Mt Hotham is a fantastic winter weekend getaway from Melbourne. I mean, if it’s freezing anyway, why not go up to actual snow and make the most of cold temperatures in the beautiful mountains?! That was my outlook, anyway, and I was glad that I planned an August trip up to the ‘Victorian Alps.”
Snow is most definitely not what comes to mind when you think of Australia, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the most mountainous part of the country. It’s incredibly gorgeous, and is inundated with quaint little alpine villages full of ski bums and mountain dwellers.
Mt Hotham Resort itself is a village set atop a mountain with incredible vistas and ski in ski out access to ski fields. The park has a dozen chair lifts that provide access to over 100 different runs of varying difficulties. There are lots of beautiful spots and viewpoints surrounding the main village, as well as some more smaller villages with restaurants/cafes galore, spas, hotels, and adventure areas. Of course most would come here for the snow, but there are actually loads of other amazing things to do in Mt Hotham than solely skiing!
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What to Know Before Visiting Mt Hotham
When to Visit Mt Hotham
The Aussie mountains have a very short snow season – just over three months per year, maybe four depending on the season. This leaves a very slim amount of time that you can catch good snow. The best months are usually July and August, with occasional storms dumping fresh powder starting in June and into September. So if you want to catch snow, these are the times to go.
Although this Mt Hotham guide is mostly focused on winter, the region is just as spectacular in the summer! Visit in the summer months for mountain biking, trail running, hiking, and amazing views.
In winter, Mt Hotham will generally be about between the 5 and -5 degrees Celsius mark. Days can get up to 2-5, and nights can descend down to the negatives – only occasionally colder than -5. So prepare for (literally) freezing temperatures up in the snow, naturally!
The weather each day is quite unpredictable. There can be days of snow and storms, extremely thick fog that descends over the mountaintop like a heavy blanket in the afternoon, and, usually come late August/September, some beautiful clear days where the snow glistens in the sun. The best thing I can say is to be prepared for whatever your weekend trip may bring – bring layers of clothing, goggles, AND sunglasses!
Mt Hotham Accommodation
There are lots of options for accommodation in Mt Hotham – from hotels to lodges to apartments to shared chalets.
However, it is VERY important to note that, because these properties only have a couple months a year to make all their money, it will be staggeringly expensive. This will be true most definitely if you plan to visit on a weekend.
This is the one unfortunate thing about a Mt Hotham weekend trip – it most definitely will not be cheap. Rooms fill up exceedingly quickly, and whichever are left over will be at least $700- $1200+ for one night. There are a few share-room options with bunk beds for groups, but if you want your own single room, it’s going to cost you due to limited supply and high demand.
I will list below a few main places to stay in Mt Hotham, followed by a few other amazing options you will want to consider also:
Cloud 9 – More affordable/located in Dinner Plain – Check Rates
Zirky’s – Can go straight to the slopes from the door – Check Rates
Arlberg – centrally located and largest on the mountain – Check Rates
Alpine Nature Experience – See below!
Other options – If you find it hard to afford the options on the mountain, you can always stay in one of the towns at the foot of the mountain! Many people choose to stay in Bright, which ends up being about an hour’s drive down the Great Alpine Road from Hotham. Accommodation there will be much more reasonable, and the town is lively and beautiful as well.
Things to Do in Mt Hotham
Whether skiing or not, there’s still plenty to do!
Hotham Lift Pass + Terrain Park
To get the most obvious thing out of the way first, I assume you’ll be coming to Mount Hotham to do some form of skiing or snowboarding. Whether you’re spending half a day or three days straight on the slopes, I suggest getting a Hotham lift pass if you’re coming up here. It’s a must to experience the variety of slopes in the resort.
Get your Hotham Life Passes here – The more days you ride and the earlier you book, the better the deal! They also have discounts fo booking online and skiing mid-week.
On a good day there would be enough runs to last you most of the day in Mt Hotham. There are over 100 different runs, ranging from bunny slopes to double black diamonds. In seasons with less snow, keep in mind that some of these will be closed.
It’s a bit tough to gauge weather in a place where planning far in advance is essential, but know that they will make snow for the main runs in high season no matter what the conditions. They have a three-lift snow guarantee.
If you have the freedom to be able to drive up after a big storm, you will be in the best place. In my situation, we planned an early weekend in August a month or so ahead of time, and there wasn’t much snow. The snow was sparse to the point of having quite a few runs closed (not that we didn’t have a great time, but we couldn’t experience absolutely everything as I like to do).
