Alpine Nature Experience: An Eco-Adventure in the Snow
Nestled in the Victorian Alps, is the opportunity for an unforgettable night glamping in the snow. The Alpine Nature Experience is an eco-village, nestled within the dramatic landscape of Mount Hotham. Read on to find out more.
What do you picture when you imagine winter in Australia?
Is snow something that comes to the forefront of your mind?
Believe it or not – it snows in certain parts of Australia (it is a rather large continent, after all!) and these winter wonderlands make for a popular travel destination among Aussies.
There’s plenty to get up to in these areas of Australia. You can learn to ski, snowboard or try tobogganing. Better yet, you can chill out with hot drinks and a good book in front of a roaring fire.
Or, you can visit a hidden eco-village, nestled within Mount Hotham in Victoria’s Alpine region.
The Alpine Nature Experience gives you the opportunity to spend the night glamping under the stars or (weather permitting), nestle within an igloo!
It’s the perfect introduction to the snow for those who previously haven’t spent much time in it. Or, an opportunity to try something different (whilst stuffing yourself full of fondue and delicious wine).
Sound like something you’d be interested in? I most certainly was, which is why I recently journeyed to Mount Hotham, to try out the experience for myself.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on its a-game and there nowhere near as much of the glorious white stuff as we had hoped.
However, you don’t need a heavy dumping of snow to enjoy the Alpine Nature Experience, thanks to the ingenuity of its host.
A warm winter coat and an empty stomach is enough to see you through.
Alpine Nature Experience: Camping in the Snow
What is the Alpine Nature Experience?
The Alpine Nature Experience is the brainchild of Jean-François Rupp.
Growing up in the French Alps before moving to Australia with his Aussie wife, he soon fell in love with the Alpine region of Victoria.
A vision grew, one which would allow people to experience the splendour of the area. The views and nature, as well as the food and wine wares on offer in this particular part of the state.
And so, ANE came into being – a unique experience, found on Mount Hotham.
Those wanting to visit the eco-village have several options to choose from.
You can take a snowshoe walk where you learn about the history of the area, which ends with a steaming glass of mulled wine. For a little extra fun, you can upgrade to include a three course dinner, where you will learn how to cook fondue.
Foodies will delight in the option to take a wine and cheese masterclass. And you can book to stay in either the onsite tent domes, or igloo – the first of its kind in Australia!
We spent the night holed up in a dome tent, our bellies full of food (mostly cheese) and wine, after a cosy night spent mixing with other guests and the ANE crew in the main tipi.
Here’s what you can expect if you choose to do the same.
Snowshoe to Fondue
This is the first part of the evening, which begins at Wire Plain carpark within Mount Hotham Ski Resort.
It’s a leisurely walk – via snow shoe if there’s a decent dump! – through the snow, to the hidden eco-village.
Along the way, you’ll learn about the history of the area, from the thousands of years where First Nations People of Australia gathered here in the spring and summer seasons, to the use of the region during the gold rush era.
Once you reach the village, you’ll be poured a glass of the most delicious mulled wine you’ll possibly have drunk in your life. You’re free to gather around the fire, or walk to the viewing area to take in the dramatic landscape that surrounds the area.
Eventually, you’ll retire to the very cosy Tipi for a three course meal, where you’ll learn how to make fondue the French way, which as Jean-François says, is the best way.
There are options for further drinks, which you should definitely take up. JF works in the wine industry during the warmer months and knows his stuff.
Stomach full to the bursting, JF will accompany you back to the Wire Plain carpark, where you’ll be able to head back to your accommodation.
Cost: $109 per adult, $65 per child.
Includes: A guided walk with snowshoes if there’s enough snow, an inclusive glass of mulled wine and a three course dinner, along with a French Fondue cooking class.
Book the Snowshoe to Fondue here
Igloo to Skidoo
This is an expansion on the Snowshoe to Fondue experience, which sees you spending the night in either a luxury dome tent or an igloo.
The dome tents contain a wood fire heater, which will be pre-lit by the team before you make your way to the tent. It’s very snug indeed.
