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Tokyo Disney: a must visit as part of your Japanese snow holiday

For avid skiers and snowboarders, a trip to Tokyo is often nothing more than a convenient, yet interesting stop-over point while en-route to the Japanese snow fields. 

But for the young at heart, a visit to Tokyo presents a great opportunity to visit many of its other attractions, including the most famous theme park of all, DISNEYLAND.  At just over 10 hours from Sydney and 15 hours from Perth, Tokyo Disneyland is a lot closer than its sister resort in Anaheim California (the birthplace of Disneyland). 

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The architecture and attention to detail was amazing

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At 51 hectares and with 43 attractions, Disneyland Tokyo is enormous. Don’t try and do it in anything less than a day, as you’ll just leave disappointed.  For me, the most striking feature (and therefore my strongest memory) was the attention to detail.  Everything is immaculate – from the gardens, to the paint on the walls, to the architecture (wow, the architecture just amazing).  On top of all that, the rides, parades, the attractions and the sheer fun of it all were just a bonus. 

In the centre of the park stands a statue of Disney’s creator, Walt Disney. In the words of Walt, Disneyland is a ‘happy place – a place where adults and children can experience together some of the wonders of life, of adventure and feel better because of it’. While staring at his statue, I couldn’t help but think he’d be enormously proud of his creation, which is now lovingly maintained by his disciplined (and very well trained) staff. 

If you’re thinking of taking your family to Tokyo Disney this year, either prior to or on the back of your ski trip, do it – you won’t be disappointed.  Below is a review compiled by my better half, Rachael, who as a second time visitor (first time Anaheim) and mother, can offer a unique perspective.

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The kids looovved the spinning cups

When I was a child I was fortunate enough to visit the birthplace of Disneyland, in Anaheim California.  I’d always dreamt of taking my children, aged 6 and 8 to Disneyland, but at 20 hours from Perth a trip to California seemed…well, seemed a ‘long way’.  So, imagine my joy when I found out we were going to Tokyo and realised it presented an opportunity to visit  Disneyland. 

Before visiting Tokyo’s version, I was a little concerned it might be an inferior, or a ‘B’ grade cousin to its counterpart in California.  However, upon visiting I discovered that nothing could be further from the truth.  Tokyo Disneyland is a near duplicate of Anaheim: the rides are the same, the parades are the same, the buildings are the same, as is nearly everything else. It is, however, just that little bit ‘quirkier’ given it is staffed by Japanese, whom bring a friendly, colourful and excitable personality to the attractions (check out this video for instance!).

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Tokyo Disney consists of two resorts, Disneyland and DisneySea.  You really need two days to explore them both and because we only had a day before we flew out, we chose to visit Disneyland, the original of the franchise.   Tokyo Disneyland is just a short 25-30 minute train ride from Tokyo station to Maihama, an area just to the west of Tokyo on the shores of Tokyo bay.

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Tokyo Disneyland is just 25 min by train from the Tokyo station

We set out early in the morning from our hotel in Shinagawa and caught a connecting train to Tokyo central.  Tokyo station is enormous. We actually underestimated our total travel time because we didn’t take into account the 20 minute walk across Tokyo train station to the platform for the connecting train to Tokyo Disneyland. Otherwise the journey from Tokyo to Maihama is literally 25min from platform to platform.  Navigating the stations was straightforward as the signs have English translations (a big bonus).

Exiting the Maihama Station at Tokyo Disneyland there was a huge sign that showed us that DisneySea was to the left and Disneyland  to the right. Crossing the walk bridge we could see the official Disney themed hotels, the Disneyland Bus (with Mickey Mouse windows) and the Disneyland Monorail (which takes guests from the hotels to the parks).

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The Disney monorail
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The Disney bus

On entering Disneyland I was delighted to see all the familiar Disney icons – characters, architecture, rides, gift-shops and landscaping. A Disney theme park is really an enormous stage where a “show” is presented everyday in each of the themed lands. Because of this, the staff are called ‘cast members’ Cast members are incredibly well trained and disciplined, right down to the way they wave at guests (fingers apart, just like Mickey – only with five fingers per hand), the way they wear their hair, and even to the length of their finger nails.

I found myself marveling at the design of Cinderella’s castle with multiple turrets and the lopsided engineering of the buildings in ‘Toontown’. Disney has gone to a huge amount of trouble (and no doubt expense) to create a proper fantasy world.  The rail is also impressive, and the fact they have gone for real steam trains (when they could have used electric) is further proof of their commitment to the dream.