Then, about 4 days later, a MASSIVE snowstorm came through and within a week they had gotten TWO METERS of fresh powder. Talk about gutted! We still had a fab time, but it’s just unpredictable.
Renting Gear in Mt Hotham
There are TONS of places for Mt Hotham Gear Rental. In each little alpine town you will find a few ski shops, but I rented mine right from ‘Hotham Sports” ski shop at Hotham central. This is most definitely the most painless way to do it, as you can grab your gear, strap it on, and jump right onto the slopes within minutes!
Visit this link here to reserve your ski gear for Hotham at one of many approved gear rental outlets all over the mountain.
Car Chain Rental
Don’t forget to note that, in high season, it will be required to at least carry if not fit chains onto your car. The best place to do this if coming from Melbourne is Ray’s ski shop in Myrtleford; you can also rent skis here if it’s easier to get it all from one place.
Alpine Nature Experience
And finally, the reason I came to Mt Hotham in the first place: the incredible Alpine Nature Experience! I somehow stumbled upon what turned out to be one of my most unique travel experiences, which was taking part in their ‘snowshoe to fondue’ and then ‘igloo to skidoo’ experiences. It all takes place at a small eco-village outside the main mountain village.
My intention to visit Mt Hotham was sealed upon learning about this. The Alpine Nature Experience starts with a 450ish meter snowshoe walk through the trees, learning bits of history about the area. After a little while you reach a tiny mountain eco village that was fully brought in and out by hand. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a steaming glass of homemade mulled wine, and invited to sit around a nice warm fire.
Arrival in the Eco-Village
At this point the bar opens (fully stocked with mulled wine, local craft beer, schnapps, different spirits, and more wine) and you are free to chat over the warm fire as the kitchen prepares for a delicious dinner.
Snowshoe to Fondue
After a few warm drinks, you are invited into the massive teepee that is set to host dinner. And this is not just any dinner – it’s a three-course meal featuring a classic French fondue. The amazing owner, JF (Jean Francois), is a frenchman himself who relocated from the actual French alps to show visitors his newfound love in the Victorian alps.
After some delicious soup, JF teaches you all about the (proper) making of fondue. After the group pitches in to help make the fondue, it’s time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for – dipping that first piece of bread into the warm, dripping, melted cheese! An authentic fondue dinner ensues, as you drink wine by the warmth of the fireplace and share a piece of cake at the end as well.
Igloo to Skidoo
The second part of the experience is for those who dare to spend the night out in the snow – in an igloo! In the ‘igloo to skidoo’ experience, an igloo generally means one of their nice, massive, warmed tents with a clear top to view the stars.
HOWEVER, in our case, this meant, well… actual igloo.
No, I am not kidding. They have TWO legitimate IGLOOS at the Alpine Nature Experience – full eskimo style. You must duck through a small door to enter a completely snow-covered room – 5 or so feet high – with a luxurious bed and side tables.
When we learned that it was possible to sleep in an actual igloo, we didn’t have to think twice. When given the opportunity to sleep in one of the most unique places you’ve ever slept, and in the only place in Australia to do so…. you most definitely don’t say no!
Night in the Igloo
After filling up to the brim with fondue, trying a classic French spirit called Genepi, and chatting away in the nice warm tipi, it was bed time. On the way to the igloo we just HAD to stop and have a little long-exposure photoshoot with some of the brightest stars I’ve ever seen.
Climbing into the igloo felt like something out of a movie. It most definitely wasn’t something I thought I would be doing in my lifetime! The bed was covered with warm sleeping bags, blankets, and furs, and on the side tables were water bottles, a little light, and mats for our things. It was cozy, but it was all we needed!
The igloo had plenty of space to sit and change as we finished the last of our (many) mulled wines. Although cold at first, it warmed up quickly once we were inside, and this warmth was easily sustained by the few tonnes of insulating snow above our heads and around us! The bed was even more soft and warm, too. Before drifting off to sleep, I reached out in front of me and touched the snow roof above my head – just to make sure again that it was real!
In the morning
Apparently these igloos tend to be completely sound-proof, because we didn’t even remotely hear the sound of the morning bell to signal breakfast time. We wandered over after 8am to find everyone up and about in the tipi, eating delicious breakfast sandwiches and drinking hot coffee from camping mugs.
