Back Country Awareness Please read the following articles before considering going back country and research widely. Do not use information provided here as textbook accuracy as anyone can edit it. Double check anything found here and consult with experts before heading beyond the resort boundaries. People die in the back country every year, don't add your name to the list.
The Buffalo Plateau is an impressive mass of granite in north eastern Victoria. While the snow has been pretty sketchy the last few years, when it has a decent cover it offers excellent skiing that feels quite different to the rest of the Victorian high country because of its rocky nature.
Sadly, the whole area was badly hammered in the 2003 and 2006 fires and almost all of the once spectacular alpine ash forests now consist of dead trees with rigorous regrowth. These mature forests had been one of the highlights of skiing on Buffalo.
The plateau is like a rockier version of Baw Baw – a series of frost hollow type valleys surrounded by higher, forested hillsides. A single road up the mountain provides easy access. It has a mix of groomed trails for cross country and a big bit of turf for backcountry skiing.
- Backcountry Run Rating
- RATING: Approach Steepness
Access and Trip
Access is via the township of Myrtleford. Its probably a half hour drive up the mountain (national park, fees apply), it can be quite slippery, and like all resorts you need to carry chains.
Generally people drive all the way through to the end of the road (it is closed about 4 km short in winter, at Cresta Valley).
Note that the Cresta Valley resort was accidently burnt during a back burn in the fires of 2006, but there are basic facilities at Cresta with a heated shelter and toilets. The main facilities including toilets, refuge, first aid, food and drink are now available at the centre at Dingo Dell, just before Cresta Valley.
Main XC area. Most people start their skiing from the main carpark at Cresta, which is on the southern end of the plateau. There are about 14 km of trails from here that are groomed (depending on amount of snow) which loop in and out from Cresta, mostly following the snow plains to the south and east. A popular easy ski is to follow the road out for another 3 km to the lookout at The Horn (with spectacular views of the mountains further into the Alps). The last bit, from the Horn car park and stone hut, requires a walk up through snowgums and then a series of stairs to the summit area.
The area around The Gorge and The Chalet (currently closed) is also a bit more marginal in terms of snow cover. But when there is deep cover, its nice to do a run out either back up to Lake Catani (about 5km via a very gentle and wide path) or out around to the Gorge lookouts. Exercise due care around the cliff edge if out here.
In terms of more remote backcountry skiing, the options are extensive in a good season. Some highlights would include the northern (remotest) end of the plateau, where a ski of about 3 hours will bring you to Mt Mcleod, where there are fantastic views of surprisingly agricultural scenery (albeit more than a kilometre below). Best way in is to park near Park HQ and ski out via the reservoir road (which is often groomed in winter). This northern end tends to lose snow earlier than the 'main' part of the plateau so is worth a trip in good conditions. There is a remote area campsite out here (permit needed - from the entrance station at the base of the mountain) or through calling Parks Vic on 13 1963. The camp itself is on the south eastern side of the Mount McLeod Track opposite Dells Plain. There are pit toilets near by.
For a taste of nice alpine snow basins but minus the crowds, check out Wild Dog Plains, which are south of the Reservoir, in the centre of the plateau. There is a nice ski from here up to Macs Lookout and Eagle Point.
There are no huge downhill runs: the edge of the plateau drops away quickly into thick bush (made thicker by the fires). But you can get some nice short drops off most of the hills through snowgum forests into the plains below.
Camping is permitted for backcountry skiing but you need to check in with the Parks Service first: there are designated areas for camping, including a site at Mount McLeod . You can call the Parks Victoria Information Centre on 13 1963 for further info. There is also a number of sites at the Lake Catani campground available for winter camping. You need to pre book. It is a ski in of under 2km from the main road.
Just the usual alpine weather considerations (although being below treeline its all relatively mild in terms of weather compared with Bogong or Feathertop).
Mobile Phone Coverage
Is marginal on the ski trails and because of the hill and valley landscape it tends to drop in and out a lot even when available - not to be relied on for safety.
Mt Buffalo Plateau 1:30,000 topographic, by Geoff Lawford and
Eurobin & Buckland 1:25,000 topographic from Vic Map