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Toontown

A visit to Disneyland of course is not complete without  visit to the iconic rides, from Space Mountain (of the 70’s), to the spinning cups, to the roller coasters.  The rides are very popular and even with the fast pass (see below), the queues are long and upon first glance can be daunting.  However, one thing Disney does really well is queue management.  The lines move fast…really fast.  From a shuffle to (I swear) a brisk walk.  Be warned, though, once you enter the queue there is also no easy way out, so if like us you’ve got kids in tow, and especially if they just finished a large lemonade, make sure you take them to the toilet before entering the queue. We found out the hard way what happens when you don’t 🙂

Some of the rides are more appropriate for kids than others. While both children loved Big Thunder Mountain, the Inspector Gadget Go-Coaster, the Spinning Cups and the Jungle Cruise, our 6 year old found Space Mountain a bit scary. We particularly loved Big Thunder Mountain and it was such a pleasure whooping and laughing with along with the kids as we bolted around the tracks, ducking and weaving as we entered caves and flew over bumps and rollers.

As a family we agreed that our favourite rides were the Western River Railway; Jungle Cruise; Big Thunder Mountain; Space Mountain (a high-speed rollercoaster in the dark); Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; Chip and Dales Treehouse; Inspector Gadgets Go Coaster; Alice’s Tea Party (Spinning Teacups) and Cinderella’s castle (the attention to detail in the castle is amazing).

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The Western River Railway with real steam trains
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The Jungle Cruise
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Big Thunder Mountain
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The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House
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The Go-Coaster

A great tip for avoiding the queues is to grab yourself a “Fast Pass”. The pass gets you access to the express line of the more popular rides.  But you can only access one quick pass at a time.  Printed on the quick pass is the time you are eligible to book the next quick pass.  This obviously helps with crowd flow, and in my experience is something Disney does very well.

We ate lunch and dinner at two of the large themed eateries, where the kids and dad indulged in the American hotdog plate and later than night, Space Port Pizza.  I found the food was quite processed at most of the eating places but of course the kids loved it. This was a bit of a theme across the resort actually: heavily processed American inspired foods, hotdogs, fries, pizzas, popcorn.  I understand its all part of the experience, but if you are not into that kind of stuff, then I suggest you take something relatively healthy along with you. Also take plenty of water as the size of the park means lots of walking and thirsty children.

One of the eating highlights was the popcorn.  Each of the different ‘lands’ across the Park had a different popcorn cart. Each cart had a different theme and the most unusual one (that was baffling for me to get my head around) was curry flavour. Hard to imagine it as enjoyable. My favourite was the caramel popcorn found in  “Toontown”

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Popcorn flavours

By the time we walked out of the Park at the end of the day we were all very tired and it was getting cold so we decided to catch a taxi back to hotel instead of the train. Considering our overtired kids, this was a great decision.  In all, we had a great time. And as a once in a lifetime experience, the entry price (Y7,400 per adult, Y6,400 for children 12-17 and Y4,800 for children 4-11) was truly worth it. I know the kids had a great time as did my husband, even when he had to carry the children the last kilometer to the taxi after they were too exhausted to walk. 

One other tip is take lots of warm clothing.  If like us you visited toward the end of winter, the weather during the day was nice (maybe +15 degrees), but when the sun went down it became very cold, very quickly. 

If you have any comments of questions please feel free to post below.

Mt Buller mourns passing of pioneer Hans Grimus

The Mt Buller community is today celebrating the life and mourning the passing of mountain pioneer and legend Hans Grimus, aged 78.

Hans, owner of Mt Buller institution Hotel Pension Grimus, played a formative role in Mt Buller’s development and contributed widely to the resort and the community.

Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management CEO Mark Bennetts said today, ‘We are all deeply saddened by the passing of Hans. He was a larger than life character who shaped the development of Mt Buller for many decades. Our thoughts are with Lotte, Oliver, Hannes and Anton at this time.’

‘Hans was a greatly loved member of the Mt Buller community, and respected throughout the ski and wider tourism industry.  He had a reputation as an impeccable host, an astute businessman, as well as being the life of any party’.

Laurie Blampied, General Manager, Buller Ski Lifts remembered Hans as a vital part of the fabric of Mt Buller, with a true spirit of ingenuity and pioneering.

