When the Astra Lodge opened in Falls Creek in 1988, the Age wrote: “The living and ‘play’ areas are so enticing it may be hard to leave them for the ski slopes.”
The luxury chalet, which in the late 1980s was one of the mountain’s – and Victoria’s – most sought-after winter accommodations, was sold by the owners after only a few years.
The hotel “was built nearly 30 years ago, and it was sort of the place of Falls Creek,” says Rosy Seaton who, with husband Seumas, bought the site in 2014.
When Seaton went looking for someone to restore the lodge to its former grandeur, she was given the name of one of the building’s original architects – a man called Grant Amon.
“When I called [Amon], he said it was a dream come true – that he’d never really felt it had been finished,” Seaton says. Amon came on board as the architect, and “was able to come back to do what he’d originally meant to do”.
The current incarnation of the Astra Lodge has been open for the past three winters, with the site overrun with construction workers during summers. In June, when the lodge opens for the ski season, it will do so in its final, restored form.
The Seatons wanted to return the lodge to its “heyday look”, but make it modern. The 27 rooms are all based on the style of European ski lodges.
Copper and hand-cut stone have been used on the exterior. The interiors are filled with locally sourced, custom-finished timber and touches of granite, leather and steel. A large flagstone fireplace sits in the heart of the lounge and bar area.
“I wanted … all natural materials, sourced locally. We didn’t want anything too slick, but for everything to have its own character,” Seaton says.
“The locker room has a huge, peanut-shaped cedar bench in the middle that’s been handmade for us. The whole room smells of cedar; it’s superb… Then you ski out straight from the locker room, down a slope to the ski lift that will take you up to the top of the mountain. At the end of the day, you come via a different route, and ski straight back into the locker room.”
There’s also a day spa, library and a subterranean magnesium mineral pool, with views out to the snow.
Astra’s fine dining restaurant is Italian-themed and pasta-heavy. In addition to the regular breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, there is an “après-ski” each afternoon at 3pm with Swiss-style cheese fondue.
Even though this season will be the first that Astra is fully finished, the design has already earned international recognition. Last year it won first place in the Best Ski Boutique Hotel category at the World Ski Awards in Austria. It’s been nominated again this year for the same award.
“It was down on its heel, but we always saw its potential,” says Seaton. “Seumas and I were not hoteliers, but we’re learning very quickly.
“I think what differentiates us is personalised family service. We’ll go an extra length to do whatever [the customer] wants. They’re not just a number.”
Après-ski fondue and panoramic views of the mountain don’t hurt, either.