When we were planning this weekend with the family to Mt Buller, Ross told me more than once that this would be the only time we would be doing a weekend at the snow in Australia as it is so wickedly expensive ….but…..we all had such a great time that I don’t think it will be a once off trip – I was really unsure how the kids would like the experience but they loved it!
For those that have never been to the snow before, I hope this post will give you a general run down on what you need to know and also an understanding on the costs. We have always known how expensive it is to visit the snow in Victoria but it does still seem to take me by surprise. The Mt Buller website has a wealth of information but I think it is always nice to read a first hand account like this! We enjoyed our (2 night) weekend with my parents – so I have factored this into the costs below.
What you can find in this post
- 1 Straight into the nity grity of our costs
- 2 Costs to consider
- 3 Where is Mt Buller
- 4 Mt Buller accommodation
- 5 Accessibility for all levels
- 6 What is a ‘B-Tag’?
- 7 Top tips for for a family trip to Mt Buller
- 8 What we did on our weekend at Mt Buller
Straight into the nity grity of our costs
Wow, I am not sure I really want to pull this together and see how much a weekend at Mt Buller costs – but it gives you a good overview so here we go –
|Chain Hire||$45||Hire in Mansfield for 3 days|
|Mountain Entry and Car Parking||$45||Mountain entry and 2 nights car parking|
|Over snow taxi||$122||Return adult ticket $46 and a child’s return ticket $30 (ages 3 +)|
|Accommodation||$400||We had a great deal on accommodation and paid $400 per night ($800 in total) but I will only add $400 to this total as we split the cost with my parents)|
|Ski Hire||$297||$89 for each child for 3 days and $119 for ski’s for myself|
|Lessons||$153||$128 for a one hour lesson for one person plus $25 for extra person|
|Lift Tickets||$330||Under 5 is free so we only needed a b’tag for Olive (for more information on the B’Tag please see below) which are $5, $67 for Ned (includes the B’Tag) and $129 each for Ross and I|
|My Parents costs - chain hire, mountain entry, taxi and accommodation||$592|
Mum and Dad didn’t ski, so imagine if they did need to hire ski’s and buy lift tickets also!
Costs to consider
- Snow gear hire (pants, jackets, boots etc if you don’t have your own)
- Ski boots, ski’s and helmets
- Chain Hire
- Mountain Entry
- Car Parking
- Over snow taxi
- Accommodation – realistically I’d budget for $100 per person per night
- Lift tickets
- Ski School
- Eating/drinking out and about
Where is Mt Buller
Mt Buller is 248kms north-east of Melbourne via Mansfield. It’s about 3 or 3.5 hours from Melbourne.
Mt Buller accommodation
There is a huge variety of accommodation available. Both on the mountain and off the mountain. It will save you money if you decide to stay off the mountain. It is nearly an hour from Mansfield or you can stay in Sawmill Settlement or Mirimbah but you’ll still need to drive up the mountain each day. Lots of people do it, but to be honest I wouldn’t bother going if I had to do this each day with the kids!
Self contained is the way to go when you are with your family. You could stay in a hotel style room and eat all meals out if you wanted to – but that makes for an expensive snow trip and also means that you might end up in the bathroom trying to enjoy a wine while the kids are going to sleep. A self contained apartment gives you space to spread out and relax.
Top Tip – I actually think location is important in the village. You don’t want to have to walk too far to the lifts with all your snow gear so check out the location on the village map before confirming.
Accessibility for all levels
Mt Buller is ideal for beginner skiers and snowboarders. It can be crazy busy over school holidays and weekends though. If you are worried about the crowds then I would recommend visiting during the week or non-peak season. It really does make a difference to the confidence level if you can concentrate on what you are doing rather than worrying about 100’s of other people.
There is a great variety of trails suitable for all levels. When you look at the trail run map (which might be information overload if it’s your first visit to the mountain!) you can see the trails are coded as green, blue and black with green being the easiest.
What is a ‘B-Tag’?
We had no idea what a ‘B-Tag’ was (it was a while between snow trips!). It is basically your access card for everything you need on the mountain. Such as lift access, lessons and gear rental.
