Anyone who has spent any time at all at Mt Hotham knows the name 'Zirky's'.
Some know Zirky's as a great place to break a morning on the slopes for coffee and really superb cakes. Others prefer a beverage with a view in the bistro. There are those who know the restaurant, or the boutique brimming with lust-worthy ski apparel.
Locals and seasoners also know that Zirky’s is an institution at Hotham, as much a part of the resort’s history as the cattlemen’s huts and the member lodges. Peter Zirknitzer, who can be spotted around Hotham on a regular basis, was one of the first ski instructors in Australia (and also one of the first skiers to jump the Great Alpine Road).
Hotham locals from way back
Peter Zirknitzer hadn’t planned to stay in Australia but ended up putting down roots at Hotham. He brought an Austrian feel to the place, growing a ski hire and snack bar into the multifaceted business it is today.
Annelies Zirknitzer, Peter’s daughter, remembers living on Mt Hotham as a child and learning to ski on the Summit before she was 2 years old.
“My two siblings and I went to school in what is now the Resort Management Board’s meeting room. In those days you only needed seven students for a school. There were the Malcolm children from Jack Frost, and mum would always hire a teacher who had kids to make up the seven,” she recalls.
Annelies is an integral part of Hotham and Australian snowsports, having been a longstanding member of the Australian National Ski Team. Her focus on an authentic Austrian experience for visitors shows in the care she takes to ensure her guests are well-looked after within their comfortable and inviting setting.
Authentic Austrian experience
The bar in particular is a popular place to stop and rest – big share tables in the light-filled open room, gorgeous ironwork with Austrian motifs, and stunning views out over the slopes encourage a feeling of alpine bliss. The outdoor balcony is a favourite spot for people to park and rest, even when it’s bitingly cold.
The bar list features authentic Gluhwein (the recipe is a closely-held secret!), imported Schnapps and Weiss biers served in tall glasses with a wedge of orange, in the traditional manner.
Is that real Schnapps?
“Real Schnapps is not sweet; it’s not rough or hard to drink. The good ones are quite strong,” says Annelies, and she advises visitors to chat to the bar staff to work out what might suit their taste best. So ditch the butterscotch schnapps; it’s time to try Obstter or Teufels Krautel.
As for the food - the Bistro menu features hearty, filling meals including Austrian staples like Schnitzel, and they even have a very popular Schnitzel night every Wednesday (just roll up, no bookings required).
This family-run, family-oriented business, run by the Zirknitzers for over 35 years, manages to feature both a comfortable atmosphere and very high standards, ensuring visitors keep coming back time after time.
And speaking of tradition - Annelies believes skiing as a sport is as strong and popular as ever.
“Skiing is experiencing a massive resurgence, especially in Europe,” she says. The rise of snowboarding has been matched, she believes, by technological advancement in ski equipment, and increased diversity in ski experiences including terrain parks at one end of the spectrum and extreme terrain at the other end.
Sounds like the perfect topic to discuss over a Schnapps at the sun-drenched tables at Zirky’s bar after a day shredding with friends and family.