Mt Buller is a favourite alpine resort for Melburnians looking for Victoria’s largest lifting system, some challenging ski and snowboard runs while still being only three hours from home.
Mt Buller has a ‘snow guarantee' meaning that the snowmaking machines are out in full force if the natural cover is patchy. Check out the Mt Buller Weather and Snow Cams here.
Tips for visiting Mt Buller with kids
Before kids I used to be a regular at Mt Buller, driving up after work on a Friday, going hard on the weekend and then heading home after the lift closing on Sunday.
In 2019 I took my first visit to Mt Buller with kids (aged 6 and 8). While it is a wholly different experience pre-kids, we still very much enjoy the buzzing village vibe and range of activities on offer. As Lady AB and Baby 2.0 are beginners, we don't mind that not every run is open and a more relaxed pace.
Here are my tips for making the most of your visit to Mt Buller with kids. If I can manage three days solo in the snow with two kids, you can too!
1. Prepare for a stop en route
Driving time from Melbourne to Mt Buller is approximately three hours. With kids, you’re likely to want to make a stop in between.
I recommend allowing extra time for a pitstop in Mansfield. There’s off-mountain ski hire, including a branch of Buller Sports, which means you can collect ski clothing, apres boots and chains there. Any ski/snowboard package includes free wheel chains too by the way, though I recommend picking up your skis and snowboarding equipment on-mountain.
There are two eateries I recommend in Mansfield.
First, the fantastic Mansfield Regional Produce Store.
The rustic cafe is warm and cosy with a great varied menu and lots of local produce for self-catering a gourmet snow holiday.
Another recommendation is Mansfield Coffee Merchant who roast their own coffee and serves dishes using local produce and a kids menu.
The tomato and calamari broth with ndjua and purple basil is the perfect tummy-warmer.
Produce Store 68 High Street, Mansfield 5779 1404
Mansfield Coffee Merchant 23 Highett St Mansfield
2. Where to stay in Mt Buller
While Mt Buller is only three hours drive from Melbourne and you could visit in a day, I think it is far better to stay the night.
On the mountain, Mt Buller offers a range of hostels, lodges, luxury hotels and private chalets. Off the mountain, you can stay in Mansfield, Merrijig or Mirimbah and then drive up daily.
We stay in the Duck Inn Mt Buller using a Scoopon voucher, with a family hotel room (1 Queen Bed and 2 bunk beds) being from $599 for 2 nights including daily continental breakfast and ski gear and clothing hire for 1 day.
It’s the cheapest option I can find researching on Booking.com and I recommend it as a mid-range budget stay.
Duck Inn Mt Buller pros: there is an onsite ski hire open daily, free breakfast, free toboggan hire, free wifi, a warm communal lounge, a ski room downstairs for equipment and a dry room upstairs for drying wet clothes and shoes.
Duck Inn Mt Buller cons: You have to take a bus to the Village and the Ski School. The buses are standard minibuses which means that you have to take your gear inside the van instead of placing them in an outside cage. It is a tiring and time-consuming just to get yourself out of the apartment and onto the slopes!
The moral of the story is that if you can afford it, try to stay close to the Village or Ski school so you can walk to most places. If your budget doesn't allow for that, just make sure you allocate enough time (and energy) for taking the bus out and about or walking further with gear.
Find Accommodation near Mount Buller, Victoria
Having said that, in future we may plan to stay in Mansfield as T does not want to ski – he just wants to sit by a fire and read a book! So I can take the car and the kids up the mountain early every day and leave when we feel like it.
3. Pre-book your transport and parking
Every visitor has to pay resort entry, which is normally a flat fee for a car with fewer than 12 seats. In 2021 Mt Buller’s Resort Entry for one day is $61 ($49 online) and every year it goes up slightly.
If you are visiting for the day you can park in the upper car park (closest to the entrance) for no extra cost.
If you are staying overnight you have to park in one of the lower car parks and pay for parking and a valet taxi. The price of resort entry plus parking for one night is $122. For subsequent nights there is a difference with paying for parking on Sunday – Thursday vs Friday and Saturday. Then you’ll need to book a valet taxi to take you to your accommodation on the mountain. In 2021 a return adult is $38 ($30.40 online), a return child is $19 ($15.20online).
If you purchase your resort entry, car parking and if necessary, valet taxi at least 24 hours in advance online then you will receive a discount compared to purchasing at the gate/mountain.
4. Pre-book your B-Tag, Lift Passes and Lessons
Since 2019 Mt Buller has implemented dynamic pricing so the price of lift passes increases depending on demand. You’ll find the cheapest lift passes mid-week, in the shoulder season in June and September and the earlier you book the better value.
