Crackenback Farm, Snowy Mountains review: The ice storm

Read our writer's views on this property below

Raymond Gill finds warmth and home-cooked meals in a stylish ski retreat.

'Well, all I can say is good luck," says the man with the indefinable accent as he hands me snow chains at Khancoban's only service station. There was something about the "all" in that sentence that set off an escalating sense of unease as we set forth on the Alpine Way, bound for our lodging at Crackenback Farm, on the other side of Thredbo.

As Victorians who have only ever skied at home, we are used to mountain roads with painted lines to show which side of the bitumen to drive on. We're used to clearly marked parking bays where snow concierges wave you over with torchy baton things, help you put on chains and ask whether you want skim or soy in your latte.

But here we are thrown into the every-man-for-himself wilds of the NSW Snowy Mountains, where for two hours we seem to be the only car tortuously zigzagging around the Alpine Way's hairpin bends and through its gorges, avoiding falling rocks the size of occasional tables.

It's like the opening credits of The Shining. But I'm not in a zippy VW, as in the film. My car contains a family of five and a French exchange student named Pierre, all of whom stay buckled inside as I lie on the ice with my nose in the exhaust, trying to fit chains to the wheels.

The other family we're travelling with - they've sped ahead in their four-wheel-drive - love Thredbo and had heartily recommended Crackenback Farm as the perfect haven. But as we ka-lumph our way through 120km/h winds and driving snow to the thud of chain links hitting the duco, we wonder how we got ourselves into this.

Although we're wary of staying below the snowline and of the daily drive between Thredbo and the ski field, we figure it's worth staying at Crackenback Farm to avoid the tedium of self-catering in the snow. Its tariff includes full breakfast, three-course dinner and afternoon tea.

The lights of Thredbo's village twinkle but after our stop-start, 10-hour trip from Melbourne we have to roll down the final 15 minutes to Crackenback in complete darkness. At last we find the low-slung building, designed by Glenn Murcutt in the late 1970s, with vaulted ceilings, timber-lined interiors and slate floors.

OK, you're thinking Don's Party but you would be wrong. This is more like walking into the mountain hideaway of a rich and stylishly bo-ho uncle. A living area with two stone fireplaces blazing is flanked by groupings of deep sofas and armchairs. The floors are covered with Persian rugs, and low lamps illuminate corners filled with artful objects and idiosyncratic artworks. It's snug luxury without a hint of the twee or corporate about it. All the children staying here are served dinner at 6pm in the main dining area, which allows adults to fix themselves a drink in the well-stocked honour bar, to lounge in front of the fires or watch television in another lounge.


Dinner is served after 7pm and is home-cooked and delicious - hearty soups, roasts, crumbles - followed by more fireside lounging, board games or pool on the full-size billiard table.

There are seven guest rooms. Our "deluxe" rooms, each with a queen bed, en suite and an up-a-ladder loft for the kids, is comfortable though not distinctive like the public rooms.

Breakfast from 7am is a full spread of juices, breads, muffins, crumpets, cereals, porridge and hot servings of eggs or pancakes, depending on the daily menu.

The drive up to Thredbo resort by 9am for the kids' ski school is quick and easy and we can't believe how easy it is to park so close to the ticket office and lifts, compared with the Victorian resorts. Ski school finishes at 4pm and we've returned to Crackenback Farm by 4.45 for afternoon tea of freshly baked scones with home-made jam and cream. The kids head off to the delightful (Jack Nicholson-free) maze in the garden or the small indoor pool to expend more energy, which means they're so exhausted by 6.30pm that the main rooms are left for the adults to chat, drink or read.

For anyone not interested in skiing, the guest house is the perfect place to relax. The morning sun shines through louvred shutters into the main living area, where you can curl up with a book in front of a fire. Or there's a tennis court a few steps outside.

Even Pierre, who is used to criss-crossing from France to Italy on four-hour ski runs, is impressed by our long weekend.

Thomas Keneally happens to be staying at the guest house at the same time. "Ooh. La Liste de Schindler," Pierre says. Keneally gives Pierre some advice I wish I had thought of when he looked at me sliding under the car with snow chains.

"This is the only place in the world where you can ski among gum trees."

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.


Crackenback Farm

Address 914 Alpine Way, Thredbo Valley, Snowy Mountains

The verdict A stylishly comfortable guesthouse with delicious home-cooked meals.

Price High-season weekend packages — two nights' accommodation with two breakfasts, one dinner and two afternoon teas — cost $370 for adults, $170 for children (14 years and under), until September 1.

Bookings Phone 6456 2601, see

Getting there The guesthouse is between Thredbo and Jindabyne, about 15 minutes' drive from Thredbo village. The drive from the centre of Sydney takes about five hours; it's about 2½ hours from Canberra.

Perfect for Skiers, families or couples looking for a romantic getaway.

Wheelchair access Yes.

While you're there Explore the ski fields in winter and Kosciuszko National Park year round.