Nobody warned me about the drive to Falls Creek. I’m not talking about the distance. At eight hours door to door (from Sydney; only 4.5 hours from Melbourne), that’s easy going, even with two small children in the back. I’m talking about the spectacular climb up the Victorian Alps in the Alpine National Park, majestic snow capped mountains up ahead shimmering in the late winter sun as we wind our way up to meet them. And when you arrive, it gets better. Falls Creek is a winter wonderland, a ski-in ski-out village with all accommodation accessible only by snow, the only one like it in Australia.
This is Falls Creek’s great charm as you can’t help but become immersed in the place, even for a short stay. Children tumble in the snow building snowmen and snow angels, tobogganing down the footpaths. Click on your skis at your front door, boots still toasty from the drying room, and schuss down to your awaiting lift for a day of super skiing on all level terrain – some 14 lifts servicing 92-plus runs.
What if you can’t ski? Yet. Climb aboard the village shuttle, an oversnow ‘cat’, that regularly laps the village. Or, in our case, JJ from Kilimanjaro Apartments where we’re staying, kindly delivers my boys to the bottom of the Falls Express in his snowmobile, much to their delight. Falls Creek Sports ski hire at is right there too where friendly staff kit the boys out in boots, skis and helmets (and even a pair of ‘moon boots’ each for trudging around the village) in the time it takes me to buy a pair of googles. You can buy lift tickets and lessons in the same spot and, most enticingly, you get to use the complimentary Ski Valet Service which means the world at the end of a tough day on the slopes! Then we three are on the chair and whisked up to the Snowclub ski school in time for kids’ lessons.
I check my five year old into Snowclub (ages three to six) where his instructors, Frank The Tank and – after he graduates to ‘snowstopper’ (mastering the all important art of stopping) – Andreas from Austria, exercise extreme patience, building his ski confidence with fun and games and rides on the ‘magic carpet’. The six year old joins the Junior Workshop, (ages six to 12), which has him graduating from ‘pizza’ (snow plough) to ‘chips’ (parallel) in no time and cruising down Wombat’s Ramble, all 2.2 km of Australia’s longest green run. For older kids, there’s Teen Academy (ages 13-17 years).
Kids can stay half day or all day at ski school which includes a hot lunch and hot chocolate breaks. I take mine out early to ski with them, realising a long held dream as my six year old and I schuss side-by-side (give or take) down the mountain on that blessed Wombat’s Ramble. His little brother (“fastest in the class”, according to Andreas), chickens out at the summit, so I steer him down between my knees – a free ride – which he thinks is a much better way to go! A friendly ski patroller stops by to see if we needed help. That’s another thing about Falls Creek: the staff are on happy pills. Lifties smile and wave no matter what the weather, and slow the chairlifts to help juniors on. Ski instructors act like you’re the most important person on the mountain.
I know this because I also have a lesson – my first in 20 years. I thought I didn’t need one but George (a Brit who teaches at St. Antons in our Summer), soon shows me where I’ve fallen into bad habits (less hip, more knee) and drills it out of me. I get a tour of the mountain while we’re at. The last time I skied Falls Creek I was a teenager so this refresher is most welcome to give me a handle on the smorgasbord of runs on offer.
All 92 of them. From gentle beginner and intermediate slopes to the daunting and aptly named Summit and The Maze, with its web of tree-lined trails called Chainsaw, Rollercoaster and Black and Blue.
Then amble ‘home’ via the Village Run right to your front door.
Our front door happens to be the very chic Kilimanjaro Alpine Apartments run by JJ and Marnie, who built it in 1967 and has been skiing Falls Creek for even longer. Mid-century architect lovers, behold. This place is iconic, constructed in the classic alpine lodge style of the day, with spectacular views of Mt Spion Kopje from most of the nine self-contained apartments with (my favourite feature): private drying room and in-house movies!
Not that there’s much movie watching going on. With energy still to burn after a day on the slopes, the kids grab toboggans and they’re off, careering down any slope they can find, as I watch nervously from the balcony. They fashion an obligatory snowman with pinecone horns and name him Mr. Snowy, of course. Then we slide on down to the weekly Falls Creek Street Party with a huge cast iron fire bowl for marshmallow toasting officiated by grownups in animal onesies.