If this is your first visit to Mt Buller you’ll need to arrange a B-Tag. To do this –
Go online to www.mtbuller.com.au to buy your B-Tag or you can purchase at any ticket office or Buller sports store. You will need to register each B-Tag.
You can add lift access (tickets), lessons and rental gear to your B-Tag.
You need to carry your B-Tag at all times, in a secure pocket, by itself.
There is no need to get it out again as it automatically scans.
For your next trip you are able to re-load online which is quick and helps skip any queues.
Top tips for for a family trip to Mt Buller
Snow Gear and what you’ll need
Decent snow clothes is an essential when visiting the snow. Believe me, we have seen some very under prepared snow visitors in past years. There are always people skiing in jeans and a pullover with a plastic bag over them. This is useless! You will freeze and be very uncomfortable.
We all have our own clothes (or borrow if need to) but you can hire in Melbourne, in Mansfield or once you are in the village. All the hire shops are open late to cater for those leaving and arriving late after a work day. I would 100% recommend being prepared with clothes and shoes and arranging these before you get up the mountain – you might need them when you get out of the car if it’s snowing! We have thought in the past that we could get by with kids in their gumboots with thick socks – you can’t! Don’t do this to your kids and let their little feet and toes get cold.
Decent gloves are also really important. The kids didn’t quite fit properly and their little fingers did get cold.
Ross has his own snowboard but we hired boots and ski’s for myself, Ned and Olive. Just remember that if you hire these off the mountain you need to fit them in or on the car somehow!
You’ll need clothes to keep you all warm and dry. Dress in layers so you can remove layers if you need to. The kids will need helmets which are included in the hire and a beanie underneath is great for warmth. They are not compulsory for adults (yet).
- Skivvie (or similar)
- Zip up jacket (easier to get off than pulling a jumper over your head)
- T-shirt – if the sun is out you might find you are warm enough in just a t-shirt under your jacket
- Comfy long socks
- Waterproof pants and jacket
- Ski goggles and/or sunnies – you’ll be amazed at how bright the sunshine is on the mountain if you get a sunny day
- Gloves – mittens are a good option also, just make sure they are waterproof
- Sunscreen – I have had massive panda eyes in the past from not enough sunscreen
- Lip balm – you’ll be applying this all day
Bring a toboggan
Yes, you can hire a toboggan when you hire the rest of your gear. This is an essential piece of equipment if visiting the snow for the first time (or the 10th time with kids). It is a great introduction to the snow and loads of fun.
Mt Buller has two large snow play areas – perfect for tobogganing and general snow play.
Pack plenty of snacks when out and about
When Ross and I used to go to the snow many years ago we would pack lots of the mini sized chocolate bars as snacks. Sometimes we were known to burry these under a tree and come back and find them once we needed a chocolate hit!
I would recommend loading up your jacket pockets with lots of snacks. Tobogganing, snowman building, snowball throwing, skiing and walking around makes you very hungry!
Easy snack options include Le Snacks, muesli bars, mini chocolate bars, homemade bliss balls etc.
There are plenty of places to stop for hot chocolates (which the kids loved) but buying meals can be expensive on the mountain.
Being at the snow is hard work. Be prepared with low expectations when visiting with little kids. It’s hard to walk on the snow and if the weather is snowing, windy or raining it can be extra hard work. The kids might love it or hate it and you just have to roll with it.
Other things to do
Some of the most fun we had was in the super soft snow under the trees. Make sure you have a walk around and find some different areas for a play.
There are loads of things to do on the mountain if you are looking for other activities including a ‘Gnome’ hunt, cinema, site seeing, spa’s and shopping.
Ski School and Lessons
Lessons and ski school is available for the kids. We didn’t put the kids into ski school, we opted for a private lesson but will look into this in the future. Mt Buller has a fantastic PDF with loads of information for first timers which you should download and study!
Checking in and out
Give some thought beforehand as to whether you would like to ski on the first and/or the last day. Otherwise, it means two days are travel days, I really don’t like ‘driving days’ with nothing else apart from arriving at your destination (or home) and only unpacking!
