Access All Areas In Mount Hotham 2018

Australia’s highest alpine village, Mount Hotham in Victoria, is currently experiencing its best start to the winter season since 2000. The summit, located 4.5 hours’ drive from Melbourne Airport, offers endless Aussie ski holiday options for all, from beginners to experienced snow bunnies, adaptive snow-goers to families and from singles to groups. “Hotham is very unique,” says adaptive sportsperson Jason Sauer, who has called the mountain home for eight consecutive winters.

View of Mount Hotham from the chairliftNot a bad view from the chairlift, right?

Boasting 13 chairlifts, three terrain parks and 35km of cross-country skiing area, Hotham is the obvious choice for those learning the ropes, those who want more of a challenge and those requiring assistance on the slopes. Disability Wintersport Australia (DWA) “has made skiing at Hotham much more achievable for people with a disability,” Jason says. And with the most recent snowfall, life on the mountain is already in full swing.

Adaptive snowsports (or wheelchair users)

Adaptive skiers at Mount HothamAdaptive skiers Samantha Dwyer, Jason Sauer and Jamie-Lee Dwyer hit the slopes with the Mount Hotham crew. (Image: Samantha Dwyer)

Mount Hotham has partnered with Disabled Wintersport Association (DWA) to ensure visitors have access to adaptive winter sport equipment and certified guides if additional assistance is required to hit the slopes. DWA volunteer guides can offer on-snow support, including lift loading and unloading, provide extra support and stability by tethering the sit ski and audible communication for the visually impaired.

“They looked after us so well. They knew the mountain inside out and had done a lot of training,” says adaptive skier Samantha Dwyer.

Along with her sister, Jamie-Lee, who is also a wheelchair user, Samantha recently travelled to Mount Hotham because of its Signature Program with DWA.

“Skiing is something I never thought I could do because of my disability and when I found out I could do it, I wanted to give it a go,” Jamie-Lee says. “It definitely woke me up and made me feel more alive.”

Singles

Two women ready to ski Mount HothamSheridan Murphy and Samantha Dwyer all rugged up and ready to roll! (Image: Samantha Dwyer)

Winter destinations such as Mount Hotham are a perfect option for singles craving adventure closer to home. The resort offers a range of accommodation to suit all budgets whether you’re looking to stay in a lodge, chalet or apartment. After being fitted for skis or a snowboard, be sure to book your spot in a group lesson. With lessons under $100, you’ll have plenty of change for a beer at après-ski.

Events are also plentiful throughout the winter season, providing an opportunity to mix with locals and other travellers. Held in September, Retro Day encourages you to wear a matching tracksuit while shredding the slopes, followed by the Retro After Party at The Bird. At this popular bar, enjoy a live band performance and fireworks display. Whip out your bumbag and you may take home the prize for best dressed!

Couples

A snow-covered cabin in Mount HothamIn your backyard, a winter wonderland awaits – perfect cosy for couples!

New to Mount Hotham in 2018 is Igloo to Skidoo, an unique experience allowing couples to indulge in an overnight stay in an igloo and take a scenic Skidoo (snowmobile) ride. The sustainably built snowdome includes woodfire heating and solar-powdered battery plugs, enabling you to keep warm while you post your alpine experience on Instagram.

Receive personalised advice from one of the mountain’s knowledgeable instructors by arranging a private lesson for two. Afterward, visit Onsen Retreat + Spa, Australia’s first indoor/outdoor alpine retreat. The Couples Mountain Escape Package is highly recommended for a relaxing yet romantic time in the Japanese-inspired surroundings.

Families

Kids learning to ski on the slopes of Mount HothamMighty Mites in formation, showing other skiers how it’s done.

Accommodation on Mount Hotham is plentiful for families with many featuring multiple bedrooms and self-contained facilities. For the ultimate convenience, opt for accommodation that offers ski-in, ski-out access, which makes the process of getting the kids to the chairlift easier. Once there, kids aged three to five years are welcomed into Mighty Mites, while kids aged six to 14 can join the Kids Club.

When you’re not perfecting your slope skills, there are plenty of activities for the family to enjoy, including tobogganing, dog sled tours and snowmobile rides. Throughout the July school holidays, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Melbourne will host a pop-up on the mountain, inviting kids (and big kids) to engage in activities with their favourite coloured blocks and battle it out in the ultimate ‘family build challenge’.

Groups

Skiers wait for the chairlift at Mount HothamGroup love – peak hour at the Heavenly Valley chairlift.

