Victoria’s Mt Stirling provides one of the country’s best opportunities for alpine camping, as well as the chance to enjoy all the snow has to offer, off the beaten track.

Story By Terri Cowley

A roaring fire in a teepee on top of a snow-covered mountain could be mistaken for a mirage. But at the Mt Stirling Alpine Camp it’s just part of the service offered by Craig Jones and his wife Barbara, who’ve been running activities in this part of the Victorian back country for the past 26 years.
A four-kilometre, cross-country ski journey up gently sloping alpine tracks bordered by stunning snow gums lands you at a sheltered clearing called the Cricket Pitch, about a kilometre from the mountain’s 1800-metre summit. There you’ll find a cluster of basic but comfortable tents around the teepee, which serves as a meeting place and kitchen.
Snow camping in the middle of winter is the ultimate high-country experience. The white silence that greets the early morning riser, along with the lung-cleansing cool fresh air, is something to behold.
Most people lack the confidence to pitch a tent below zero, fearing they’ll be cold and wet and that they don’t have the right equipment. Staying at the camp, however, ensures you’re nicely protected.
Mt Stirling is the only Victorian alpine resort with a largely undeveloped and unspoilt alpine summit – plans in the mid-1990s to build a downhill ski run were scotched in favour of “an all-season, nature-based tourist, recreational and educational destination” for at least 15 years. Alpine ash forests and alpine meadows are stunning in both summer and winter.
“The camp is used mainly by school groups but we do get other groups who want to get off the beaten track,” Craig says. “The tracks were originally forged by the timber cutters and the area is rich in both colonial and indigenous history.” The mountain was also used for grazing cattle until the 1980s and some of the old cattlemen’s huts remain as refuges stocked with firewood.
Most of Mt Stirling’s facilities are located at Telephone Box Junction, 1.2km up the mountain from Mirimbah, the entry gate for both Mt Stirling and Mt Buller. There’s a small visitors’ centre with snacks and basic meals, where you’ll find Craig and Barbara, a first-aid centre and a ski-patrol base. You can also hire toboggans – there’s a decent-sized toboggan run that doesn’t get nearly as much use as the crowded slopes over at neighbouring Mt Buller – and there’s plenty of room for snow play that small kids will enjoy. The Mt Stirling summit area has a variety of terrain for intermediate to advanced skiers.

This story excerpt is from Issue #76

Outback Magazine: April/May 2011