Snow star: Astra Lodge, Falls Creek

This recently completed lodge brings a touch of European chalet chic to Falls Creek. Gary Allen hits the slopes.

The 2017 Australian ski season got off to something of a slow start, but some late July storms (plus concentrated snowmaking efforts) means there’s plenty of the white stuff crunching under my feet when I arrive at Falls Creek. I’m headed for Astra Lodge, the European-style ski lodge almost 30 years in the making. It first opened in 1988 and was the most glamorous and sought-after lodging in the resort. Falls Creek local Rosy Seaton and her husband Seumas Dawes purchased the lodge in 2014 with the intention of restoring it to its former glory. With original architect Grant Amon on board, the site has undergone extensive renovations over the past three summers, and was completed in time for the 2017 ski season. 

Falls Creek is a village with no cars – only snow tractors – and after a quick phone call I’m greeted by live-in manager Tom Simpson, who pulls up in Astra’s signature black snow vehicle. He shakes my hand and loads the bags, and in the five minutes it takes to arrive at the lodge we are already on a first name basis. His warmth is infectious, and as he carries my luggage up the snow covered steps and takes me on a detailed tour around the lodge, I marvel aloud at how he is doing everything himself. “I’m a jack of all trades,” he laughs. 

The hotel is indeed reminiscent of a chic European ski chalet. Granite, hand-cut stone and timber are complemented by modern touches of steel, leather and glass. A dramatic chandelier hangs in the entrance. My suite, accessible with the swipe of a clever rubber wristband, is simple but elegant; dark, locally sourced timbers adorn the walls, with plush carpets and furnishings in warm, neutral tones. Touches of copper and printed cushions lend a contemporary edge, and a faded turquoise headboard provides a welcome splash of colour. The charcoal-tiled bathroom, full of botanical amenities, offers a walk-in rain shower and large freestanding bathtub. Even the most basic rooms are equipped with an Apple TV, minibar, and tea and coffee making facilities. 

The Family Studio includes a small kitchenette

 

Astra aims to emulate the classic European ski-in, ski-out experience, and key to this concept is the new locker room. Equipped with heated drying lockers and a spacious central cedar bench, the room is directly accessible from outside; the automatic doors and lockers open and close with a simple swipe of your wristband. Across the hall is Adalbert Leibetsader, a ski champion and director of Skimetric, a service that combines biomechanics, shoemaking and in-depth assessment to seriously up your ski game. You can have a one-on-one session with Adalbert, and have a pair of boots custom made and fitted in-house. Alternatively, the helpful ski hire next door will collect your gear from your locker at the end of your stay. 

After a long day on the slopes, be sure to secure a place at the impressive fine-dining Italian restaurant (bookings are hotly contested) before heading to Astra Day Spa. The 90-minute hot stone massage with warm volcanic stones is a particularly effective method for relieving sore muscles. Alternatively, take a dip in the magnesium mineral pool or head to the cocktail lounge, which is often still packed at 9pm. 

On a weekend this is the place to be; if you’re lucky you might catch Nicky Bomba of the John Butler Trio playing. Almost the entire village – tourists, celebrities and locals alike – can be found relaxing here among the leather sofas, swivel armchairs and animal- skin rugs. If you can find space at the bar, order the Spiced Bright Cobbler – sweet red wine, chocolate and a pinch of Szechuan spice – or some mulled wine made fresh to order. 

When Rosy and Seumas took the helm several years ago, they expressed their desire to restore Astra to its rich, glorious history, and provide extremely personalised, family-friendly service. And at Astra, this has definitely been achieved. 

 

The 90-minute hot stone massage with warm volcanic stones is a particularly effective method for relieving sore muscles.

Stay here

Rates start from A$269 per night for a Deluxe Room with a minimum two-night stay in peak season. astralodge.com.au 

 

 

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Weather to go

Peak season in Falls Creek is from early July to late August, during which it experiences the best snow conditions of the season. Temperatures are at a low, and there are high chances of snowfall. Late August to mid September is quieter, and the remaining snow from the peak season generally provides good cover. 

 

Best places to stay

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