1 SKI THE SPRING SNOW
For the second year running, the snow depth at Falls Creek passed the two-metre mark in August. That kind of quantity means the cover will endure through September and into October (Falls Creek's lifts will run to October 7). The cold, dry air of the drought that is the curse of the country north of the mountains should also keep the quality in the snow, especially on Falls Creek's numerous south and south-west slopes.
2 CATCH A BARGAIN
Going to ski or board for more than a few days in spring? The 2018 Spring Pass gives unlimited access to all the lifts operating at Falls Creek, Hotham and Dinner Plain from September 1 for $499. A day pass is about $126, so it'll only take four days to cut out the Spring Pass. With the season running so well right from the start, many regulars will have spent their snow dollars, so expect fewer crowds and some generous accommodation deals in spring.
3 CRUISE THE X-C TRAILS
In full stride, cross-country skiing is like low-gravity jogging and it's another pursuit that shines in spring, especially with a full cover of snow over the area's 65-kilometre fee-free trail network. Windy Corner is the base for equipment rental and lessons for first-timers or clinics for experienced skiers (they also make good coffee). The trails wander and loop through the snow gums and reach right out to the vast Bogong High Plains.
*** 4 PACK A PICNIC
Imagine this: it's a sunny spring day, the breeze is light, the snow is crisp and the mountain and valley views go forever. Pack a picnic and get out there and enjoy it; everything a creative cook needs is at the local supermarket below the QT buildings. Skiers or boarders have no limits for locations, with rocks and trees all around to adapt for makeshift tables and chairs. If somebody in the party doesn't ski or board, they can buy a "scenic ride" for the Halleys Comet or Eagle Express chairlift ($14 return) and there are some blissfully scenic locations just minutes from the top of each lift. If you have the choice, use the Eagle – more picnic locations and fewer people.
5 WATCH THE McKAYOS RIDE
The start area of the McKayos mountain bike race.
Mountain-biking has put new energy into summer at mountain resorts and the well-named McKayos race on October 6 provides a spiritual bridge between those seasons. It is a "gravity enduro" event, downhill all the way with a 1750-metre descent over 22 kilometres. Riders start on the Falls Creek slopes, run through the resort's streets and then plunge into the valley below to end at Bogong Village. The name came from the original starting point for the race, Mount McKay. This year there's too much snow to kick it off there.
*** 6 RIDE THE INTERNATIONAL POMA
High-capacity chairlifts have made surface lifts almost obsolete over the last few decades, but possibly the greatest in the world to survive is Falls Creek's International Poma. Built in 1969 (yes, there's a big birthday for the Inter next year) it's a thrill to ride as you're dragged up the Frying Pan Spur and it gives access to the resort's best advanced terrain and longest runs. The Wishing Well run in the Maze area has everything great about Australian skiing – a big, alpine powder bowl at the top and a long and winding trail through the snow gums to get you back to base. The lift is well-loved by locals and even has its own Facebook page.
*** 7 EXPLORE THE BACKCOUNTRY
The Falls Creek resort zone stretches way beyond the terrain accessed by the lifts and local World Cup ski champion, Steve Lee, makes the most of it with his backcountry tours. Using sleds on snowmobiles, Lee takes guests to areas such as Rocky Knolls or Mount McKay for guided runs far from the crowds. Tours run for half a day and suit skiers and snowboarders of intermediate level and above. At this time of year, the morning tours give the best scope to ride some spring corn, the easiest snow of all to ski. The cost is $169 and for a ski/board experience of this nature with a host of this calibre, that's a bargain.
8 LUNCH AT ELK
Eating on-mountain hasn't been a highlight at Falls Creek in recent seasons, but the food and service are vastly improved this year. One way to avoid the crowds at Cloud Nine or the Frying Pan is to ski the roads to Elk on the corner of Slalom Street in the heart of the village. They have an a la carte menu, but they also run a $20 express lunch that might be a generous steak sandwich or an oversized chicken parmigiana. Enjoy the relaxed dining room, finish up, click back into your skis and you'll be back on the Halley's Comet chairlift in minutes. The restaurant also opens for breakfast and dinner.
9 YOGA ON HIGH
The mountains make for an excellent escape whatever the motivation, but to get mind and body in top shape, how about a two-day mountain yoga and snow retreat? Based at Falls Creek's Diana Lodge, this one runs over the AFL grand final weekend, starting on September 28. With Alpine Valleys local Emily Rose at the lead, the focus is on "nourishing yoga, meditation, snow play and hearty, delicious food".
