We just got back from a long weekend in the SNOW at Mt Hotham and it was AWESOME!
I’ve been to the snow before, but never in Australia and never with kids. I’ve heard some scary stories about how expensive it can be here in Oz, so we’ve previously opted to go to NZ or Japan instead, but this year we decided very last minute to see if we could put together a long weekend for my daughters 5th birthday…..without having to sell all her toys to afford it 🙂
I’m not going to lie, it’s not a “cheap” holiday BUT I did find some ways to make it not quite so ouchy on the bank balance.
Drive there………….or find some cheap flights like we did
We had intended on driving from Adelaide to Mt Hotham which is around 12 hours through Swan Hill, Shepparton and Wangaratta BUT after scoring some super cheap flights and sharing car hire between 2 families we decided the fly/drive option was better. We flew into Melbourne Tullamarine airport, hired a car and made the 3 hour drive to Bright.
I did meet quite a few people from Adelaide who drove over, some who drive over every year for the convenience of having their own car, and not having to lug kids through the airport. Most of them leave really early in the morning to arrive early evening in time to settle into your accommodation and get a good night sleep before your first day on the slopes.
You’ll need to do your own sums and work out which option will work out cheaper for the time you want to go, but worth considering both. If you do decide to hire a car keep in mind that you’ll need something big enough for your group AND your gear so don’t hire anything too small and also it is a legal requirement for ALL CARS to carry chains.
With 3 adults, 1 teenager and a 4 year old in a booster we opted for a Kia Carnivale and hired our chains from Hoy’s Ski Hire (more info below) which was great because they have mobile chain fitters stationed on the way up and down the mountain so we didn’t need to worry about fitting them ourselves.
Consider staying off the mountain
There are lots of accommodation options at Mt Hotham and Dinner Plain but for a family of 2 adults and 2 children in you’re going to be looking at at least $500-$600 a night. OUCH! We decided to stay down the mountain at Bright Holiday Park in the stunning little town of Bright about 55kms from Mt Hotham summit and 65 kms to Dinner Plain.
We stayed in their new Feathertop Villas. With 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchenette, lounge room, deck with built in BBQ, heating, Foxtel as well as the park facilities which include 2 playgrounds, swimming pool (not for Winter brrrrr) mini golf and go kart hire it is a great option.
In Winter the price per night for our villa is around $22o per night, A LOT cheaper. Visit their website to take a closer look and book online
Although you have to make the drive up and down every day if you stay off the mountain (around 70 minutes each way – depending on weather and traffic) you have the advantage of making the most of the many delicious and much cheaper dining options in town including Bright Brewery, Gum Tree Pies, Roksalt Fish and Chips and Ginger Baker Cafe…..as well as pizza, Indian, Chinese and pretty much anything else you might feel like after a fun day on the slopes. There are also supermarkets, bottle shops, petrol stations and other convenience stores available in town that are not available when you get up the mountain. Make special note of there being NO PETROL STATIONS on Mt Hotham, as we very very almost learned the very very hard way (our car literally limped into Bright on less than a whiff of fuel one day – not fun)
About 10kms past Mt Hotham you’ll find the gorgeous little town of Dinner Plain and if you’re visiting the snow for the first time, have small kids or you’re more after a snow experience than a serious skiing holiday THIS is the place for you!
Scrubbers End has a gentle, easy to use poma lift and very patient lift staff who went out of their way to teach everyone how to use it. Kids can build a snowman, have a snowball fight, toboggan and just play play play in the snow at the Snow Park. There’s cafes, shops, ski hire/lessons and pretty much everything you need for the whole family to have a great time.
Hire your gear if you can’t beg, borrow or steal it
OK obviously don’t steal it BUT if you can’t borrow your gear, or buy some cheap second hand snow clothes online not to worry. Hoy’s Ski Hire can sort you right out! When it comes to equipment (boards, skis, helmets etc) it’s MUCH better to get something that is the right size for you and your kids so if you don’t have your own it’s a very good idea to give the Hoy’s guys a visit. They spent time with all of us making sure we had the right fit, the right size and the right safety gear. The wrong gear can really ruin your time in the snow, so please make sure you get this part right.
Hoy’s have stores located in Harrietville, Mt Hotham and Dinner Plain and don’t forget when you hire chains from Hoys Harrietville – you get your chains fitted & removed for free by their mobile chain fitting service on your way up the mountain. Hoys offer great deals – prebook online & receive 25% off ski & board packages. Hoys are a family owned business operating for over 60 years & offer awesome service & high quality rental gear.
Invest in some lessons
There’s nothing more frustrating, or dangerous, than hitting the slopes and having no idea how to control your skis or board. Mt Hotham and Dinner Plain both offer ski school, group lessons and private lessons and I HIGHLY recommend you include at least one of these options into your budget if you’re new to skiing/boarding. We had 2 private lessons with Rosie from Hotham Alpine Resort and she got my daughter from never seeing snow before to turning, stopping, jumping and getting herself independently up and down the mountain in THREE HOURS! Private lessons can be shared between up to 4 people in the same family or group so if your whole family is new you can all learn together. Note: be prepared to be totally put to shame by your kids, their lack of fear, low centre of gravity, agility and just bloody cleverness makes them quick to pick it up.
Save some money on your lift passes
Lift passes aren’t cheap BUT Mt Hotham do have some options to make them more affordable for families.
- Buy your lift passes online 15 days in advance and you’ll save around 15%.
- Opt for Midweek and you’ll also save money.
- Kids 5 and under ski for FREE
- Check out the Parents Pass which is great for parents who are both wanting to ski/board. After one parent purchases a full day or half day lift pass, the second parent can purchase the Parents’ Pass at nearly half the price of a full day lift pass. The Parents’Pass is a 3 hour lift pass valid from the first scan and is only available for those with children three years and under.
Click here to find our more about the lift pass options available at Mt Hotham for 2017
And if you want to splurge on something truly AMAZING check out Howling Husky Sled Dog Tours at Mt Hotham and Dinner Plain
We were SO LUCKY to be given the opportunity to surprise my daughter for her birthday with a Husky Sled ride with the Howling Husky team out of their Mt Hotham location. Our 75 minute session was broken up into 2 x 30 minute rides (2 people per ride) so I went on the first one with her, and my 15 year old nephew went on the second ride with her (lucky girl got 2 rides). Our driver Jake stopped a few times along the trail to tell us all sorts of interesting info about his Husky team. I was so amazed to hear that over half the team are rescue dogs and they clearly love being out there in the snow and are very well looked after.
There is a purpose built track which follows the most gorgeous trail through the winter wonderland scene. The dogs are gorgeous and much to my daughters massive delight, loved being cuddled and cuddled and cuddled.
There is also a Snow Stuff Park at this location run by the same people where kids can play in the dedicated kids snow play area, toboggan area, play snow laser skirmish and even a kids snowmobile area!
The husky sled ride was truly fantastic and my daughter hasn’t stopped raving about it since we got home. If your budget can stretch, please do this it’s such a special memory. Big thanks to the Howling Husky team for this experience.
Disclaimer: Some of the products and services mentioned above were given to us free of charge. We were not required to write a positive review. We did not receive any monetary compensation for this review and all opinions expressed are our own.