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Timeless Turns: Falls Creek, Australia

Timeless Turns: Falls Creek, Australia

Features
By Tom Price
posted: 02/01/2005

Show what a thoughtful and creative parent you are: Head down under to keep everyone content. It's summer, and the kids are antsy for their annual beach vacation, but all you can think about is last winter's ski weekend in Aspen. Relax, mate, you're covered. Just hop a southwest-bound plane to Australia's wide-open beaches and snow-covered slopes. Need to sway the dinner-table cynics? Here are your talking points:

First, in this surf-mad country (90 percent of Aussies live within an hour of the beach), the weather's balmy and the locals are laid back. Second (here's the clincher), right now storms rolling off the Antarctic are dumping the sweet white stuff all over the aptly named Snowy Mountains'and it might as well be you who tracks it out.

The long flight (about 16 hours from L.A.) can be a bit disorienting, so spend a couple of days letting your internal clock reset in cosmopolitan Melbourne, Australia's cultural capital. Next, get your beach on. August is peak season on the intimidating Torquay breaks, where full wetsuits and steely nerves are standard equipment. You may just want to watch. For charismatic fauna, check out Phillip Island National Park, where every night at sunset thousands of small penguins march out of the surf to snuggle in beachside burrows, looking like the world's largest waiter convention. Then head north, wandering the Yarra Valley wine region through the Dandenong Ranges (imagine a sort of Welsh Napa, but with kangaroos) toward the mountains.

Now that you've taken the kids to the seashore and absorbed some culture, it's time for your reward. Just a few hours from the ocean, Falls Creek is a car-free ski village perched high above lush eucalyptus forests. Stay in the Frueauf condos, perhaps Australia's best on-snow lodging and dead center to everything at the resort. The 24 ultramodern wood and burnished steel units are wrapped around a trendy Italian restaurant, and the all-digital movie theater is a luxurious place to take in summer blockbusters. Ask for the romantic "Tomba" unit (the rooms are named after Winter Olympians), with beautiful summit views upstairs. And don't be surprised if you find Froot Loop - colored parakeets strutting in the snow on your deck; they grow critters tough down here.

For wide-open, off-piste carving, go catskiing in the Mt. Mackay "extreme zone," or take the heli-taxi to the more advanced Mt. Hotham. New this season, the Drovers Dream quad lift opens up additional intermediate terrain, and you can tell your sullen teens that two pros from Mammoth Mountain are being imported again this year to bring the terrain park and the Southern Hemisphere's largest halfpipe up to California's highest jibber standards.

Don't worry about there being enough snow; local climatologists are saying the Antarctic's refrigerator door is wide open, and there will be plenty of cover. One word of caution, however: Don't confuse those flimsy looking, stringy-barked Snow Gum trees with willowy aspens. Punch a line through these tough glades, and they'll punch back.

Post turns, you'll quickly discover that Falls Creek is Australia's version of Aspen. Recharge at your pick of 28 bars and restaurants - The Man is a locals - favorite for an après-ski pint, or you can test your new Yarra Valley sommelier skills on the wine list at Winterhaven.

So let's review: Everyone came home with a tan, got cuddly with penguins and experienced one of the world's most welcoming countries. Oh, and you got in some great skiing. Next dinner-table topic: Are you a great parent or what? Information: fallscreek.com.au

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