My favourite feature of the tent is its clear roof. If you’re blessed with clear skies, you can do a bit of star-gazing before you fall asleep and be woken naturally by soft morning light.
Once you do summon the courage to exit the tent out into the snow, you’ll be plied with coffee or tea by JF and his team and fed a hearty brekky, before packing up and leaving the eco-village at around 10am.
If there’s enough snow, you’ll be picked up by SnowStuffPark for a scenic snow mobile ride back to the carpark.
Your overnight adventure must be booked in conjunction with the Snowshoe to Fondue.
Cost: $658 for two adults.
Includes: Everything in the Snowshoe to Fondue experience, a night in a cosy and fully-furnished-with-everything-you-need-to-stay-warm dome tent or igloo, if the weather is being properly wintery. Breakfast and coffee/tea are provided the next morning and if there’s enough snow, you’ll be taken back to the carpark via a snow mobile.
Book the Igloo to Skidoo here
The Eco Village at Alpine Nature Experience
I am simply in awe of what JF and his team have built here. It’s an environmentalist’s dream.
At the beginning of each season, they manually bring everything into the area, building the camp by hand. Everything is then dismantled at the end of the season, to allow the area to regenerate.
This consists of the main tent, three dome tents for sleeping and an actual igloo you can book to stay in when the snow is good, an outdoor bar and fire and finally, a compostable toilet.
The Dome Tents
The three large and cosy dome tents are for overnight guests to bunk up in.
Inside, there’s a large bed to snuggle into, with sleeping bags which can withstand -10 degree Celsius temperatures and faux fur blankets.
You’ll find a pumping station with drinkable water, a bedside table with a light and USB port for charging devices. The area has 4G, but of course you can choose to “switch off” for the night!
There’s a chair in the corner and a large wood fire heater, which will keep your tent cosy and you warm throughout the duration of the night.
My favourite feature is the main light, which is accompanied by a remote control. I had fun playing with the various buttons, creating a “disco light” atmosphere within our home for the night.
You’ll see too, from the pictures in this post, that the tents don’t sit directly on the ground. Rather, they’re elevated around a metre above ground, maximising warmth and minimising the chances of getting snowed in.
The central tent in the eco-village is the Tipi, which is where all the magic happens.
It’s here where you can huddle around the warmth of a large wood fire heater, learn how to make fondue the French way and choose from the carefully selected range of drinks, to accompany your meal.
The Alpine Nature Experience is fully licensed and the majority of drinks available are sourced locally. This surrounding region of Victoria is particularly venerated for its wine, certainly something worth keeping in mind.
As previously mentioned, ANE’s homemade glühwine in particular is wonderful. It tastes like Christmas in a cup.
I need to take a moment to talk about the compostable toilets, as I am slightly obsessed with them.
You head to the loo, to do what you need to do, before throwing a handful of wood chips on top of your business.
These dry toilets turn matter into compost and are an effective way of recycling human waste. Waste not, want not, as the saying goes.
What Makes Alpine Nature Experience So Eco-Friendly?
The level of detail that has gone into planning this eco-experience is impressive.
Food and wine provided is sourced locally and served via compostable plates and cutlery. Mount Hotham have their own composting system, which is where the utensils and any food scraps end up.
The only non-compostable item we used that night were gloves, for handling the cheese.
There is too, the fact that the camp is built by hand and runs on solar energy.
ANE is a member of 1% For the Planet, an organisation which recognises the importance of giving back to the Earth. They bring businesses and individuals together, to provide funding to approved environmental nonprofits.
All of this combined is enough to deliver two gloved thumbs up to Alpine Nature Experience from this sustainable traveller.
What About When the Weather Doesn’t Co-Operate?
I’ll admit, I had visions of frolicking around in knee-high snow, engaging in a playful snowball fight with my boyfriend. Maybe creating a snow angel or two in the ground, because I am an 8 year old child stuck inside the body of a woman in her thirties.
The weather however, had other plans.
After a promising start to the snow season in 2019, conditions dropped off – or rather warmed up.
