In late January Ride High Country snuck up to Falls Creek to chat with the crew from Falls Creek Resort Management about how cycling is going from strength to strength up on the mountain. FCRM’s Marketing Manager Sarah Watt and Events Manager Nick Buckley shared their thoughts…
RHC: Hi Sarah & Nick, thanks for being part of this today. Let’s kick off with you Sarah – cycling seems to have become a real green season focus for Falls Creek in the last 5-6 years, is that just organic or part of a deliberate plan?
Sarah: It’s certainly become more of a focus recently compared to, say, 20 years ago. People came to Falls Creek in summer back then but plenty of work has been done in the resort and nearby Alpine National Park over the last 10 or so years to showcase how good the outdoor activities are up here when the snow melts, which is 8 months of the year. We have kayaking and fishing on Rocky Valley Lake, altitude training for elite sports teams, beautiful short and long hikes, incredible wildflowers and mountain scenery, day spas, even frisbee golf! And cycling is a huge part of the green season (summer) for us. The road cycling challenges of the Falls Creek 7 Peaks climb and the Back of Falls climbs are well-known, and the mountain bike park is seeing more and more riders every year. People can come up for the weekend, stay in the village in ski lodge accommodation, an apartment or hotel room, bring their road bike and mountain bike and ride different disciplines each day.
Nick: And let’s not forget the gravel options! The backcountry riding beyond the village is just incredible on a gravel bike or hardtail. I’ve been mapping some of it and recently released a set of gravel routes on our website. The gravel is like nothing else in the high country, let alone the rest of Victoria.
RHC: Oh, I didn’t realise routes were now mapped. That’s a great resource for riders.
Nick: Gravel’s such a fast-growing segment in cycling, we wanted to help people out with suggested loops.
Sarah: So now people have to bring three bikes and stay for three days!
RHC: It’s funny because it’s true.
Sarah: Actually we love it when people stay the whole week. There’s plenty to do. And that’s really at the core of why cycling is such a big part of our green season planning.
RHC: What services are open up here in the village over summer?
Sarah: We have great operators that see the potential for summer, which is exciting. They’re trying out new offshoots of their core business, such as wellness & yoga retreats, walking and e-biking tours and so on. A number of accommodation providers see the opportunities too, which gives visitors more choice and builds the atmosphere in the village during the warmer months.
RHC: That’s been a challenge I’m guessing? Convincing accommodation to set up for mountain bikers and roadies and open over summer?
Sarah: Yes and no. Some accommodation managers and owners are riders, so they see the benefits really easily. Diana Lodge is a good example. Lisa is a rider, and they’ve done the classic thing of converting their ski drying room into the bike storage room so that you don’t have to leave your bikes on your car. Other operators are focused on winter and that’s fine (normally exhausted after a hectic winter!), but there are definitely opportunities here over summer and we believe visitation will only increase over time.. We love that more operators are opening up from November through April and visitors will love that too. The supermarket is open if you’re self-catering, and there is always a friendly face to welcome you and provide a good meal or post-ride beer.
Nick: We’ve got pretty good signage and infrastructure in place already to support summer visitors, but we’re improving it even more. The Greenline MTB trail is a good example of that .. it links three or four green-level trails together into one long flowing gravity run. It was a no brainer as people were riding that anyway, so we mapped it and made it easier for others to find and ride.
RHC: I think the focus on beginners and intermediate riders is one of the best things about mountain biking at Falls Creek. If you’re a gun rider and want to send it down the black runs you can, but capable kids and beginner riders can get some of that Falls experience too.
Nick: We get a lot of groups of mates coming to shuttle the top to bottom trail (High Voltage – Wishing Well – Flowtown) but what we’re seeing is those riders returning with their families and riding the same sort of thing but on the green trails. The Eagle Rock – Turbine – Lakeside – Induction ride is high green level flow, and gives early intermediates a real taste of mountain riding that they can’t really get anywhere else. Progression perfect we like to call it. These trails allow you to improve as your days go along. Getting better, building your confidence and of course loving it all.
Sarah: There are lots of women groups and couples coming to stay too. Some of the operators in the village are catering to this by offering female-based training weekends like Dirt Divas, The Bikeademy and we’re working to update the MTB de Femme, which we ran a few years ago, with another female-focused event in the future.
RHC: That’s great news. It feels like the elements are really coming together to set Falls up as a popular High Country destination. Changing tack a little, Back of Falls already has a reputation as a bit of a monster road climb. What’s the best way for riders to have a crack at that?
Nick: Since the road was sealed it’s become infamous, almost. Let’s just say that WTF Corner is appropriately named. It’s a massive test if you fancy yourself as a climber and I think the best way to attempt it is over a long weekend. Ride the main Falls climb on day 1, stay on-mountain overnight, and then ride down to Anglers Rest and back up to Falls the next day. But it’s not for the faint-hearted and requires solid preparation. It’s pretty remote out there.
RHC: Perhaps they should send the Herald Sun Tour riders up that next time. You had a summit finish here last year didn’t you?
Nick: That’s right. I’m not a roadie but that was a close finish. They’re not all like that! It was great to see our village included on a tour that has such a long and proud history.
RHC: Well thank you both, and let’s all keep our fingers crossed that Australia can keep this challenging virus under control so that interstate travel sees more and more people discovering just how good Falls is during green season.
Sarah: Absolutely. The bushfires followed by a pandemic has been awful for so many but it’s exciting to think that cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts can experience new things in their own backyard without having to travel overseas. We’re open for business and look forward to welcoming everyone to the village.
For more information about Falls Creek cycling head on over to their website at https://fallscreek.com.au.