Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (m)
    1,450 – 1,845 (395)
  • Average Snow Fall
    3  metres
  • Lifts (13)
    8 quads
    1 triple
  • Ski Season
    Mid June - late Sept
  • Terrain Summary
    Size– 320ha
    Longest run – 2.5 km
    Advanced - 40%
    Intermediate -40%
    Beginner - 20%
  • Lift Prices (Day- 2018)
    Adult - $133
    Child - $74

Ski Hotham

Mt Hotham officially has 245 hectares (605 acres) of piste terrain when it is fully open. The central parts of the Mount Hotham resort are most likely to be open (e.g. terrain serviced by the Village Chair and Heavenly Valley) along with the Big D kids’ area. The Gotcha area (double black diamond terrain) and the Orchard area (intermediate terrain) require a little more snow cover, and these lifts are also more vulnerable to being on wind-hold, whilst the lower elevation Blue Ribbon area is often not open in early and late season.

Like most other skiing in Australia, the vertical drop is not significant, and the terrain is spread out horizontally. As with other mountains in the Great Dividing Range, Mt Hotham is not “peaky”. It’s rather flat on top and the steeper terrain can be found down in the valleys.

A small part of the Hotham ski resort is situated in the treeless alpine, whilst many of the trails are tree lined.

Lifts

Mount Hotham ski resort has 12 lifts and a couple of magic carpets. All the chair lifts are non-detachable and move rather slowly. As to expected, in stormy conditions some of the lifts have to go on wind-hold, yet a few of the main lifts are well positioned against the prevailing winds such that they can continue to operate in foul weather.

Night skiing is available at the Big D on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Lift Tickets

As with the other major Australian ski resorts, the general lift ticket prices are outrageously expensive, especially when you consider the lack of detachable chair lifts (etc etc). The only way to score good value for money is with an Epic season pass.

Crowds

Hotham Alpine Resort can get crowded, but it’s very quiet compared to Mt Buller. As to be expected, the size of the crowds varies between weekends and weekdays, and the time of the year. For example the first two weeks of July (school holidays) can be hectic and long lift queues often develop, particularly if only some of the terrain is open. Slalom Gully (aka Slush Gully or Sloppy Gully) can become one big mess of people, but on the plus side it’s a very social area!

Mount Hotham Snow

Mt Hotham only receives 3 metres of snow on average, but at least this is a little higher than its Victorian counterparts. Like other Australian resorts that are not renowned for good snow quality, the major problem is how well the snow is retained. Warm temps can melt it, the rain can wash it away, or the strong winds can blow it away. Luckily Hotham Resort has snowmaking on several trails to add to the cover. The water used for the snowmaking is “recycled” and there used to be a saying about creating more “effluent so the affluent can ski”!

The quality of the Mt Hotham snow might be a fraction better than other Victorian resorts due to slightly higher elevation, but generally the powder that falls is of the heavy variety. Occasionally cold temps produce light powder, but as a general rule it’s the northerlies (and warmer winds) that bring the big dumps of snow. So it comes as no great surprise that lots of Australians go skiing in Japan!

Mt Hotham Skiing for the Beginner

The upper parts of the mountain above the road feature the beginners’ terrain. The advantage of both areas is that they are dedicated for beginners, so novices can learn in peace without fast skiers whizzing past them.

Inaptly called the Big D, because there’s nothing “big” about it, is a beginners’ area that is largely frequented by kids and used as a base for kids’ ski school. Unfortunately it’s not interconnected via the slopes with the main part of the Hotham terrain, which is a major pain for parents. From the Big D, it is possible for advanced riders to cross the road and then scoot down a run, but you can’t ski-in and it requires a bus ride to get there. A big pro for the Big D is that it’s tree lined and largely protected from the elements.

The Summit is the other beginners’ area where typically the adults go to learn. This mellow run is massively wide so there’s a lot of space for error. It’s just unfortunate that the only slightly steep pitch is right at the bottom where the beginners are supposed to be able to stop to get on a lift without crashing into the lift queue! The Summit is treeless and riding the lift is a nightmare in foul weather (if the chair is open). It’s a surprise that beginners want to continue to learn to ski after riding on this very chilly lift.