‘Hans spent almost 50 years living and working on Mt Buller and was instrumental in the development of the lifting infrastructure on the mountain.  Hans has left a legacy that will be remembered for many years to come.’

‘We will miss Hans, he was a generous entertainer and a great friend to many.’

Hans is survived by his wife, Lotte and sons Oliver, Hannes and Anton.

Image and text supplied by Mt Buller.

Celebrating National Threatened Species Day at Falls Creek

By Ian Scoop Talbot

September 7 is National Threatened Species Day in Australia. The date commemorates the death of the last known Tasmanian tiger, which died dismally at the Hobart Zoo 82 years ago this year.

Of all the threatened species in this country, one lives very close to home in northeast Victoria. The mountain pygmy-possum is a small, ground-dwelling native that lives amongst the alpine and sub-alpine boulderfields and rocky scree in southeastern Australia.

They are the only Australian marsupial that hibernates for long periods during the winter months.

What is remarkable about the mountain pygmy-possum is how we came to know of them. In 1896 Scottish South African doctor and palaeontologist Robert Broom was working in Australia, when he discovered the species. Not alive, however, but in a fossil. It was thus assumed that the little pygmy was long extinct.

That wasn’t until 1966 when a live, unfossilised version was discovered in a ski lodge at Mount Hotham. With only one verified living animal, the 1967 Guinness Book of Records recorded the mountain pygmy possum as the rarest animal on earth.

On Friday 7 and Saturday 8 September, local ranger Meaghan Raymond will be on hand at Falls Creek Cross Country to discuss what Parks Victoria is doing to help the possum, as well as things you can do to help endangered species survive.
Falls Creek Cross Country is also offering free ski hire on the day for anyone who wants to get out and explore the High Plains.

Aussie resorts: deepest base in 14 years

This weekend latest antarctic blast has left our Aussie resorts blanketed in  a thick layer of fresh snow.

From Mt Buller in Victoria to Thredbo in NSW, conditions this weekend are expected to be some of the best in recent years.  In fact, today’s snowfalls are predicted to take snow depths past 2 m – and that mean snows to Christmas, prompting Hotham and Perisher to extend their snow seasons into October.

Mt Buller’s Rhylla Morgan, reported this  morning that skiers and boarders are reveling in the excellent conditions right across the   mountain open.  “With well over 1 and half metres of cover and now fresh snow landing, it’s a great day to be out on skis today,” said General Manager of Buller Ski Lifts Laurie Blampied.

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Mt Buller will remain open for skiing and boarding until the end of the October school holidays and the excellent snow cover is boosting confidence in school holiday bookings.

Conditions are similar at Thredbo in NSW.  A solid snow bearing weather system rolled across the Snowy Mountains over night delivering 25 cms of fresh snow to Thredbo Resort this morning. Snow is continuing to fall this afternoon to the village levels with up to 40 cm expected in the next 24 hrs. The mountain and the village are looking exceptional in white.

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“We were expecting the snow to fall but the intensity was surprising, it was consistent and heavy for most of the morning and into the afternoon. This really is the giving season, it just keep delivering the goods” said Susie Diver Thredbo Communications Manager.

The 2018 season is shaping up to be one of the best for a while with the Snowy Hydro snow depth eclipsing the 2 m mark this week, giving us the best snow tally at this time of the year since 2004.

All images courtesy Thredbo and Mt Buller.

Charlotte Pass to be upgraded under a $10M plan

Charlotte Pass Snow Resort Pty Ltd (CPSR) today announced a 10 million-dollar, 10 Year Capital Investment program for the resort.

This unprecedented investment at Charlotte Pass will see an increase in lifting capacity and the expansion of accessible terrain, through the installation of a brand-new Surface Lift towards Mount Stilwell and the replacement of the Basin Poma with a new surface lift.

The snow season will be extended to operate from the June to October long weekend each year, with the installation of automated snowmaking to cover the Kosciuszko Triple Chair (to Mid-Station), Kosi Carpet and Basin Poma areas.

The ‘Grand Old Lady of the Mountains’, the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel will be undergoing a major refurbishment of all guest rooms, food and beverage outlets.

The Charlotte Pass Oversnow Transport fleet will be expanded, with 2 additional Oversnow vehicles. Charlotte Pass will also be investing in a range of initiatives to improve the environmental performance of the resort.

