For those who haven’t yet found themselves convinced of the pleasures of skiing, the Victorian Alps are a largely undiscovered country. But a 6.5 - 7 hour drive or a short flight from Sydney lies one of Australia’s most dramatic landscapes, with gumtrees bowing under the weight of snow, fat brown rivers carving through green valleys and an unbroken line of craggy peaks.
North East Victoria is also home to a blossoming food culture, with a growing selection of brilliant chefs making unpretentious food in restaurants filled with visitors and locals alike. Mt Beauty – a little town at the foothills of Mt Bogong – and Falls Creek are alive with great new venues.
Nelse Lodge is the personification of alpine charm: a fireplace mumbling away day and night; a spa and sweat lodge; couches deep enough to lose a child in; and wood-panelled everything. Best of all, though, is thoughtful young chef Tristan Skitt, who is one of Falls Creek’s best-kept secrets. We recommend his braised duck leg with mushroom polenta. He also makes a chicken terrine you could eat like a loaf of bread.
17 Slalom Street, Falls Creek
(03) 5758 3263
Chorki Ski Lodge
If you’re looking for something a little simpler, the recently renovated Chorki Ski Lodge is an extremely comfortable little chalet. Its brand-new kitchen looks southward into the mountain ranges and the communal lounge couldn’t be more cosy.
3 Snowgum Lane, Falls Creek
Dreamers, a string of serviced apartments in Mt Beauty, is pretty fancy. All of the units look out over a lagoon to the mountain range, where the sun rises are spectacular. Each room, however, has some surprising features: a table crafted from an iron door, a transparent bath above the stairs or a communal stone hot tub.
218 Kiewa Valley Highway, Mount Beauty
(03) 5754 1222
Cross Country Skiing
Falls Creek boasts some of the most advanced cross country skiing in Victoria, where you'll be rewarded with incredible views of the Bogong High Plains and Kiewa Valley as you set off on the Nordic trails that border the Rocky Valley Dam. Perched at the top of the Alpine Village, the Falls Creek Nordic Centre is the go-to destination for all things related to cross country skiing, from hiring gear to getting professional lessons, advice and tips.
YMCA Falls Creek Nordic Centre
Windy Corner, Falls Creek
Bogong High Plains Road, Falls Creek
(03) 5758 3408
Nordic Snow Shoeing
Put on a cable-knit and strap on some big foot clamps that prevent you from falling over in the snow, then head out on to the tracks around Falls Creek and into the National Park. If you're a bit wobbly on your feet and bad with directions, let an experienced hiker show you the way with a guided tour, available through Falls Creek Sports.
Falls Creek Sports, Village Bowl
Bogong Horseback Adventures
Spring Spur Stables, home of Bogong Horseback Adventures, is one of the world’s great pieces of real estate. Sitting at the foot of Mt Bogong, the Baird’s family home has some pretty spectacular views across the Kiewa Valley. The Bairds are versed in the arts of Horse Whispery (really), and use a technique called Natural Horsemanship to make horse do things you didn’t know they could do. You might feel all Man from Snowy River in a couple of hours, but keep in mind, riding is unexpectedly hardcore. The next day is never as fun.
Spring Spur Stables, 52 Fredas Lane, Tawonga
(03) 5754 4849
Wandering into Milch, a cafe on the upper tiers of the village, is like being invited into your friend’s kitchen. Effervescent owner Jaye Fetchen will plonk you down in front of the cast iron fire, ply you with butterscotch schnapps and serve up some hearty, homely fare like lamb cutlets dressed in rosemary balsamic.
Frueauf Village, 4 Schuss Street, Falls Creek
(03) 5758 3407
The gentlemen behind popular Bronte cafe Three Blue Ducks have translated their Sydney aesthetic to a winter retreat in Falls Creek – The Gully. While The Gully’s focus is firmly on local produce and wine in dishes like a smoked trout and herb fishcake, duck Maryland with chilli jam and eight-hour beef cheeks, the do import superb coffee made by Surry Hill’s Single Origin roasters.
3 Sitzmark Street, Falls Creek
(03) 5758 3863
A Skafferi Cafe at Svarmisk
Boasting one of the finest views in Mt Beauty, A Skafferi Cafe, as its name might suggest, is all about doing it Scandinavian. An ultra-modern edifice set on a hillside, A Skafferi’s owner Lena Mero serves up classic Swedish fare like meatballs, herring with aged cheddar and, of course, hot sour apple schnapps.
84 Bogong High Plains Road, Mount Beauty
(03) 5754 4544
Stockpot is a sweet little restaurant run by former pro-skier and all-round good guy Mitch Smith and his wife Sum. With an eclectic menu in which pizzas and curries tussle with lamb shanks and steak burgers, Mexican and Asian share double billing. But the one unifying factor is that everything’s delicious. Duck spring rolls are crispy and light and a generous eye fillet is exactingly cooked, which – let’s face it – is unusual. And for that reason, it's packed to the gills with locals and visitors alike.
231 Kiewa Valley Highway, Tawonga South
(03) 5754 4114
Regular daily flights fly from Sydney to Albury Airport (an easy hour's flight). Albury Airport is just over an hour's drive to Mount Beauty, and a 2 hour drive to Falls Creek.