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The inspiration for Falls Creek's new front door came straight from the backyard, writes Sarah Maguire.
From the window of my bedroom, the chairlift up Wombat Run at Falls Creek is so close I could almost have a conversation with the lift attendant.
Granted, I might have to yell but this isn't the skiing of my childhood that was an arduous affair of pre-dawn starts, long drives and kilometre-long treks juggling skis and poles before a lift even came into view.
This is skiing at Australia's only drive-in, drive-out, ski-in, ski-out, five-star apartment hotel. This is skiing made so easy that, on my first day on the slopes in years, after one too many schnapps the night before, I am able to take the chairlift straight back to the hotel when the headache hits: it's a matter of minutes between the decision to abort and my head hitting a pillow. Not long after, I'm having an in-room massage, courtesy of the spa.
The Mirvac-operated Quay West Resort & Spa Falls Creek in north-east Victoria opened last month. It has 63 self-contained one- to four-bedroom apartments, 23 of them still to be completed. Situated on Bogong High Plains Road in the spot where a day visitor car park used to be, it has also given Falls Creek a much-needed front door. Invisible from the road, the alpine village, famously set among snow gums, had been hard to find out of ski season. Not any more.
The resort's Melbourne-based architect, Callum Fraser, was inspired by snowflakes when he designed the luxury Huski apartments at Falls Creek, which opened to great acclaim four seasons ago. This time, the bogong moth was his muse. The result is a striking, spiky-angled creature fanning out into two four-storey wings cladded, or "cocooned", in wooden panels.
Bogong moths migrate to the Bogong High Plains, where Falls Creek is situated, to spend the summer in cooler climes. Long before white men built hydro-electric schemes and ski resorts, Aboriginal tribes would travel to the area to harvest the moths for food and to perform inter-tribal corroborrees.
When excavations for Quay West uncovered two massive waterways, one following the line of the ski slope behind the hotel, the other the road running in front of it, Fraser's imagination was further stirred.
Dreamtime legend has it that the bogong came from a meeting of two rivers and Fraser likes to think his hotel is sitting on it.
"I love the idea that this could be the origin of the moth, and the moth is such an important part of the prehistory of this site," he says.
The hotel's entrance takes you into a long, dark lobby, which gives the impression that the moth, turning ancient practice on its head, has exacted revenge and swallowed you. The reception desk is a hole in the black reflective wall, and at the end of this alimentary canal is the only seating in the lobby: two egg chairs, which in architect speak are "moments".
The apartments, however, are white-walled and light-filled, with sliding glass doors to a balcony with your own hot tub. Unfortunately from my bedroom window I could clearly see hot tubs belonging to two other apartments.
Five-star can be a troublesome label, especially if you've been exposed to the extreme opulence and attention to detail of the South-East Asian version. At Quay West Falls Creek, my bedroom door won't open completely because it bangs into the bed and one of the bedside tables is at the end of the bed because it can't fit beside it. The bathrooms in our two-bedder are plain, the low point being a flimsy shower curtain in one of them.
Niggles aside, the apartments are exceedingly comfortable and lovely places to relax apres (and between) ski. The interior design is fresh, bright and funky, with an admirable simplicity: the only features on the walls are custom illustrations of the bogong moth.
And the ambitious feat of building a luxury alpine hotel can't be underestimated. "Everything has to be done at the end of a great big hill," says Fraser. "If you forget the box of nails, you have to wait until tomorrow."
Upping the resort's convenience factor even further, ski and board hire is located next door to reception the only lugging of ski gear, whether it's yours or on loan, is through the lobby and down a corridor to a ski locker room, where combination locks are provided.
The resort has a bar and cafe, tomdickandharry's, and an Argentinian- themed restaurant, Alta, where the steaks are grain-fed and aged 21 days, and the delicious tapas menu includes goat's cheese empanadas and slow-braised octopus. Its retail complex includes designer ski-wear store Apres Vous, a concept store selling the latest ski equipment and a FoodWorks supermarket.
At the Mii Spa, an extensive menu includes the Rubber Leg Rescue for "mountain muscle meltdown" (50 minutes, $139) and a Mii Mountain Revival, 110 minutes and $245 worth of pampering that finishes with a food platter.
The writer was a guest of Quay West Resort & Spa Falls Creek.
QantasLink flies daily from Sydney to Albury. Falls Creek Coach Service has daily services from Albury airport, adults $86 return, phone (03) 5754 4024, see www.fallscreekcoachservice.com.au.
Opening season packages, valid until October 4, include $723 a night, single, twin or double share, for a two-night minimum stay; $621 for a five-night minimum stay. Phone 1800 453 525, email email@example.com.