What makes a luxury Australian ski holiday?
A look at what goes into making one of the best luxury snow holidays in Australia. Producer: Tim Martin (additional footage: Falls Creek)
I have a confession to make. When my editor asked me to report on a 'luxury Australian ski holiday', I immediately thought I had misheard. Surely he meant Austrian rather than Australian? Austria - you know, that charming European country known for quaint, snow-filled villages and Sound Of Music-esque mountains.
It's not that I meant to disrespect our amazing local alpine regions. Far from it - I love skiing domestically. It's just that it's not often you hear the words 'luxury snow holiday' and 'Australia' in the same breath. If I asked you to picture a cosy, intimate mountain village nestled in snow, you'd probably conjure up something that wouldn't look too out of place on a Swiss postcard. But put away the passport. There are indeed a few homegrown gems that can now stack up to the flash resorts you'd more typically find in St Moritz, Aspen, Verbier or Wanaka.
There's something to be said for the ability to throw yourself around a snow-encrusted mountain all day and then ski directly into the lap of five-star luxury when you're done. While ski-in ski-out accommodation is quite thin on the ground in Australia, there are certainly places in both NSW and Victoria where you can slide almost all the way to your hotel bed.
Perisher, Mt Hotham and even Charlotte's Pass all offer something in the way of that purest of snow holiday indulgences - the ski-in ski-out experience - but it's arguably Falls Creek and Thredbo which do it best. Whether it's bombing down Australia's longest beginner trail at Falls - Wombats Ramble - or tracing the powder to your door at Thredbo's Crackenback Ridge, there's nothing better than bypassing the bus and carpark queues after a long day on the mountain and being able to ski straight into your on-slope accommodation.
The ins and outs
QT Falls Creek is one hotel that allows just that. Positioned at the base of the main ski run at Falls, QT provides almost the ultimate in Australian ski-in ski-out luxury.
"We find it's attitude," the hotel's general manager Kieran Erasmuson tells Executive Style. "QT Falls Creek is one of the only places in Australia where you can drive up to a five-star ski resort and ski right out the backdoor. It's something more than you'd expect from a regular alpine property."
With sweeping views of the surrounding ski runs and the picturesque Kiewa Valley (the sunsets are spellbinding), it's a luxury ski hotel with a difference. Resplendent with designer furnishings, the self-contained apartments and accompanying private balconies also have a luxe treasure in store for all guests.
"The unique points of this property are the hot tubs on every balcony," says Erasmuson, almost secretively. "That isn't something you're going to get in any other property here. You walk into your room and you've got underfloor heating right off the bat. You are very comfortable and it gives you the opportunity to just enjoy your surroundings without the hassle and fight that normally comes with being in a remote ski resort like this one."
Après the fact
Hot tubs and heated floors aside, luxury can be found in a few of the other elements on offer at Falls Creek. Should you find yourself ski-weary and cold to the point of numbness after a day of pounding the slopes, the perfect antidote is hidden in the middle of town and tucked away beneath Stingray bar. spaQ is a secluded alpine spa that packs relaxation into every hushed nook and cranny and caters to all, no matter whether you're a skier or a boarder, man or a woman. In fact, according to the spaQ staff, men are some of their biggest customers, coming in droves to rejuvenate with their special magnesium-wrap Apres Ski Recovery treatment.
Upstairs in the bustling bar above - just one of a number of watering holes on this arresting Victorian mountain - Stingray has its very own 'après ski treatments' with a litany of top-shelf drinks and cocktails, all within easy reaching distance of the slopes outside (try also The Man Hotel or The Cock 'n' Bull for a less luxe, more 'local' experience).
Fuel up off piste
All that snow and skiing and visiting spas and saunas makes for very hungry work and while it's hard to go past the freshly made 'Snonuts' (the delicious Falls Creek doughnuts dressed up with a fancy alpine name), it's even harder to resist the lure of Bazaar, QT's interactive marketplace. Declared "the resort's signature restaurant", Bazaar is a warm and homely environment where all sorts of gourmet cuisines are offered up - from handmade dumplings to Moroccan spiced lamb shanks, fresh seafood to a dessert bar that is too exquisite to be missed.
"It's through the passion of the chefs that you're able to see the next level we're able to go to," executive chef Alex Crossley tells Executive Style. "This environment that we do here in Bazaar, where you can sit down and relax for two or three hours in the restaurant, it's a neat little product that you don't see in many other places."
Luxe it up
It's easy to see why an increasing number of discerning skiers and boarders looking for a more luxe alpine experience are starting to take domestic snow holidays more seriously. As Erasmuson says, Falls Creek "is just 40 minutes in a helicopter out of Melbourne" or around four-and-a-half hours in a car, while a chopper trip from Sydney to Thredbo will take you around an hour and a half.
Relaxing in a private hot tub, watching the sun melt into the ghost gums strewn across the Kiewa Valley, it's hard not to toast this little bit of Aussie luxury. You can have your Austrian snow holidays - I'll be plumping for one right on my doorstep.
The writer travelled as a guest of QT Falls Creek.