10 SKI AT NIGHT
Haven't had enough of skiing or boarding during the day? Hit the slopes at night then – Falls Creek's long and cruisy Wombat's Ramble is open for night skiing from 6-9pm every Wednesday and Saturday for $20 ($10 children). With the snow base exceeding two metres, this should deliver right through to closing weekend. The light is bright; flood lights line the course and bounce off the snow to create a massive false ceiling.
11 STAY AT QT
Location means a lot wherever you land, but it goes up a notch in the mountains. One of the biggest attractions of Falls Creek is its snow-covered village roads, but that delight can become a drudge when it comes to moving luggage to and from lodgings. QT's location beats this; it is right by the High Plains Road – back in, unload, park your car, unpack your gear, walk out the other door and hop on the chairlift. It couldn't be easier. The apartments are good, most have a hot tub and many have sensational views.
12 EAT BREAKFAST AT BAZAAR
Regular travellers well know, a good buffet breakfast can be a hotel highlight, but with counters full of tempting food, it can sometimes be difficult to justify the intake. Not so in the snow. Bazaar, the restaurant attached to QT, has all the breakfast bounty – smoothies, cereals, pastries, a hot buffet and eggs and omelettes cooked to order. They welcome all comers; it's sometimes included in a QT accommodation package and if it isn't, it'll cost $32 adults, $16 children.
13 ENJOY APRES AROUND TOWN
Turn right for the village as you ski down the Home Trail, past the water tank and its big Bogong moth painting and your first stop is Milch Cafe and Bar – relaxed and welcoming with a big range of wines, local and from afar; same story with the beer. A local institution is the Happy Harvey Hour every Tuesday and Thursday at the Falls Creek Hotel in the Village Bowl – it started in the 1980s and hasn't stopped, with cut-price Harvey Wallbangers driving the crowd. For a quiet drink by the fire, head to Nelse Lodge behind the big pine trees in Slalom Street.
*** 14 SKI HOTHAM VIA HELICOPTER
Explore the runs of a different mountain and access it in the ultimate scenic bubble. Falls Creek's lift ticket is valid at Hotham and for $170 per person return ($140 for 15 and under) Forest Air runs a helicopter link between the resorts. It's a seven-minute ride over the High Plains bringing peaks like the cornice-capped Mount Feathertop into view. Bookings essential, the heli-link operates all season on days when the weather permits.
15 STAY AT ASTRA
It already had one of the best exteriors in the village, but a major renovation in 2016 lifted Astra to win "Best Boutique Hotel" at the World Ski Awards. The public areas are luxurious and relaxed, the rooms warm and welcoming and it has one of the best ski and boot rooms in the business – walk in and ski-out. Astra is also a great place for a cocktail; they limit the Platered Zombie to two per customer. Be warned.
16 PARTY AT THE FRYING PAN
There were times it had seen so much fun the Frying Pan almost looked like falling over, but it has had some tender loving care, the interior is vastly better, the service shines, the food is good and the outside tables – perfect for a spring lunch – are even cleaned and cleared. The Fryers has après drinks daily after the lifts shut and highlights such as darts on Tuesday, trivia on Wednesday and music on Friday and Saturday nights.
17 FRESHEN UP IN THE SPA
Mountain resorts were originally health retreats, but you don't need to go to Switzerland for your massage, beauty and health treatments. If you're looking for a fruit facial, a hot stone tension easer or a relaxing massage after a day of leg-wearying skiing or boarding, then there are a couple of good choices – the spa at QT is in the western tower in Slalom Plaza; the Lilli Pilli day spa is just up the hill a little at 10 Slalom Street.
18 RIDE THE TERRAIN PARKS
Park life has put a whole new dimension into snow sports – skate parks above the snowline, with rails, boxes jumps and more. Falls Creek has devoted a massive part of its Ruined Castle run to an advanced terrain park, but for developing riders, the Panorama Park, near the Drover's Dream chairlift is the place to go and each Friday, the Snowsports School instructors are there to give free tips and instruction.
19 RIDE A TOBOGGAN
This is the first way many people slide on snow (and for some the only). Falls Creek has a dedicated toboggan slope in the Windy Corner area, where toboggans are also available for hire. The deep snow pack should see the slope in good shape right into spring. Some snow-goers look down their nose at tobogganing ... if only they knew how much fun it was, and how highly regarded it is in some European resorts.
20 PLAN A SUMMER TRIP
Given the nature of the village and the mountain lakes, streams and trails surrounding it, Falls Creek is the best-placed of the Victorian resorts for summer activities. Mountain-biking on the trails (with a shuttle service available on weekends), fishing, hiking, road sailing and sailing on the dam are among the many options.
Jim Darby has visited Falls Creek as a guest of QT Hotel, Falls Creek Ski Lifts and Falls Creek Resort Management.
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