The snow was melting and rain had been forecast for most of the weekend we’d spend in the Alpine region.
I am used to major life disappointments like this – it rained in the dratted Arctic Circle when I visited a few years ago.
As such, I faced minimal disappointment when we reached Hotham, to realise that we weren’t going to get the level of snow we had been hoping for.
Unfortunately, this impacted on a few of the activities that are included in ANE. There wasn’t enough snow to justify wearing snowshoes, nor could we grab a ride on a snow mobile in the morning.
However – that’s travel and if you want to have a good time, you gotta roll with the punches, including unpredictable weather.
JF and his team Leah and Camille threw all their efforts into making this a night of nights, regardless of what the weather had in store. We had a lovely, memorable time, regardless of the lack of snow.
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Getting to the Alpine Nature Experience
The Alpine Nature Experience is around a four and a half hour drive from Melbourne, whether you enter Mount Hotham via Harrietville or Omeo.
The easiest way to get to Mount Hotham is to drive there yourself.
If taking your own vehicle, do perform some basic car maintenance before you go – at the very least, check the tyre pressure and oil and make sure you have a good ratio of coolant in your radiator.
Make sure you fill up on fuel in either Omeo or Bright, depending on which direction you’re coming from – there’s no fuel on the mountain. You’ll need to carry snow chains, which you can easily hire – more info on this below.
The mountain itself is a bit nerve-racking to drive up if it’s your first time. Take it slowly and pull over in the provided spaces to allow other cars to pass, if need be.
Try to enjoy the spectacular views, on your way up!
Don’t want to drive? That’s fine – there are other ways of getting up the mountain, sans car.
You can organise access to Mount Hotham Ski Resort from Melbourne via a bus – check out details here.
There’s an option to leave your car in Harrietville and catch a bus to the resort. This would negate the need to purchase a permit and hire snow chains. You can check out more here, if this sounds appealing.
Need Know Before You Snow
What Should You Bring to the Snow?
Concerned that you don’t have enough snow gear on hand? Seriously, don’t sweat. We’re not regular snow goers, yet we fared fine in these conditions.
Anything you don’t have on hand, you can either borrow off friends or rent from Hoys.
My boyfriend and I both rented ski pants for $24 and I picked up a pair of snow shoes for $36, as I was a bit worried about how my trusty Timberlands would fare when I arrived.
This is a much better financial option than shelling out over $200 for a pair of pants that we maybe would’ve worn once every couple of years.
I did invest in a new snow jacket, as I needed one anyway for this winter. I prefer clothing that avoids the use of fresh duck down, although these can be hard to source.
Marmot have some featherless insulated jackets and Patagonia sell wonderful jackets, which use recycled down. Patagoania have an outlet store in Fitzroy, which I recommend checking out if you’re Melbourne-based.
I take a raincoat when I travel around Victoria – you never know what the weather is going to bring.
Beyond a decent jacket, I recommend packing some thermals, warm socks, a beanie, scarf and gloves. You will be spending some time indoors, which will be well heated.
Whatever you do, avoid cotton clothing. Once it’s wet, it will no longer insulate you.
There are much better base layer fabric options on offer, which will keep you happy, warm and dry.
Peruse the Alpine Nature Experience website for further information, regarding anything you may need.
If you want to stay in the area for a longer stretch of time, consider booking accommodation on the mountain or the nearby town of Bright.
Check out other hotel options in Bright and Mount Hotham
All in all, it was a lovely night spent out in the snow, stuffing ourselves silly and getting to know JF and his team and the other participants in our little adventure.
I highly recommend considering the Alpine Nature Experience if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience in country Victoria. It is the perfect introduction to the Alpine region of the state.
The team are currently taking bookings for the rest of this season, so it’s definitely not too late to head to Hotham for some fun and frivolity in the snow.
Click here to make a booking this snow season
Glamping in the snow – hell yeah, or snow go? Would you like to spend a night at the Alpine Nature Experience?
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I experienced the Alpine Nature Experience as a guest of JF and his team. However, both opinions expressed and general levels of enthusiasm for the experience, remain my own.