This investment will also see the development of Year-Round activation of the resort, including the construction of conference and multifunction facilities at the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel. The resort will also move towards the provision of Accommodation, Food & Beverage facilities Year-Round, as well as the operation of the Kosciuszko Triple Chair during peak periods.

Kevin Blyton, Chairman of the Blyton Group said “today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to the long-term growth of Charlotte Pass Snow Resort. We believe this investment over the next 10 years will transform Charlotte Pass, building on its legacy as an on-snow experience like no other”.

The Charlotte Pass 10 Year Masterplan will deliver the following new initiatives from 2019 onwards:

Extended Snow Season
• The Charlotte Pass Snow season will operate from the June to October long weekend each year (subject to snow conditions).

Installation of next generation automated snowmaking system – Snowmaking system to cover the Kosciuszko Triple Chair (to Mid-Station), Kosi Carpet & Basin Poma
• Construction of new pumping station
• New underground piping & electrical cabling
• Installation of fully automated snow making guns

Refurbishment of the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel – Retaining its heritage characteristics while upgrading the standard of accommodation
• Upgrade of all guest rooms and suites
• Upgrade and re-configuration of Adams Cocktail Lounge
• Upgrade of The Cellar Bar.
• Expansion of Gift Shop and General Store.
• Re-configuration of hotel heating and plumbing systems.

Replacement of Basin Poma lift with a new surface lift – Next generation surface lift tailored specifically to beginners
• Undertake feasibility and Environmental Impact study.
• Preparation of Development Application and Environmental Impact statement.
• Installation of surface lift to replace Basin Poma, with greater lifting capacity than the existing Poma

Construction of a new surface lift towards Mount Stilwell – This will significantly expand the skiable terrain on offer at the Resort
• Undertake feasibility and Environmental Impact study.
• Preparation of Development Application and Environmental Impact statement.
• Installation of new surface lift towards Mount Stilwell, with associated underground power and communication cabling as required.

Expansion of oversnow fleet – Ensuring ongoing rapid, safe and reliable access to the resort
• Purchase of 2 additional Oversnow vehicles

Continue to improve the environmental performance of Charlotte Pass
• Replacement of automated Programmable Logic Controllers used in connection with the operation of the Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP).
• Construction of roof over outdoor tanks at the STP, improving the overall energy efficiency.
• Re-cladding of STP buildings.
• Sealing of roads within the resort.
• Development of stormwater monitoring program.
• Increased investment in energy saving initiatives.
• Development of new waste and recycling program to increase awareness.

Construction, re-configuration and refurbishment of buildings
• Construction of new staff accommodation building
• Re-configuration of current Bella Vista staff accommodation to become new Charlotte Pass Snow Centre, encompassing:
o Expanded space for further development of Children’s Snowsports programs.
o New ‘Day Lodge’ venue.
o Central Oversnow Transport Hub
• Re-configuration of Snow Centre to become dedicated Equipment Hire Centre

Implementation of Year-Round Resort Activation
• Provision of Food & Beverage Facilities Year-Round.
• Operation of the Kosciuszko Triple Chair during peak periods.
• Accommodation to be available year-round.
• Development of a Summer Events Program.
• Development of Conference & Function Facilities, with construction of multifunction facilities at rear of the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel to facilitate functions and conferences of various sizes.

* All proposed works & timeframes are subject to NSW Government Planning Approval process

15cm of fresh snow at Mt Buller

15cms of snow landed at Mt Buller early this morning to the delight of skiers, snowboarders and snowplayers who were out early revelling in the fresh and powdery snow conditions.

There is a fresh and very good cover in resort which is perfect timing for one of the most popular weekends on the winter calendar. The resort hosts the thrilling Burton Cattleman’s Rail Jam event on Saturday and with Twilight Sessions this weekend skiers and snowplayers can enjoy extra time on the snow until late under lights.

“Mt Buller is looking beautiful right now with plenty of light fresh snow sitting across the mountain and snow falling to lower levels,” said Rhylla Morgan from Buller Ski Lifts. “This weekend is set to be a cracker with all the action and adrenaline of the Burton Cattleman’s Rail Jam on show in the village tomorrow night. These are the best snowboarders in the country and they always put on a breathtaking show.”

“The riding up here right now is superb thanks to lots of fresh snow sitting on an already very good base. We will have every lift in the resort rolling this weekend and it’s going to be a good time to get out and explore the mountain.”

Mt Buller recommends visitors this weekend book their resort entry online the day before and arrive early as it will be a popular weekend.

