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The trails less travelled 

By Justin Jenvey

Posted 5 Sep 2019

Hotham is known as the mountain for serious skiers and boarders with the best advanced terrain in Australia and powder days that can match the top resorts in the Northern Hemisphere. 

But did you know that Hotham has outstanding cross-country skiing and even though it may not be as well known for cross-country as some other Australian resorts, the quality of terrain is world class.

It is one of the mountain’s hidden gems and Traverse Hotham owner Glen Clark knows the resort’s cross-country skiing better than most, offering group beginner lessons, private sessions and tours.

“The cross-country skiing here is as good if not better than anywhere,” Glen beams.

“A big reason for that is because the grooming team are all ex or current Nordic skiers that know how to get the best out of the snow and conditions.”

Unique trails

Hotham’s cross-country skiing is also unique as trails are more sheltered than on other mountains while offering a different scenic experience as tracks meander through woodlands and snow gums.

Another point of difference is the ability to ski from one village to another - Hotham to Dinner Plain or vice versa offers an almost European-like experience.

If you’re staying at Hotham the cross-country trails begin in the Davenport area and continue all the way to Dinner Plain, with most found beyond Wire Plain, 4km from Hotham Central.

The Hotham and Dinner Plain trail networks combined offer up to 35km of groomed cross-country skiing with circuits ranging in length from 2km to 15km and terrain to suit beginner to advanced pursuits.

Signage marks all trails and includes unique identifying codes on sign posts at each junction.

“We talk about discovering trails less travelled, getting away from the crowds of the downhill slopes with no lift queues and the ability to go free range,” Glen says.

“Most people don’t know cross country skiing exists at Hotham and it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the high country.

Why try it

If you’ve had enough of the frantic pace of downhill skiing or snowboarding and want to try another snowsport then cross-country or Nordic skiing might be the option for you.

Additionally, if you’ve suffered an injury or your body no longer allows you to enjoy the downhill slopes, cross-country skiing is less intense and a lower impact activity that allows you to still enjoy the snow.

Glen recommends first timers take a lesson where they can learn the basics like getting up safely and in control and how to get maximum mileage for minimum effort with an efficient glide technique.

“It is quite different to downhill skiing and will help improve your balance skills,” Glen explains.

Glen’s last tip for those starting out is to not be intimidated by big hills as there is always the option for people to remove their skis and walk up sections, always doing so on the edge of the trails so as not to damage them.

Three cross-country trails Glen suggests you try:

For Beginners

For people new to cross country skiing an ideal starting block is the Wonderland Trail. Rated green and only 1.2km out and back this trail gives you a sense of the beauty of the alpine environment. At the end of the trail you have the option of continuing onto several blue trails most of which aren’t too difficult. If you don’t think you’re ready for a step up in grade head back to Wire Plain and from here you can try some of the Brabralung Trail (Hotham to Dinner Plain) which runs adjacent to the Great Alpine Road.  

More Advanced

For those with a bit more experience under their belt the Christmas Hill Trail is an enjoyable one. Starting from Slatey Car Park or Bus Stop 11 you can reach Christmas Hill Trail via a challenging climb up Charlie’s Trail while the Christmas Hill Trail provides some nice slopes and turns along the way. There is a great vantage point too, Village Lookout offers an amazing panorama of Hotham right across towards Mt Loch and the surrounding backcountry.

Hotham to Dinner Plain

The Hotham to Dinner Plain Trail at 12km in length is a mix of grades with green flats, more difficult blue sections and some steep hills that rate as black. Judging the trail on its entirety it is more than manageable for intermediate skiers. Set aside a few hours or even half a day, pack your lunch and be prepared to discover a variety of beautiful open plains, snow gum woodlands and a shady forested gully or two. If you don’t intend to ski back the way you came, make sure you’ve got a valid bus pass. 

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Most people don’t know cross-country skiing exists at Hotham but no matter where you do it it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the high country.

Glen Clark