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Falling for Falls Creek

Know this, when skiing at Falls Creek in July, the village was running at 90% capacity. Nightmare, right? The longest we waited for a chairlift during that visit was two minutes. Literally. On the skis of Ingemar Stenmark – just the greatest downhill skier ever – I swear this to be true. Two minutes, that’s it. A measly 120 seconds shuffling forward, preparing to get whisked back up the mountain so we could come trundling down, again.

But that’s not the only reason you’ll fall for Falls! They’ve got fantastic Hot Chocolate machines.

We arrived in the eye of the storm, that’s what one bloke said. We were clueless. Snow gently fell out of the sky as if it was an American Christmas movie. If you stood in the right spot and looked up, it could have been heaven. Legends told us this was the first time in thirty years the Summit Chair was open on the first day of July. ‘Eye of the storm?” I thought. ‘Somebody’s hit too many moguls!’

We left it to Falls Creek Sports to kit us out with hire gear. Pete and his team were fantastic. ‘My foot hurts, Dad,’ said Jasper, our eight year old. And I said, ‘that’s good, it’s supposed to. It’s skiing. This is how you know you still have a foot.’ But Pete the Fitter kneeled in front of her like some kind of prince and said, ‘where does it hurt, Jasper? Because times have moved on since your old dad was a skier. We can get your boots just right.’

Pete’s attention to Jas was a reflection of what’s happening all over the mountain. It’s something I think we’d like to see all over the country, it could even help Australia’s tourism woes. There is a concerted effort by everyone who works in the village to make us blow-ins feel special. Best of all, it doesn’t feel like they’re trying. Everyone, even the towies, are nice. ‘Good on ya.’ ‘Here it comes, matey.’ ‘Saving some powder for the rest of us?’ ‘The kids waiting for you, Dad?’ Or just a simple smile or a nod. The faces of Falls Creek are a smiling, welcoming force that genuinely want you to enjoy your stay.

We’re a family of four skiers and a snowboarder. Jasper’s eight and Bibi is eleven, for them, skiing was the preferred option. Felix is 13 and decided it was time to get seriously jiggy and spend half his day on his bum, which was fine with us, as long as he had lessons. His instructor was so funky he’d manage to make wearing a rock-climbing helmet look cool. And, he gave Felix all the required skills to get down the numerous peaks quickly and intact. By week’s end, Felix was getting ‘sic air, and that.’

The eye of the storm moved on and didn’t we know it. There was snow and wind and more snow and more wind which made things, well, challenging. This was when true hot chocolate love was born, and it didn’t matter if they were in Cloud 9 or Maggies or anywhere else. With kids and crappy weather, skiing is about a reward system, and that was ours.

For a day and a half the wind blew its head off and finally blew itself away. We were left with the most magnificent conditions. Really, it was phenomenal. Three and a half days of fresh snow, sunshine and no wind to speak of. And still there were no excessive queues, even though we were in the school holidays.

Funnily enough, the snow gets everyone fixated on skiing. I get it, of course. We all do. Why would you go to the effort and the expense of getting to a ski resort and not actually ski? But still, if you’re open to it, there are so many other things to do.

Like snow biking. It’s nutty, and Falls is one of the only places in Australia to do it. Basically, it’s a pimped up, banana seated BMX with skis instead of wheels. And more fun. It was terrifying in that rollercoaster way - the moment Felix and I gave the bikes back was the moment we wanted to ride again.

Now look, I tend to glaze over at the word ‘tour.’ I’ve been on a few and sometimes you can get kind of trapped. The kids saw a sign for the snow mobile tour. Really, I thought we should be skiing, not sitting on the back of snowmobiles. Did I tell you the weather was perfect? But it wasn’t a tour as a passenger - we got to drive! It was heckers, bro! We went fast, Jac got her moto-mojo back. She found all new parental legend status. And best of all, we saw a truly spectacular part of Victoria, in an utterly exciting way.

As for Steve the guide, he was the worst tour guide in the best possible way – whilst he told us historical things, and funny things and was completely charming, he spared us the a lot of the guff because knew we really just wanted to drive!

I got the tour bug. I went on a night-time snow grooming tour with Trev. Maaaaaaaaate. You have to do it, just to be in a vehicle that can go vertical with a 14 way swivelling groomer thing on the front. Trevor is one of the men who make the snow as good as it is, and he loves it. I would have stayed longer but there was another tour-junkie in the line to boot me out. I got another snowmobile ride home, too. It was a clear night, the full moon reflected off the lake and it was possibly the most romantic moment in the snow with a man at 40kph I’ll ever know. Thanks, Geoff.

Jac had some time in the Mii Spa, as well. It’s a five star day spa in the middle of the village. Did I say Falls Creek is a village with a true village feel? When she came back she was relaaaaaaaaaaxed. It was like all the tension had been rubbed and pushed out of her. (I bet she slept through half of it).

And still the sun shone, but it was cool enough at night for the snowmakers to work their magic. It was idyllic.

We had ski in ski out accommodation at Koki Lodge, an institution at Falls since the 70’s. It’s easy to see why, as Ben and Vesna run the place as if it were an extension of their own home. Warm, friendly and with options galore.

Of all the meals we had, and restaurants like Feathertop, (insert) are as good as anywhere I’ve eaten in Sydney or Melbourne - the best meal we had was at Koki. Vesna put together a combination of secret herbs with some South Tawonga steaks, a salad, and let me loose in the industrial kitchen (a fantasy of mine) to stir up a Daddo-fied baba ganoush. We ate with Ben and Vesna, their kids, and some other lodgers - everyone brought something and it was fantastic.

And the lies. My God. It’s what a good lodge is all about, by the end of the night I sounded like I was ready to ski for Australia. So much fun, and such a true family experience. After dinner we went to the bowl to watch the skiing spectacular with fireworks, followed by a snow bungee. We were on a good-time roll and leaving was the only thing that would end it.

Even if we had to wait three minutes for a ski lift, it’d be a pleasure to go back to Falls. It’s the village and the snow and the people. And the tours, and I never thought I’d say that!

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