We exchanged experiences from the igloo and the snow domes over a few brekky options, and had a last little wander around the beautiful grounds. There is a perfect view of the terrain park and surrounding mountains from different points in the area.
It’s not an igloo to skidoo experience without a skidoo ride! Like clockwork, our skidoo zoomed up to the camp as we were bringing our bags out of the igloo. We climbed into the back seats, and our driver took us on a looped route around the grounds. He showed us different viewpoints and told us a bit of history of the area on the way out. It was the perfect end to one of the most unique adventures I’ve done!
Dinner Plain is a quaint little alpine village 13 kilometers down the Great Alpine Road from Hotham Village. This is a fabulous place to look for more (potentially cheaper) accommodation options, and also a great place to visit for restaurants, a local brewery, and an Onsen spa.
The Onsen Spa in Dinner Plain is a classic option for those with sore muscles after a few days on the slopes – or those who simply want a bit of relaxation! With entry you can access a lap pool, a hot rock pool, a few different spas, a sauna, and showers.
If you want to up the ante a bit on your relaxation, you can book massages and other spa treatments, too. Again, it won’t be cheap, but there’s nothing quite like gazing out at fresh powdered snow from the warmth of a cozy spa.
SnowStuffPark Rides + Activities
If you want to see a bit more of the mountain than you can generally access, take a skidoo ride with SnowStuffPark. These guys will take you roaming out and about all over the mountains, down snow paths you didn’t know existed, to find different viewpoints and canyons inaccessible by foot or car.
They run skidoo rides for sunset (which would be my choice, obviously) to get the best views, and also different sled tours through the back country. To have even more fun, try their tobogganing, snow scooter, or snow trampoline activities!
Mt Hotham Events + Competitions
No matter when you are arriving, make sure to check out whats on in Hotham for your dates. They are well known for having different kinds of events each weekend, including many ski/board competitions, races, and festivals – even in the summer!
When I was there they had the Furphy Rail Jam event, with skiers and boarders competing for the coolest rail trick right in from of the central bar. Jugs of Furphy were on special, of course!
Where to Eat+Drink in Mt Hotham
Swindler’s – Hotham Central
I wasn’t expecting much from the main bar/restaurant in Hotham Central. I expected it to be crazily expensive like everything else, but I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived and noticed $5 plates of wings, $8 poutine, and $7-8 happy hour drinks (including mulled wine of course).
Swindler’s really was a fabulous place to stop in for lunch for a beer and a cheap snack before heading out on the slopes again, and they also had more hearty options for pizza and more. Don’t avoid the main resort area for food – it was actually not bad!
Frankie’s – By the Big D
Down on the other end of the terrain park you have Frankie’s, which is a small eatery near ‘the Big D’ bunny slope lift. Frankie’s has all you need – from breakfast sandwiches to snacks to mulled wine to their famous shakes.
Their shakes are famous because they are fully stacked ‘freak shakes’ – all different colors and piled high with cookies, lollies, and more. Definitely rich, but nothing less than an instagrammer’s paradise.
Mountain Kitchen – Dinner Plain
When you make it over to Dinner Plain, make sure to check out Mountain Kitchen for some delicious coffee and homemade treats. They make EVERYTHING right there in their little, well, Mountain Kitchen. 😛
Try delicious coffees from massive colorful mugs, fresh baked muffins, and some savoury treats like and egg and bacon pie with their house made chutney. It’s a must!
Blizzard Brewing – Dinner Plain
It would also be silly not to stop by the local micro-brewery while in town to try all kinds of beer made right on site. Run by a friendly American man who made the perfect getaway to the mountains, this quaint little brewery looks more like a big house with a bar area in the front, food truck in the middle, and actual brewery right there in the back.
Blizzard should have at least 10-12 different beers on tap, from IPA to lager to stout to sour to everything in between. I suggest heading in to try a beer paddle – a flight of four beers in one – to make the most of it! Make sure to grab some cans to take back with you… trust me, you’ll be happy you did!
Well, I think that’s all I can possibly say about a weekend getaway to Mt Hotham from Melbourne! Please pin this to your Pinterest to share the awesome experience of Australian snow, beautiful views, and sleeping in an actual igloo!
Disclosure: Thank you to the Alpine Nature Experience and Mt Hotham Ski Company for hosting me on many of my experiences this weekend. I can’t wait to come back!