns, lamb shanks and linguini among others, and nay a complaint was heard. The Last Run Bar has the quirky addition of being able to colour in the placemats on tables, with assorted pencils scattered on the tables. It has been three years since I dined at The Last Run Bar, and I am sorry to report that the same picture has been on the tables since 1994. Their menu might have been updated, but perhaps its time to modernise the illustrations?

Our last night deserved a last hurrah, so those of us this side of 30 headed to The General for further drinks, music and frivolity. Previous years at The General have rendered me stumbling home in the ice at 2am, but this years’ session on a Thursday evening proved to be different. Showing me that Hotham really is a place for one and all, The General pumped heavy metal music and was frequented by many guests the other side of 30. Past years have seen me at this establishment on a Saturday, when a typical night out involved the Top 40 hits and inappropriately dressed girls who clearly forgot that snow + night time = really cold. We stayed and had a drink to round out our week before returning to the lodge for the final time, reminiscing about a week when riding a chairlift in the wind feels like it will never end, but unfortunately in the blink of an eye, it does. It’s time to return to Melbourne.

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We pack up and check out and are again on the road, headed home in anticipation for summer. Another year with nothing more than bruises and hangovers proving yet again that snow holidays at Mt Hotham really are the best fun you can have with a lot of clothes on. Whether you come for a day, a weekend, or a week, Mt Hotham will surprise and delight you, give you something new to try everyday, and make memories and friends for a lifetime. If you have always been a sun, sand and surf kind of Aussie, grab some skis or a board and head to Hotham for a change. The snowfield is your playground.

To find out more about Mt Hotham visit http://www.mthotham.com.au

Images thanks to B’rush Ski Lodge and Sarah Kempson.