With ski school, during peak periods ski lessons can book out (especially for morning half-day sessions for children), so if you know when you’re going it’s best to also book lessons in advance.
Mt Buller uses a B-Tag swipe card system for lift passes and lessons. It is a non-refundable $5 per B-Tag and it’s best to also buy a B-Tag ahead of time online and have it posted to you so you don’t have to line up at the desk on the day.
Put it inside your left-hand side inner jacket pocket or left arm pocket, away from other passes and your mobile phone, and it’ll scan automatically through your ski jacket as you move through the gates.
5. Hire some gear off-mountain, some gear on-mountain
The rule of thumb is that it’s cheaper to hire gear off the mountain. The tradeoff is that you will have to carry that gear onto the mountain and to your accommodation, and if there is a problem you’ll have to go back to the same shop off-mountain to get anything exchanged/fixed.
As such, I normally hire clothing, toboggans and wheel chains off the mountain, then skis and snowboards on the mountain.
Having clothing with you also means that you can wear snow clothes, snow boots and gloves as soon as you arrive (especially if it’s snowing!) and leave your other non-waterproof coats and shoes behind.
On a separate note – wear snow boots. For tobogganing and snow play you really need purpose-made snow boots that are insulated and won’t trap snow and ice as easily inside as gumboots or God forbid, sneakers.
There are lots of hire shops in Mansfield – including a branch of Buller Sports which means that if there’s a problem on-mountain with your gear you can take it to an on-mountain branch of Buller Sports.
For Melburnians who live near Williamstown, I use Melly’s Inner West Melbourne Snow Hire. The prices are cheap and the range is large. For instance, I hire 2 toboggans at $10 each vs $18 each on-mountain and 3 pairs of snow boots at $8 each vs $20 each on-mountain and snow chains for $20 vs $30 on-mountain.
On-mountain the first time we hire from Duck Inn Mt Buller because it's at our accommodation.
Pro-tip is that apparently Chalet Boutique at Mt Buller Chalet Hotel has the best quality equipment out of all the on-mountain hire locations. It's a short (uphill) walk from the Village near the Bourke Street chairlift.
Related: Snow packing list
6. Tips for Driving in the snow
If you are staying overnight you must carry snow chains (though to date I have not had to fit them on).
Check the weather forecast for overnight snowfalls. It may be a good idea to fit your snow chains to your car when leaving the car overnight. That way you will already have your snow chains fitted when you are heading home.
Also, remember to lift your wipers from the windscreen so that the wipers do not freeze to the glass.
Finally, if your car has snow on it you need to clear it all before you drive, as it is unsafe for you and others to drive with snow on your vehicle, particularly the roof.
7. How to get around Mt Buller
Once you’re on the mountain everything is within reasonable walking distance – though whether you want to walk lugging gear around is another matter.
Fortunately, there are regular free shuttle buses that travel three colour-coded routes. However, they finish at 6pm so you’ll need to walk home after dinner out.
Also, if you're moving around with children and gear expect everything to take twice as long. You might need to stop for a rest, fix boots, pick up errant gloves or help carry skis.
8. Mt Buller Childcare
The Buller Kids’ Centre offers childcare for children from just three months old to 3 years (not available in 2022). If the child is 3+ years they must join the Bunyip ski school program for 3-6 year olds.
There is an on-mountain babysitting service available.
9. Book a ski lesson
If you’re a beginner, a bit rusty (ie you haven't skied in a long time or it's the start of the season and you've haven't skied since last year) or just want to brush up on your technique, ski lessons are worth the investment.
Learning from a professional means that you’re more likely to learn foundational skills properly, in the proper order and develop the correct techniques to ensure you enjoy your time on the slopes and keep yourself and others safe.
DO NOT go onto a chairlift until you've had a lesson!
Even a magic carpet can be challenging if you've never skied. If you can't manoeuvre yourself on and off a chairlift quickly and safely you are at risk of hurting yourself or others. At best the lift will have to stop for you, frustrating everyone else left dangling in the air on the lift.
10. Aim to get to the ski school at least 30 minutes early
I had booked Baby 2.0 into the Bunyip 3-6 year old ski school and Lady AB into the Buller Kids 7-14 year old ski school for two mornings starting at 9:30am. So I thought we could arrive by 9:15am, with time for a toilet break, before starting lessons.
