Great Alpine Road Visitor Guide

THE GREAT ALPINE ROAD VISITOR GUIDE I PAGE 35 MT HOTHAM Head high up in the mountains over the warmer months and trek the paths that crisscross the open spaces. PHOTO: Visit Victoria Mount Hotham’s alpine magnificence When the winter snows melt Mount Hotham reveals a whole new world of nat- ural beauty, hidden from the hoards of skiers and snow players who ascend the mountain over winter. A picturesque and invigorating environment year-round, Mount Hotham is easily accessible both from the south, through the East Gippsland region, and from Victoria’s north-east along the scenic Great Alpine Road. It is virtually the mid point between Bairnsdale and Wangaratta. Located in the pristine Alpine National Park, it is a wonderland of natural beauty with walking tracks crisscrossing the moun- tain side, wildflowers popping their heads up to bask in the sunshine. European involvement at Mount Hotham started with the movement of stock between Gippsland and north-east Victoria, which followed settlement near Omeo by McKillop, McFarlane, Livingstone and others in 1835. Stockmen from Cobungra station moved cattle to the Ovens and Kiewa valleys over the top of Hotham, the grazing interest followed by mining when gold was discovered in almost all the river valleys surrounding Hotham. It didn’t take long for the area to become appreciated for its recreational potential. The railways were expanding throughout the state and promoted remote areas as destinations to encourage patronage. Victorian Railways played a part in the development of Hotham as an adjunct to its management of the Chalet on Mt Buffalo. The desire of devotees to the new sport of skiing led to increased demand for accommodation on Hotham not only for convenience but to provide shelter from extreme weather. In 1925, a cottage built of stone by Italian masons was christened Hotham Heights . The cottage accommodated about 20 people including the Country Roads Board patrolman who was responsible for improving the Alpine Road between Harrietville and Omeo. During the 1930s ski runs such as Varsity Drag and Blue Ribbon were cleared and many areas were named including Mary’s Slide after an Australian women’s champion. The Ski Club of Victoria was formed and state and national ski championships were periodically conducted on Hotham. The first ski club was built in 1944 by the Alpine Club of Victoria. Other lodges soon followed: Wangaratta Ski Club (1946), Edelweiss Ski Club (1947) and University Ski Club (1948). Following World War II, up to the early 1960s, great progress was made to create a more intensive alpine recreational area that could meet the rapidly growing interest in snow sport. With the installation of other amenities, Hotham evolved into a resort. Although it hosts a major influx of visitors over winter, the beauty of Mount Hotham and its precious flora and fauna can be best appreciated in the warmer months when the snow gum woodlands, the sub-alpine heathlands, mosslands and grasslands aren’t buried under the snow. The Mount Hotham views are awe-inspiring. PHOTO: Visit Victoria