The revelry continues after dark around here. Falls Creek is known as the foodie mountain with some 30 bars and restaurants, most of which have dedicated kids’ menus (with dessert and marshmallow toasting rolled in). There’s also abundant watering holes including legendary institutions The Frying Pan Inn and The Man, almost as longstanding as the resort itself. And if you’re up for it, there’s night skiing, Wednesdays and Saturdays 6-9pm on Wombat’s Ramble.
Falls Creek really is kid paradise. Skiing aside, this place is abundant with wintery fun with a custom built snow play zone for tobogganing and snow angel making, a Tube Park, and, the piece-de-resistance: mini snow-mobiles for ages 5+. (There’s adult snowmobile tours too, so they don’t feel left out). I surprise my boys with the skidoos, the big reveal after days of begging me to ride one of the real ones. With wide grins, they climb aboard their “ski motorbike” and, when I ask them what was the best bit about their Falls Creek stay, there’s no prizes for guessing. Three days skiing and it’s the 15 minute skidoo ride that wins the day!
The Falls Creek Low-down:
How to get there:
Drive: approximately 7.5 hours from Sydney, 4.5 hours from Melbourne.
Coach: Direct coaches from Melbourne; Dedicated services from Sydney and Adelaide with regional pickups en route. Several coach services leave from Albury airport and train station. Park and Ride options are also available in nearby Mt Beauty.
Regular flights ex Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Albury with a connecting coach service.
FallsBus and Falls Creek Coaches meet flights into Tullamarine from Perth and Adelaide.
Heli-shuttle: Just 35 minutes from Albury Airport to Falls Creek.
Kilimanjaro Alpine Apartments.
Falls Creek has a range of accommodation options from apartments and lodges to hotels.
Renault Snow Club: 3-5 years
Junior Workshop: 6-12 years
Teen Academy: 13-17 years
Burton Riglets: a snowboard program for ages 3-5 years.
Ski / snowboard / equipment hire
Falls Creek Sports: http://skifalls.com.au/gear/rental
While the kids are in ski school, take advantage of Falls Creek’s unique Alpine Touring Program. A combination of cross-country and downhill skiing, it takes you off piste to discover fresh tracks in Falls Creek’s vast ‘un-lifted’ terrain. 10am-2pm daily.
Intermediate, advanced & expert skiers.
Child Friendly Factor: 8/10
• Ski-in ski-out to all accommodation.
• Easy shuttle for non-skiiers
• Snow play zone with toboggans, kids snowmobiles, tube park.
Falls Creek is known as the foodie mountain with some 30 restaurants and bars siting a range of tastes and budgets. Here’s a sample:
Elk: hearty gourmet meals (and kid friendly) around a 360 degree open fire. www.elkatfalls.com.au
Someplace Else: bar and grill and the best burgers on town www.someplaceelsefallscreek.com
Summit Ridge – for something fancier www.summitridge.com.au/resturant
White Space Discount:
Book 3 or more nights’ at Falls Creek for great discounts on peak season accommodation and up to 50% off lift, lesson and rental packages. From September until the end of the season
Mums Coffee Club
For any Mum with a child in a full day Snowsports Program, get an extended lesson and coffee for the price of a regular lesson and a free lift pass thrown in.
The BFF Plan: Bring a First-Timer for Free.
From first weekend in September you can bring a first-time skier or snowboarder to Falls Creek to learn for free. (You just need to ski or snowboard on the same day as they start). Your first-timer will receive a 2 hour beginner group lesson, lift pass and one day of ski or snowboard rental.
Book your rentals online in August for a 20% discount. You don’t have to ski in August to get the deal, just so long as you book then.
Recommended Road trip stop offs:
Jugiong – Long Track Pantry: www.longtrackpantry.com.au
Mt Beauty – Flour + Water: www.flourpluswater.com
Jacinta and her kids were guests of Falls Creek Ski Resort and stayed at Kilimanjaro Alpine Apartments http://www.kilimanjaro.com.au
This story was first published on TheCarousel.com in August 2016