Skiing on the first day means a very early start and if you can’t check in early you’ll need to be able to leave your gear somewhere and get changed etc.
We were lucky on our trip that we were able to check out late. That meant we could play in the morning, then come back for showers etc before leaving. If you don’t have the option of late check out but still want to make the most of the day you’ll need to ask your accommodation if they have a luggage storage facility. Have some clothes at the top of the pile to change back into! It could end up being quite a late night.
Factor in walking from the ski hire shop back to your accommodation (or to the lifts if you are heading there straight away) – we had a bit of a walk up hill and were super sweaty by the time we go there!
It can actually be an effort to get to your accommodation. Driving up the mountain, unloading into the over snow transport, potentially stopping to pick up others, dropping off others, unloading at your accommodation and then getting all your gear to your room (with potentially lots of stairs if there isn’t a lift). This takes time and needs to be factored into your overall travel time.
You’ll have loads of gear!!! You can buy massive soft bags which we put all our gear into. Most likely you’ll need to bring your own sheets and towels which take up heaps of room. Plus food, so you will probably have an esky and shopping bags!
Remember that you can use your toboggan as a sled to help pull along kids with tired legs.
The weather and snow conditions will play a huge part in how successful your snow experience is. Unfortunately the weather is not particularly predictable in Victoria so you’ll just have to run with what you’ve got – just go with it knowing there is nothing you can do about it.
Snacks, yep it’s already been mentioned but snacks so often make everything better!
Don’t forget to know how to put on the snow chains! Ask when you hire them if you don’t know.
Wine, don’t forget to pack wine!
Top tip – it is illegal to drive with snow on your car so remove as much as you can. We had a fair bit on our roof still and when we dropped the chains back the guy there told us to make sure to wipe all of it off.
Top Tip – arrange your mountain entry, car parking and over snow taxi online to beat any ques (you must be able to print out your pass though – if you can’t you’ll need to stop at the gate).
What we did on our weekend at Mt Buller
We booked a long weekend which included Saturday and Sunday nights on the mountain. I will only ever stay on the mountain. There is always the option to stay off the mountain but this is not something I would ever do with kids.
We were still tossing up the week before as to whether we go after dinner on Friday to stay the night in Mansfield but this just added another cost to the weekend. So, we packed everything (including the esky of food) on Friday night meaning all we had to do on Saturday morning was get up and get dressed in the morning. We stopped at the bakery for some ham and cheese croissants and Danishes to eat on the way and drove through to Mansfield.
Mansfield is approximately 2.5 hours from Melbourne so the kids were ready for a little run around at the park (there is a good little park if you turn right at the round-a-bout that has the toilets on the corner). There is a clean little bathroom in the park also. Someone had dumped a load of snow in the car park next door and the kids had a ball climbing and making snow balls so we had a bit of an inkling that they were going to be happy at the snow!
We then hired our snow chains (which are compulsory if staying overnight) from the PB station as you are leaving Mansfield – for no particular reason other than we have been there before.
We played ‘who can spot the snow first’ – the mountains were perfectly clear and it was a beautiful drive. We were watching the temperature slowly drop – although it was a mild start to the weekend.
We pre-purchased our mountain entry online which enabled us to drive straight through the gate and start up the mountain (you need to be able to print the pass before you arrive for the dashboard). We passed the little gnome tree on the way up – look out for it.
There was a staff member checking car parking passes and we were directed down into Lower Tryrell carpark. When booking your mountain entry you also book your oversnow taxi. There is a barcode number on the bottom of the page which the driver will ask for so make sure you have it handy. There were plenty of oversnow taxi’s waiting so we loaded up and headed to our accommodation.
We stayed at an apartment in the Alto complex – completely ski in/out right next to the chair lifts and the ski school – can’t get much better than that! The apartment is owned by a friend of my parents so we didn’t have to research available accommodation and we still thought it was very expensive but apparently it was a good price for that location for 6 people!
