Mt Hotham is a fantastic place. I’ve been coming to both Mt Hotham and Falls Creek for the past 16 years. Initially my wife and I would stay off mountain to try and save some money. Progressively we placed more emphasis on staying on mountain to maximize our time on the snow, and minimize the driving, especially now that we have two children. Plus, we really enjoy the atmosphere at the pub after a hard day of snowboarding, and it’s hard to beat the cheese and biscuits when back at the lodge! Eventually my wife and I found Leeton, and it has felt like home ever since.
Our journey to Mt Hotham is a 10hr return trip from Melbourne. It sure does provide some thinking time to figure out how to make future trips run smoother. Hopefully the following information makes your life easier, however, no judgement will be passed if you completely disregard it… Everyone is different and do what works best for you.
- Before you leave home
- Heading up the Mountain
- Getting your gear to the lodge
- Long term parking
- Time to settle in and enjoy
Before you leave home
To make your trip as smooth as possible, I suggest the following:
- Ski Gear – Purchase or rent your ski gear (assuming you don’t have any already) locally. This will save time renting ski gear up on the mountain and losing the first 2 hours of precious ski time. Some rentals have premises both off mountain and on mountain, which is handy in case you need settings tweaked or boots changed. And if you know all of your sizes, at least one rental will deliver your skis or boards to you at the lodge. Many rental companies offer lodge discounts – always mention you are staying at a lodge to see if there is a discount available.
- Chains – Purchase or rent chains locally. Make sure they’re diamond pattern and fit your car, wheels, and tires. It is best to trial fit if you have the chance! If you are really concerned about putting the chains on yourself, there is often a chain fitting service available on the way up the mountain.
- Parking Permit – Pre-purchase your parking permit for the nights you will be parking your car up at Mt Hotham. The parking permit allows you to park in the daily short-term parking, and the overnight parking. Without a permit, you will be fined. I’ve unfortunately had to pay a few! These permits feel expensive – but they do also cover the cost of the free buses on the mountain.To purchase a pass, click this link: “Purchase a Parking Permit”
- Luggage – Pack light and try to make sure everything is in a bag/box.
- For couples / singles – Ditch the suitcase. A hiking bag is the way to go.
- For families – Grab the sled! More on that later.
- Linen – Please remember to bring top and bottom sheets, a pillowcase, and a towel. The lodge does have linen available for emergency situations at a fee.
- Food – Food options (Both dining in, and takeaway) are available on the mountain. However, If you’re planning to cook, try and bring everything with you. There are limited supplies available on mountain, and they’re literally 3 times the price you will pay in Melbourne. If you are planning on staying for a long time, or with a really large party, some of the off-mountain supermarkets do actually have a delivery service. Make sure you select a ‘green’ service when the delivery truck is already visiting the mountain.
- Fuel – If you have a diesel vehicle, you will need to think about fuel, and the risk of your fuel gelling in cold conditions, leading to your vehicle not starting on the day of departure. To mitigate this, try and fill as much of your tank with Alpine diesel in Bright.If you’re coming at night, be prepared that service stations do close early!An anti-gelling agent can also be purchased at Autobarn. Check out – “Flashlube Winter Diesel Fuel Formula 250mL – FW250M”My wife and I drive a late model diesel VW Passat Alltrack, and here’s what we do:
- Leave home from Melbourne with roughly half a tank of diesel and fill with Alpine diesel when we get to Bright.
- If it’s going to be cold (-2°C), I’ll also add half a bottle of the flash lube.
- If it’s going to be really cold (-5°C and below), I’ll also add the full bottle of flash lube.
Heading up the Mountain
You’re at the bottom of the mountain and about to start your ascent. It’s about 45 minutes from either side (Harrietville or Omeo). The Harrietville ascent is steeper and windier than the Omeo approach, but don’t let this put you off. If conditions are bad, drive slow, put your lights on (low beam if in whiteout conditions), and fit chains when directed. Sometimes it can be difficult driving in whiteout conditions, especially at night, and if another car is behind you. On many occasions, I simply pull over, let them pass, and then use their taillights as a guide for where to drive. It’s much less stressful!
Welcome to the top!
Keep driving until you see “Bus Stop 7”. It’s right next to Jack Frost. Park your car temporarily in the 30 minute car park area, which is about 50m further down from the bus stop. It’s on your right if you’re coming from Melbourne. Be careful not to park in the designated bus stop zone.
Getting your gear to the lodge
Leeton is located at the end of Dargo Crt. Number 7, roughly 200m from the bus stop or a 5 minute walk.
One of Mt. Hotham’s best attributes is that the lodges are at the top of the mountain, and roughly located at the same level as the car park, ie. It’s flat getting to Leeton!
If you have a lot of gear, my advice is to grab the sled! It’s located right out the front of Leeton. It’s like a big shopping trolley on two snowboards, instead of wheels. This will make your life a lot easier. Another option is a luggage transfer – more information is available here: “Mt Hotham Luggage Transfer Service”
Whilst you’re out the front of the lodge, hide a few beers in the snow – The real work is about to begin!
Time to act like a pack horse and heave! Get that sled back to your car. Don’t take it right down to the road level though as it’s very hard to get it back up (Trust me! I’ve tried and failed).
Load your gear into the sled and haul it back to Leeton. Try and do it in one trip…
Unpack the sled and load your gear into the lodge’s entry (wet area). If you’re cold, wet, miserable, and can’t find the door code that was sent to you – ring the door bell! Our super friendly lodge manager (Hugh) will let you in, and hopefully have a few good stories to cheer you up… If that doesn’t work – there’s always the beer in the snow – they will help as well… But not yet! We have a car to move.
Before you head back to your car, ask your fellow travellers to move all of the gear in the wet area to your designated room whilst you’re away. Food and drink can be stored in the fridges in the kitchen, and the drawers below the kitchen benches. There are room numbers on each, indicating where to leave your goods.
Don’t forget to take a ski jacket and gloves with you before you leave to move your car to the long term car park!
Long term parking
You’re almost done… Almost!
Move your car from the short term parking, to the long term parking. It’s a further 2km down the road, if heading away from Harrietville. The long term car parks are shown in green on the following map.
I like to park in the “Slatey Car Park” at bus stop 11. I find it the most convenient as it’s off the road, parks are often available, and it’s easy to see the bus coming from the car for that mad last-minute dash.
Don’t be too hung up on where you park though… Sometimes it’s best just to go to the next long term car park area, then spend a long time looking for a park.
Go to the closest bus stop and wait for the bus. Jump on and get off at car park 7. The drivers are friendly and can help. Just tell them you’re a first timer.
Time to settle in and enjoy
You’re now on the final stretch with just a short walk back to the lodge from bus stop 7. It’s now time to crack that nice cold beer! I like to recover from the long journey under the shelter out the front of Leeton, watch the snow fall, and prepare my thoughts for the next day, which normally involves running around like a mad man trying to get my kids ready for ski school and day care!
I hope you enjoy your time up at Mt Hotham and in our friendly ski lodge. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our lodge manager (Hugh), another member, or myself. There’s also loads of additional information on the Mt Hotham website: https://www.mthotham.com.au/
If you see me around, shout out hello! I’m always up for a chat – especially over a drink!
Have a great season!