Mt Buffalo is back! The original jewel in the Victorian Alps crown is set for a revival, if not to it’s fantastic heritage glory at least to an exciting renaissance. The Victorian government has announced a $1.5m investment in the future of Mt Buffalo as a year round alpine tourism destination through support for new “eco pod” accommodation (aka eco-friendly cabins).
Meanwhile, Parks Victoria are on the cusp of seeking private investment for a café within the iconic Mt Buffalo Chalet. A year-round café in the front part of the Chalet, offering regional produce along with self-guided tours of the Chalet ballroom is envisaged.
The heritage listed Chalet was built in 1910 by the Public Works Department as Australia’s first ski resort. Passing through public and private hands it served as a historically significant tourist destination for nearly a century before closing in 2007.
When rail was king the main line plus the branch line (now the cycleway) up the Ovens Valley to Bright provided reliable access from Melbourne. It has survived relentless bush fire threats, bitter winters, scorching summers, moronic vandals and general neglect.
Yet it stands proud as the largest timber building in Australia. It is much loved by the local community, who, after years of tireless lobbying, are another step closer to a full refurbishment and restoration of the magnificent Chalet.
It was Australia’s equivalent of the magnificent CP Rail Chateaux hotels in Banff and Lake Louise.
Mount Buffalo Destination Advisory Group member and Community Action for the Chalet chair, David Jacobson is over the moon. “We’ve now established a base camp in the building,” he said, “with the lights finally on and the sound of laughter and conversation echoing through the lounges and corridors once again, I believe that the future for a complete redevelopment of the Chalet is well on the way to becoming a reality.”
“It’s absolutely spectacular in winter,” explains Dave. “With no entry or parking fees it’s perfect for a super affordable snow experience.”
As soon as the snow starts falling Mount Buffalo Ski School will yet again operate out of the Dingo Dell day shelter and cafe offering toboggan hire, snow shoe rambles, cross-country ski lessons and tours. “For 35 years we’ve been offering first timers a wonderful experience and we’re all set to welcome guests in 2020,” explains Dave Chitty from the Ski School. “This latest announcement is absolutely a step in the right direction and the concept’s a pretty good idea. It should provide another fairly unique experience here at Buffalo.”
The Mt Buffalo plateau used to host two ski areas, Cresta and Dingle Dell, which were reasonable size for beginners and families. Dingo Dell was home to Australia’s first ski lift. Attempts a few years back to revive Cresta, the larger area, got nowhere.
But looking at the success of the revamped Corin Forest micro ski area outside Canberra it’s not hard to envisage a similar version being a big success and worthwhile investment here, with the old area’s terrain an ideal place to start. Corin uses carpet lifts with a pre-book limited number of spots for their sessions that usually sell out.
“Providing new accommodation options will allow more people to experience the beauty of Mount Buffalo, providing benefits for the wider region” said Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula.
Alpine Shire Councillor Ron Janas said the announcement heralded a new era in the history of the iconic building. “This is a fantastic step toward the reactivation of the Chalet, and the realisation of a whole-of-mountain vision,” he said. “We are very excited and grateful to the Victorian Government for their ongoing strong support and recognition of the importance the Chalet has to our communities and visitors. Our community has always been passionate about seeing the Chalet reopened – this commitment for eco pod accommodation strengthens the whole-of-mountain offering and is fantastic news for the regional economy.”
Mt Buffalo is a short detour along the way to Hotham and Falls Creek near the picturesque townships of Porepunkah and Bright. Mt Buffalo National Park is home to spectacular Lake Catani, beautiful water falls, wonderful walks, camping, unique fauna and flora and magnificent views.