The sign said Widow Maker. I could just make it out through the swirling snow at the summit of Falls Creek Alpine Resort. The run’s name had a black diamond beside it, but those two words were foreboding enough.
I’d gone too far, strayed too left of the blue run I’d intended to board down. I wasn’t going to climb back up through the one-metre-deep snow; my pride couldn’t withstand that embarrassment. There was only one way back to my apartment at QT Falls Creek and it started by traversing whatever moguls, drops and trees the Widow Maker withheld from sight.
It was my second day snowboarding at Falls Creek. I’d been there 10 years ago, as a 15-year-old pup learning how to stop eating snow pies on green runs. Back then the quirky and luxurious stylings of QT hadn't even been twinkling on the hotel horizon. I had stayed in a lodge, which had seemed exuberant. But that was then, and QT is now.
The road to Falls Creek was a winding 1.5-hour journey from the nearby town of Albury, where Virgin Australia, Qantas and Regional Express fly into daily. Famished after a 7am start in Sydney, the group stopped in at Atura, an art-inspired hotel, for a hearty buffet breakfast in preparation for an afternoon of snowboarding.
After breakfast, Falls Creek Coach Service took care of the driving, while I kicked back in a new Range Rover 4WD. It was a far cry from 10 years ago, when my father had taken the wheel and spent extra time organising tyre chains, fiddling with the GPS and worrying about access to fuel.
With QT located right at the base of the Falls Express lift, it was a simple matter of checking in, popping into the snow sports shop next door to pick up some gear and taking another 30-odd steps back to the apartment to get ready.
Most guests at Falls Creek's ski-in, ski-out resort experience a similar level of convenience, but not everyone can complement this with the artistic luxury and elegant comforts of a QT apartment.
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The apartment had enough bedrooms for me and two other travelling companions to have a room each. Two were main bedrooms, equivalent in size and both with an en suite, while the other had a bunk bed. There was another separate bathroom for those sleeping on the bunks or the pull-out sofa.
The bedrooms somewhat wrapped around the rest of the apartment: a full kitchen with six-seater dining table; spacious living room with television and room for drying out gear; and vying for the most attention was the balcony spa.
I made use of the spa after my first day of snowboarding, when weary muscles that hadn’t been used for more than three years screamed at me for reprieve. I gave it to them, and to myself, with a lengthy soak and a drink courtesy of the mini bar.
After my spa I hastened to get back inside out of the cold wind and forgot about my glass still sitting on the table. I found it the next morning frozen to the plastic.
A common trend with snow holidays: if you board or ski a lot, you eat a lot. With Falls’ various beginner, intermediate and expert runs covering the former, QT took care of the latter.
Attached to the West Wing of the complex was Stingray’s Bar, decorated in old ski memorabilia and serving up gourmet bar food such as pulled pork quesadillas and American-style burgers.
Underneath the East Wing was fine-dining restaurant and interactive marketplace, Bazaar @ QT. I ate from the buffet every morning and night, forgetting I could also order straight from the Chef.
I was distracted by the tempting food already on display such as salt baked fish, hot wings and tiny macarons. After a heavy dose of snowboarding there were no guilty feelings when I returned for my third plate.
Indulgence was ripe at QT, not just during meal times, but also at the hotel's spaQ Day Spa. Between summit outings, after a few too many areas on my body started to ache, I opted for a thermal massage to promote some recovery.
The rejuvenating effects of the 60-minute deep-muscle massage were one reason why, later that afternoon, I found myself overindulging my ego on the Widow Maker.
No other run has thrown as many challenges my way with such ferocity. More than a few times I regressed to those first days at Falls 10 years ago, landing squarely on my left butt cheek after a mistimed cut. I finished with a feeling of accomplishment, but acknowledged that perhaps I wasn't king of the mountain just yet, despite any illusions my balcony spa might have cast.
Falls Creek Coach Service (03 5754 4024) offers a range of transport services from Melbourne and Albury to Falls Creek Alpine Resort. Private transport options are available for 1-53 passengers or you can jump on board a coach. There's also a Park & Ride service from the nearby town of Mt Beauty.