No doubt you remember your first time. Mine was just last week. Standing atop the mountain at Falls Creek, as a blizzard swarmed around and the instructor barked inaudible orders, I swore to myself, Never again! Yet, there’s something about skiing that makes it impossible to quit after one attempt, even when you wake in the night reaching for the painkillers, and even when that bottle of schnapps keeps calling you back to the bar.
Day Two and I was on the mountain again, schlepping up and down a low slope until the instructor pronounced my snowploughs superb. Today, assuming the position in my lounge room (legs in line with hips, knees slightly bent, back straight, gaze forward not down), it all seems so easy. And I can’t wait to go back.
There are seven ski resorts in Victoria, and Tourism Victoria has coined the phrase A whole lot moreski to get interstate visitors to one or all of them. Falls Creek is the biggest, with a skiing area totalling 450 hectares. Plus, there’s the double black diamond-rated Mt McKay, where very advanced skiers and snowboarders try their luck on ungroomed terrain, and another 245 hectares are just a helicopter ride away at Mt Hotham (where Falls Creek lift passes are also valid).
I’ll confess. Though I couldn’t quit after one attempt, I did after two. Satisfied with my ability to snowplough, bones aching, hair frozen and face stinging, I threw in the towel. No matter -“ chairlifts go up, and chairlifts go back down. And there’s more to snow than skiing.
Like ski-dooing, for instance. Hop on one of these babies and there’s no turning back. These motorcycles on skis, or snowmobiles if you please, instantly became my preferred method of transport around the village. The fun-loving folk at Falls Creek’s Adventure Park offer a self-drive (guided) snowmobile tour at night, departing from the top of the Summit Quad chairlift. There’s night skiing too, but why bother when you can ski-doo?
Snow tubing is another crazy alternative-ski. Here’s how this controlled tobogganing works:
Step 1: Read (optional), sign and date disclaimer form.
Step 2: Collapse into a tyre tube-like inflatable.
Step 3: Sit back and relax as attendant attaches your inflatable to a tow rope and you ascend the mountain.
Step 4: When you feel the inflatable fall into a ditch, disembark -“ this is your stop.
Step 5: Hurtle down the mountain in the inflatable, remembering that if you are approaching the barrier feet-first, use your hands or feet to turn around, or you will break both legs.
Step 6: Repeat steps 2 to 5 until (a) half an hour is up and your pass has expired; (b) you’ve had enough; or (c) you are being carried away on a stretcher because you didn’t follow the previous instruction.
If that sounds like too much of a thrill, you can also try freestyle tubing -“ same as above, but in a steerable tube that has its own brakes. And there’s more. Night skirmish (using lasers, and on skis) plus snow bikes will debut this season.
For a more leisurely, less aggressive jaunt in the powder, try the only dog sled tours in the southern hemisphere. A team of eight Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies and their driver (Greg) take you from Windy Corner down to Rocky Valley Dam, then out along the Panorama Loop Ski Trail. The views of the dam to the left and the ski slopes to the right are spectacular. I climbed aboard with some trepidation, but got a real buzz out of seeing the dogs seemingly having a rollicking good time, despite their puffing and panting. Most of all, they enjoyed a cuddle from their passengers and a bowl of chow at the end of the line.
Speaking of chow, there’s plenty on offer at Falls, and it’s all good. Over two days my travelling companions and I managed to squeeze in three fine dining experiences: delicious dinners at Winterhaven Restaurant and the Window to the Alps, and a divine Mediterranean lunch at the classy Caf?ilch (designed by Melbourne A-lister Ian Wilson). We gravitated back to Milch often, for breakfast, hot chocolates and pre-dinner drinks.
Milch is located at Frueauf Village, which is probably the fanciest accommodation on the mountain. Featuring luxury self-contained apartments and chalets, Frueauf has copper, wood and stone exteriors, outdoor spas, fully equipped European-style kitchens and RG Madden and Map furniture. Though they are very pricey, there’s room in most for you and yours and a few close friends. I can also recommend Attunga, which has hotel-style rooms as well as apartments. At the other end of the scale, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful lodges to choose from too.
And remember, if you are a late starter like me, maybe moreski is less ski.
Falls Creek is 7.5 hours drive from Sydney. Fly/drive and it’s a five-hour trip if you’re landing at Melbourne and three hours if you fly to Albury. Freecall 1800 453 525 or go to www.fallscreek.com.au for information on specials and package deals.