After we worked out who was sleeping where and lunch we walked down to George’s ski hire to hire our gear. We haven’t been to George’s before but I do imagine all the prices of the different hire places are comparable. There are also places to hire your gear if you are staying in accommodation on the other side of the ski runs.
We hired boots, ski’s and helmets for the kids and boots, ski’s and poles for me (Ross has his own snow boarding gear). Olive cracked it putting on her boots and I thought oh dear it’s all over but she came good once she saw her pink ski’s!
Given it was after lunch already we decided not to bother with any sort of lift tickets today so we spent a fair bit of time running down Bourke Street with the kids on their ski’s and then dragging them back up. We then realised there was the magic carpet at the ski school. The kids went up and down a few times. Olive picked it up straight away – some thanks going to the kids sports program ‘Kids in Motion’ as soon as we said it’s like a ‘tuck sit’ with your hands on your knees she understood straight away! Ned was a little more tentative but still did so much better on the first day than I was expecting.
Olive’s fingers were freezing at this stage so we started to make our way back. We noticed that Miss Twisty was making balloons for the kids at the Abom so we stopped in there and warmed up and waited for some balloons for the kids.
We had dinner in the apartment and all had early nights.
The next morning the wind had definitely arrived and we headed straight over to the magic carpet (this time I had my ski’s on!) and had a play while Ross went to arrange lift tickets and a lesson for the kids. The wind was strong enough to knock Ned over straight away so his nerves were shattered first thing. We arranged a private lesson for the kids. They do have a great sounding kids ski school program but the hours were far too long for the kids on our first trip (and to be honest as with most adventures we go on, it was about being there all together giving it a go).
The kids did great in their lesson. Maria from Italy was very patient (it took Ned a while before he would participate but Olive was straight up there) and the instructors really do have great skills being able to ski backwards while catching the kids!
The kids were exhausted after this so we took the opportunity to leave them with mum and dad while Ross and I headed off for an hour or so to check out a couple of runs. It’s true what they say that skiing is like riding a bike and you pick it up exactly where you left off. I am pretty useless to be honest and could probably do with a lesson myself but I get around as long as it’s not too steep. I’m a bit of a chicken though! The weather was windy but then the wind dropped as we were heading off and then the fog rolled in! There was plenty of snow and rain while we were out. Not ideal but you have to make the most of it!
We took the kids out again after lunch to make use of the lift tickets – Ned was put off by the wind and his nerves so he was on foot (as was Ross as we hadn’t worked out how to get Olive down with Ross on his board – I tried to take Olive between my leg’s but it just wasn’t working – mum and dad used to do this with three of us, I am not sure how!). Olive told me that she didn’t like the weather and it was horrible! Ned was quite happy running down the mountain! Ross headed off again in the afternoon and the rest of us went for a wonder down to the chalet – look out for the bear and the moose in the foyer.
Dinner at the apartment again and another early night.
We woke up Monday morning to so much fresh snow and it was still snowing. The forecast was for another 6 days of snow! We were very lucky staying where we did as we were able to have a whole extra day rather than waking up and checking out.
We took the toboggans out in the morning and had a ball playing and then went for a hot chocolate and then a play in the village. The kids didn’t seem to mind the cold going up and down the little slide in the playground. Walking back up the hill amongst the trees was fantastic. So much fresh soft snow. We all had a good play.
We had lunch and then headed back to the cars – our cars were completely covered in snow when we got back to them and it was still snowing! We rushed the kids into the car and Ross and Dad put the chains on while mum and I pushed snow off the cars. The drive down was slow but it didn’t feel scary but I am glad it was Ross driving. We saw two cars (with chains) who had driven off the side of the road so you really do need to drive carefully.
We stopped quickly in Mansfield to drop the chains back and then drove the 1 hour to Yea to stop for a quick dinner at the Grand Central Pub. We were in the car around 7.30 and the kids passed out in about 5 minutes.
There you have it. What we got up to on our first family weekend at Mt Buller and some costs and general information for you! It’s great fun, just expensive fun. My friend put together a great post for me with everything you need to know about skiing in Canada with kids. You can read all about that here.
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