by KATE HUNTER
Last week saw our little tribe hitting the slopes of Mt Buller in Victoria.
Being Queenslanders with tightarse parents, Ben 11, Annabel 9 and Sally 6 had never seen snow. I’d done a bit of skiing, thanks to a year in Christchurch, and husband Jim was last at Mt Buller when he was 8, staying with his family at ‘Army Lodge.’ We were novices – but excited and enthusiastic novices . Hell, we’re enthusiastic for anything that gets us away from the laundry pile, the office and school for a few days.
We live in Brisbane, so heading to the snow is quite an undertaking – and we were only going for three days so the question was, would it be worth it? My answer is a big fat YES, but like any family holiday, there are ups and downs and ways to ramp up the ups wind down the downs. Here is my (non definitive) list.
UP: Skiing is awesome fun. Learning something new is fabulous. Our kids are the primo age for a skiing holiday. They’re up for anything and learn fast. Sally had spent much of the flight to Melbourne making us promise we wouldn’t push her, ‘Down a mountain.’ Halfway through her second lesson, snow-plowing down a blue run, a smile as big as the Snowy River on her little face.
DOWN: Skiing requires a lot of STUFF. I’m not good with managing stuff. I lose things, misplace things, break things. Sadly, my kids seem to be modeling themselves on me in this regard. A day at the beach requires swimmers, towels, sunscreen, hats. That’s a challenge, but nothing compared to a day on the ski slopes. Beanies, helmets, gloves, neck warmers, goggles, sunglasses, sunscreen, jackets, boots, poles, skis, lip balm, and lift passes multiplied by five is a lot of STUFF and had the potential to do my head in.
UP: Nothing like skiing for teaching kids to take care of their own STUFF. And they love it so much they take extra care, ‘You lose a glove and you will NOT be skiing this afternoon.’ That’s powerful parenting right there.
DOWN: Skiing can be expensive, and that puts lots of people off. Sure, there are people who talk of going to Colorado every February and even in Australia, if you want to wear a different outfit each time you hit the slopes, and drink Grey Goose at swanky bars every evening, you could blow some serious coin. You’ll also look like a tosser.
UP: There are lots of ways to keep costs down and make skiing an affordable family holiday – here’s a few:
• Beg, borrow and steal ski clothes. Even if it IS last season’s. There will always be someone dressed better and worse than you on the slopes. Honestly, no one cares.
• If you can’t borrow it, rent it. Unlike the olden days, rented ski clothes no longer look like relics from Communist China.
• Ski as close as possible to a major city. Mt Buller is ideal – just 3 hours driving from Melbourne, so it’s easy to take a carful of groceries (and wine).
• Ski midweek if you can – it’s less crowded and could find great deals on accommodation, lifts and lessons.
• Consider an apartment or a lodge rather than a hotel. Being able to make your own meals (even some of them) will make a big difference to your budget. Also, skiing makes you tired and you might not be fussed about going out. A toasted cheese sandwich and a glass of red in front of the fire is bliss. That said, we had a couple of excellent restaurant meals – the steak at the Black Cockatoo was sublime, and there was more to the kids’ menu than variations of nuggets and chips. This was grown-up family dining.
Sharing accommodation and expenses with another family is a great idea. Some friends just came back from a three-family odyssey to Falls Creek. They had a fantastic holiday, with built-in pals for everybody.
DOWN: Everyone looks like newborn giraffe (a drunk one) when they first start skiing.
UP: Sign up for lessons and this phase will pass quickly, especially for children, who delight in whizzing past their parents within the first hour. This would be infuriating if it wasn’t so cute. Kids are now required to wear helmets, so they look like little roll-on deodorants hurtling down the hill. The kids’ program at Mt Buller is great – for two and a half hours each morning, parents get to be FREE. You pick them up at 1pm tired, happy and fed (a hot lunch is part of the deal).
DOWN: It can be cold. Yes indeedy. I’m always surprised when people complain about the cold in the mountains. Cold is kind of a pre-requisite for skiing.
UP: There’s no such thing as poor weather, just the wrong clothes. Pile on the spencers and skivvies and peel off as required.
DOWN: Australian snow can be iffy. If you’re a gun skier who doesn’t bother getting off the bearskin rug for less than a triple black diamond mogul field with a jump at the bottom, the unpredictability of Australian snowfall (compared to say Japan, or Canada) could be an issue.
UP: For us, there was plenty of snow. Mt Buller suited our beginner / intermediate family perfectly. There were 14 lifts turning and more than enough long, wide runs to keep us going back for more. The toboggan run was open too. Fun for kids, and excellent toning for parental thighs.
DOWN: The break wasn’t long enough. We went for three days (on snow) which was terrific, but frustrating to leave when we were still discovering new runs and the best cafes for hot chocolate.
UP: Every year comes complete with a Winter. We’ll definitely be back.
Have you been skiing before? Did you experience any highs or lows?