Ski Hotham - Intermediates

Mt Hotham doesn’t have much terrain choice for low-end intermediates. The first progression for beginners is the Sun Run and then onto Slalom Gully which is often chaotic. Even though it’s a dedicated slow zone, it has snow plowers along with fast rippers, and with too many people and mixed abilities on the one slope, it’s not surprising that the blood bucket is frequently in action.

For mid-level intermediates there is some terrain at the Orchard, which is located at the outermost reaches of the resort. Sometimes it’s not open and getting there and back can pose a challenge for non-confident skiers and snowboarders.

Strong intermediates have plenty to choose from (see advanced terrain below).

Advanced Skiing

Heavenly Valley is heavenly for advanced riders and a definite strength of Mt Hotham! It consists of a series of runs on ridges or gullies, many of which are groomed. The pitch of some of the runs is appropriately steep for black diamond runs, and they are plenty of fun particularly if you like speed. And the early bird gets the worm from Wednesday to Sunday when the lift opens at 7:30am.

Heavenly Valley also offers some good off-piste runs, some trees, and rock features. The only downside of Heavenly Valley is that too many runs terminate in Slalom Gully (aka Sloppy Gully) where you have to contend with snow ploughers and unpredictable greenhorn snowboarders.

When it’s open, the Blue Ribbon area can provide some enjoyable soft bumps, and Spargo’s and One Tree Hill are also very good advanced areas. The latter zone provides some good tree skiing on a powder day. Just remember that tree skiing around snow gums is a little challenging and unpredictable because they grow at crazy angles!

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Another strength of Hotham Resort is the “Extreme Zone”. Whilst potentially exaggerating the extremeness of the area, most of it consists of easy double black diamond treeless terrain at the top which fans down to tight gullies, small cliffs, gnarly rocky lines, plenty of trees (in Lindsay’s) and creeks (don’t be a Mary and slide into the creek), so it’s aptly rated as expert terrain.

All the runs in the Extreme Zone provide something a little different; it’s all fab but just not long enough. Doing loops of this area can take a while because it requires two lifts to get there, a traverse along a gnarly narrow trail (which loses a few snowboarders!) and then a skate (or shuffle) along a trail. Some runs to the skiers’ left can also require creek jumping if it’s not covered in.

Sidecountry

The resort prides itself on the free kat skiing rides to Golden Point. Firstly I’m not sure why snow cat skiing has a “k” in it Down Under, and secondly the whole thing is a joke because it rarely ever operates. Most people just go for a short hike and then enjoy the Golden Point slackcountry lines that terminate at the Blue Ribbon lift.

Backcountry

The Mt Hotham area offers the best sidecountry and backcountry of the Australian ski resorts. Hiking or skinning is required to get to the goods, although there are also various lines near the winding Great Alpine Road where up-hilling can be supplemented by a mate with a car.

The backcountry terrain varies from mellow bowls to nasty cliff lines below the Drift lift or Avalanche Gully. Favourite areas include Eagle Ridge (might be lift accessed in the future?), over the back of Mt Loch (near the Orchard), Women’s Downhill and Mount Blowhard.

And here’s the lecture part. Just because Australia has relatively low snowfalls, don’t assume that usual backcountry precautions don’t apply. Avalanches can and do happen.

Terrain Parks

Pending adequate snow, the main terrain park is located on the Summit and features plenty of jumps. This is awesome on a fine day, but not so good when it’s blowing a bastard.

A short rail and box park is set up at the Basin below the Swindler’s Pub. This makes for great spectatorship for those on the Swindler’s deck, but if you don’t like hiking up to do another line, it’s rubbish because it’s a long way to ride down to catch a chair lift back up.

Often a banked slalom and skier/boarder cross course is set up on the Summit/Roadrunner area.