Choosing a destination with something for everyone can prove to be challenging. Luckily Mount Hotham has taken care of the hard work for you with a variety of events scattered throughout the winter season. July is the perfect time to get your fellow females together for Womens Ski Week. Join an exclusive snowboarding clinic, Womens Snowboard Shred Session, which is run by the mountain’s top female instructors. By nightfall, hit the town and join the après drinks or rug up by the fire.

The mountain celebrates equality during the second week of September for Gay Ski Week. Expect to see an influx of colour during themed events including DJ sets, group dining, trivia, a scavenger hunt and the Rainbow Run Competition. Book your accommodation ahead of time to avoid your group missing out on all the fun!

Discover A Special Kind Of Bali Holiday Bliss 2018

Discover a special kind of Bali holiday bliss

Flight Centre Travel Expert Sheridan Murphy shares a personal story about her recent trip to Bali, and her foray into the Indonesian island’s spiritual heart…

After a whirlwind week’s holiday in Bali, I was ready for one last adventure. I stood in the Bali Garden Beach Resort lobby and took my final look around– the dark wooden furnishings, the statues guarding the property, the tropical gardens that flourish from the driveway throughout the resort, and, of course, the staff who are never without a smile – before I made the most of my final hours in Bali.

Classic Bali experiences

My stay had been filled with Bali must-dos: bartering with the market holders, sinking a few Bintangs on the beach, indulging in a few spa treatments and shamelessly getting braids. Although I had only a few hours to spare, I couldn’t leave the island without experiencing a traditional Balinese healing, similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s interaction with Ketut in Eat, Pray, Love.

Finding a healer

After getting in touch with Urban Adventures, I followed their recommendation and arranged to meet with Ibu Iluh. Apparently healing ceremonies are typically led by a male mangku or priest, so being able to make an appointment with a female mangku was very rare. I instantly felt grateful knowing that Ibu Iluh agreed to see me on such short notice.

As I was reflecting on all the incredible Indonesian experiences I’d had so far, a bright-yellow 1980 VW Kombi pulled into the driveway. Immediately I was greeted by Mangde, my guide, dressed impeccably in a traditional sarong – and Ketut, who opened the double doors to the Kombi.  The classic van was fully restored inside, complete with handstitched upholstery, minibar and modern fittings. It was a hipster ride from Kuta to the home of Ibu Iluh, just a few suburbs away in Seminyak.

An introduction to tradition

On arrival, I was led into the courtyard and waited while the mangku prepared for the ceremony inside. I watched the smoke from the incense dance above an offering to the gods that rested at the foot of a cement pillar. Finally, Mangde helped me wrap a sarong around my waist and over the top of my already modest choice of outfit before I was silently greeted by Ibu Iluh.

The mangku, Balinese priest, Ibu Iluh was dressed head to toe in a long-sleeve blouse and a skirt that covered even her ankles, both crisp white in colour. She lead me into a small room dedicated to prayer and religious ceremonies, where two small offerings lay side by side on the floor. As she knelt down and sat comfortably cross-legged, I mimicked her movements. In front of me, a variety of colourful flower petals lay neatly in a bowl made from a leaf, as my own offering to the gods.

An entire wall of the room was covered with statues of the gods and towards them, an ascending platform covered with fruit, water, alcohol, incense – even a few cigarettes – as the largest offering in the home. The mangku spoke softly in broken English. “Close your eyes, take deep breaths,” she said and demonstrated a long inhale and drawn-out exhale. I copied.

Feeling the healing

We sat together and completed multiple rounds of deep breathing. Ibu Iluh began softly chanting, leaving me to only guess what she could be asking of those on the other side. Later that afternoon, she explained that the mangku first presents the offering to the gods then, secondly, asks them to help open the mind of those involved in the ceremony so that they may communicate freely.

As I sunk deeper into meditation, I felt Ibu Iluh place her hands on my shoulders, and abruptly swipe her hands off while her chant grew louder. It was as if her hands had a magical magnetic pull, ridding my body of any impurities. The process continued, each time the swipe of her hand more intense. I knew the meditation was coming to an end when I felt the mangku sprinkle flower petals above me and press rice into my third eye.

A sense of calm

It was a challenge to quieten my mind throughout the healing ceremony, as the process was completely foreign to me. However, after sitting through the entire ceremony, I felt relaxed and at peace; a similar feeling I have felt after a yoga class, with an even greater sense of expansion.

Before I left her home, I sat with Ibu Iluh, who tied a tri-colour band made from black, white and red cotton thread on my wrist. On the way back to the resort, my guide, Mangde, caught me admiring the thread in the back of the Kombi. “It symbolises the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer of the Hindu religion,” he said. “It is worn for protection.” Flying home, I felt just that.

View the blog on the Flight Centre website