What I didn’t expect was how long it’d take us to get from our accommodation to the ski school via the shuttle bus (about 30 minutes), the lack of clear signage/instruction as to where you were supposed to go with your child once you arrived (particularly given two children of different age groups), the number of confused parents and children milling around the area and the time required to sign in Baby 2.0 into his lessons (another 30 minutes) because you have to walk down 3 flights of stairs (in ski boots) and then wait for every child to be checked in separately.
What I learn on day two is that the Bunyip 3-6 year old ski school takes sign-in from 8:30am so we arrive around 9 am, know where we were going and everyone manages to start their lesson on time.
If it’s your first time taking your kids to the ski school, get there 60 minutes before!
If it’s your subsequent time taking your kids to ski school and you're family with the procedures, get there 30 minutes before.
11. Should I Book ski school for half a day or a whole day?
In my experience ski school for half a day (eg 9:30am-1pm with a lunch break) is enough for most kids. It is tiring being out on the mountain, listening to instructions, concentrating hard with a group of other people and moving around in heavy boots.
Every day when I pick them up at 1pm Baby 2.0 and Lady AB are tired and emotional and very thirsty. Our routine becomes another 1-hour break (while I have my lunch and they have another snack), we do some easy runs on Bourke Street then spend the last hour of daylight 4-5pm tobogganing.
12. What to do other than skiing or snowboarding
Mt Buller’s terrain mix is 20% beginner, 45% intermediate, 35% advanced. If you're with little kids then you might not be able (or want to) ski the whole day.
It's very popular during school holidays and after school hours during the school term as the kids who live on Mt Buller visit after school, but as we visit at 2pm on our day of departure we have the place to ourselves. It costs $20 per person per one-hour session.
A reader also tells me about the Gnome Roam. Write a letter to the gnomes and if you have included your postal address then you’ll receive a reply! On your way up the mountain about 3km up Mt Buller Tourist Rd, keep an eye out for the Gnome Crossing sign and just past that you will find the Gnome Home, in a Mountain Ash tree.
For snow play, there are two dedicated toboggan areas – one located in the day car park next to Celia's Kiosk and the other next to Alpine Central in the Village. Tobogganing is not allowed anywhere else.
You can also just use the chairlifts for a scenic ride. Sightseer Lift Tickets are not available online so you need to buy them from a Mt Buller ticket office or Buller Sports Outlet.
Click here for info on all the activities available at Mt Buller.
13. Family-friendly Mt Buller restaurants
Mt Buller boasts more than 40 cafes, bars and restaurants from high-end fine dining to Melbourne-style cafes.
During our ski days we stop for lunch at the restaurant inside ABOM which is fairly standard fare, but it has the advantage of being right near the ski school and Bourke Street run (the ski school students have their lunch there). Beware of the polar bear!
We enjoy a delicious dinner at The Villager at Buller Central which has a kids menu, cheese fondue and a wonderfully cosy atmosphere complete with mini chalet booth seating. It's a convenient location and anecdotally seems to be the best quality and value for money out of the central Village eats.
Another recommended option which is a short (uphill) walk from the Village is Birdcage at Mt Buller Chalet Hotel. It has an eclectic menu with slightly healthier options than the standard burger/pizza/pasta you find on mountain. I love the dumplings and sweet potato fries.
On mountain crowds gather at Kofler's Hutte for their kransky hot dogs, apple pies and coffee.
On a sunny day, the deck and outdoor seating are the place to be – and you can ski in ski out and not lose any time on the slopes.
Finally, don’t miss the hot mini doughnuts frying under the stairs of the Village – your nose will take you!
14. BYO food for self-catering at least one meal a day
As you’d expect, food and drinks at a ski resort are expensive. If your accommodation offers self-catering then take advantage of that by bringing your own provisions or shopping at the small Foodworks in the Village.
I also find that after a day on the slopes the kids are reluctant to go back outside for dinner, preferring to play board games or flop in front of the TV. So I aim to self-cater for a hot breakfast and dinner with the expectation that we'll eat out for lunch.
Even if you don't have accommodation with a kitchen you can still self-cater. For our Duck Inn Mt Buller hotel room stay I take along a sandwich press for making toasties and quesadillas and reheating Vegemite cheese scrolls. I also bring a cooler bag and put it outside on our balcony as the ‘fridge’.
Don’t forget to BYO carrot for your snowman!
15. Try hot air ballooning in Mansfield
Fly above and beyond the Mansfield region to see snow-capped mountains and unforgettable High Country scenery with kids from 6+ years.
That means you can touch down before the sun goes down, enjoy dinner, and then head up to the slopes the next morning.
Click here for my snow packing list
Tips for a family ski trip or snow holidays
Tips on visiting Lake Mountain with kids and Mt Baw Baw with kids
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