Hotham is regarded by most as being Australia’s ‘Powder Capital’ with its unique topography perfectly suited to catching snow from low-pressure systems spiralling up from the Southern Ocean.
Having said this though, it’s not all about deep snow and double black diamonds. There’s terrain to suit all abilities from the first timer to intermediates right through to the expert powder frother looking to get after it! Below is the inside scoop on everything you need to know when considering a road trip to Hotham.
Hotham is accessible from Melbourne by road in 2 directions. Option one takes you along the Hume Highway to Wangaratta, then follow the signs onto the Great Alpine Road, which takes you directly to Hotham. Distance is 380km and approximately 4.25 hours of travel time depending on weather and road conditions.
If the weather is adverse option 2 takes you on the Monash Freeway/Princess Hwy to Bairnsdale then Omeo where you merge onto the Great Alpine Road for the last part of your journey. Whilst the 460 km travel distance is slightly longer this can be a better option if it is snowing heavily.
First timers and beginners will love the gentle slopes and wide-open spaces that the Summit and Big D offer. On a sunny day the top of the Summit chair affords majestic 360degree views over the Victorian Alps. If the weather is a little on the wild side head to the Big D, for protection from the elements.
Intermediates are also well catered for. The Road Runner and Orchard Quads offer moderate perfectly groomed blue runs for the ultimate cruiser! Be sure to ride the Orchard Chair on a sunny day for spectacular views of the Razorback Ridge and Mt Feathertop’s south face!
When it comes to advanced terrain, this is where Hotham really comes into its own. On a ‘powder day’ head straight for Heavenly Valley were you will enjoy steep gullies and ridgelines, as well as some great tree skiing in snowy weather. From here it’s time load the Gotcha chair which accesses some of Australia’s best heart pumping expert terrain! If your legs aren’t spent by now, then finish a powder morning with a lap on ‘One Tree Hill’ accessed from the Orchard Chair.
7:30 HV Starts (Early birds get the worm!)
Not only does the mountain have some of Australia’s most exhilarating terrain, you can also access it earlier, at no extra cost. During peak season the Heavenly Valley Chair operates from 7:30am (Wed-Sun). Enjoy the smooth corduroy as the sun rises over the resort, or fresh powder turns before anyone else in the country!
3 insider tips for the advanced rider (feeling like a local)
1: Loch Car park: For the intermediate to advanced rider the Loch car park can be a great place to start your day. Located at the top of Heavenly Valley, park your car, put your gear on and go!
2: McColl’s Bowl: If the day car park is full, never fear. Park down at the Big D and drop straight into McColl’s located just across the road. On a powder day enjoy this steep wide-open face, or the gladed trees to the left or right.
3: Out of your Tree (secret spot): Well it’s not really a secret, but it can be tricky to find. Accessed from the top of the Gotcha Chair, head along the ridge adjacent to Mary’s Slide. Towards the end of the ridge peel off to the left where a steep wide open powder bowl awaits. At the bottom connect onto the Mary’s return trail and follow this all the way back to Heavenly Valley.
Backcountry (where to find the goods)
Now without revealing all the hidden gems, Hotham has some breathtaking side country just beyond the boundary ropes, for those willing to earn their turns. Areas such as Dargo Bowl, Eagle Ridge and the Razorback offer wide-open spaces and great snow, days after a snowfall. As with any backcountry travel, know before you go. Avoid travelling alone and be sure to check avalanche advisories, whilst ensuring you are carrying appropriate safety equipment.
Best eats and après:
For lunch head straight to the Snowbird for great well priced hearty lunches and a warm open fire. Sit out on the ‘Bird Balcony’ and enjoy a beer in the afternoon sun. Alternatively jump on the free village bus and get off at the General Store where they offer an exceptional lunch and dinner menu as well as great views off their balcony. When it comes to après The General shines as the sun goes down, including sets from the legendary DJ Eddy on Monday nights!
If you’re looking for a quick caffeine pit stop, head straight to Swindlers or the Chill Bar for great coffee and snacks. If you really want to maximise your time on the snow, stop in at Snake Gully Hut for coffee right next to the Heavenly Valley Chair.
There is a wide variety of accommodation on offer in the village, which is uniquely located at the top of the mountain. There’s everything from lodge style options, self contained apartments right through to luxury chalets conveniently located right next to the Village Chair! The team at Hotham Holidays have got you covered when it comes to organising where to stay.
Hopefully this local knowledge will help you gain maximum enjoyment out of a road trip to Hotham. Whether it’s knowing where to go and when, or finding the fresh snow before anyone else, these inside tips and tricks will have you feeling like a local in no time!