The VICTORIAN ALPS, the southern extension of the Great Dividing Range, bear little resemblance to their European counterparts; they’re too gentle, too rounded, and above all too low to offer really great skiing, although they remain a popular winter sports destination. In July and August there is usually plenty of snow and the resorts are packed out. Most people come for the downhill skiing, though the cross-country skiing is rapidly growing in popularity: Lake Mountain is the region’s premier cross-country destination. Snowboarding was first encouraged at Mount Hotham and is now firmly established everywhere. Falls Creek, Mount Hotham and Mount Buller are the largest and most commercial skiing areas, particularly the last, which is within easy reach of Melbourne; smaller resorts such as Mount Baw Baw are more suited to beginners.
In summer, when the wild flowers are in bloom, the Alps are ideal bushwalking territory with most of the high mountains (and the ski resorts) contained within the vast Alpine National Park. The most famous of the walks is the 400km Alpine Trail, which begins in Baw Baw National Park, near Walhalla in Gippsland, and follows the ridges all the way to Mount Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. If you are doing any serious bushwalking, you’ll need to be properly equipped. Water can be hard to find, and the weather can change suddenly and unexpectedly: even in summer it can get freezing cold up here, especially at night. After prolonged dry spells, bushfires can also pose a very real threat, as was the case on Black Saturday in 2009 when bushland and resorts were burnt.