Follow up snow showers are expected to continue into next week.

The snow is back!

The snow is back in the mountains this week with Thredbo and Perisher reporting 30 and 20 cm of fresh, light snow, respectively.

After a week of variable weather, everyone is excited to welcome back true wintery conditions, as a blustery cold front moved through the region bringing solid snowfalls and very cold temperatures, at 5 below zero.

Perisher presently has 46 lifts turning giving guests plenty of terrain to explore across Perisher, Blue Cow, Smiggin Holes and Guthega. Thredbo is also going off with some of the best conditions of the season so far.

Today, excited skiers and boarders lined up early to get into the fresh snow and they were rewarded with fresh tracks both on and off the piste.

The snow is set to clear tomorrow to a mostly fine week, with conditions again perfect for more snowmaking.

All images courtesy of Thredbo and Perisher.

Buller Air Zone launch gives Mt Buller new altitude!

Mt Buller today announced the opening of Australia’s newest indoor acrobatic facility, the Buller Air Zone. Featuring one of the largest airbags in Australia and the largest inflatable bouldering wall in the world, the facility will take indoor activities at Mt Buller to new heights.

A landmark partnership between the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA), Ski & Snowboard Australia, Buller Ski Lifts, and the Mt Buller & Mt Stirling Resort Management Board (RMB) saw athlete training programs at Mt Buller recognised as an official Olympic Training Centre. This cements Mt Buller as the Victorian home of future Olympic champions in aerials and mogul skiing.

These elite athletes need an indoor facility to train, develop and enhance their acrobatic skills. So the OWIA and RMB have spent $0.5m constructing the Buller Air Zone, a purpose built facility which will also be open to the public throughout summer and winter.

Mark Bennetts, CEO of the Mt Buller & Mt Stirling Resort Management Board said, “This is a tremendously exciting facility for the mountains. Our elite athletes will be able to train year-round, and visitors will be able to play, jump and climb in our freestyle playground. It will help boost tourism to Mt Buller and the Mansfield region, providing another activity for families, school groups and training camps in summer. It also provides another activity for winter visitors to enjoy during the daytime or at night once the lifts stop turning”.

The Buller Air Zone features five trampolines including a 20’x10’ mega tramp, waterfall tramp, giant air bag, “walk the ridge”, climbing ladder, inflatable bouldering wall and fixed climbing wall with self belay devices. It will be open daily throughout winter and at selected times throughout summer.

“We encourage everyone visiting Mt Buller to come and give BAZ a go!”, said Mr Bennetts. “There are special sessions for younger kids and the facility is available for group bookings. We are also pleased to offer a 20% discount for Mansfield Shire residents. So everyone from young children through to Olympians can enjoy playing and training at Mt Buller.”

Visit mtbuller.com.au for more information on the Buller Air Zone including opening hours and bookings.

Thredbo: “It’s dumping and there’s no sign of it letting up yet”

Skiers and snowboarders at Thredbo Alpine Resort were greeted with fun powder turns this morning, with every run delivering smiles for miles and great coverage across the entire mountain. The Powder Bowl and Bushranger were the pick of the morning, offering deep turns and lots of fun natural features to play with. The fresh flakes on Friday Flat ensured for plenty of family fun including snowball fights and snowman building.

Conditions are still fresh and dry up top, with plenty of pow stashes to be found. The village is looking like a winter wonderland, perfect for a post ski or board lunch and hot chocolate.

It’s still currently snowing, with experts claiming another 10cm+ to fall, making for another awesome day of fresh turns tomorrow.

This snow storm will set up a sensational week of riding, with the sun expected to make a reappearance around Tuesday. Between the amazing weather and conditions across the mountain, it’s going to be another awesome week of school holidays with heaps of fun activities and entertainment for all families to enjoy.


Best start to the Aussie snow season in 18 years

Hopefully some of you out there have managed to get up to the mountains this weekend.
Perisher wrote to us yesterday to advise that they have now opened all four resort areas, after Guthega made its season debut on Saturday.

Last week saw 82cm of snow fall which set up the resort to open a large amount of terrain. Mother nature has been very kind this year allowing most resorts to open a wide range of terrain; the most they’ve been able to open this early in the season for 18 years.

In fact, yesterday saw 33 lifts spinning across the Perisher with links between Perisher, Blue Cow and Guthega allowing skiers and snowboarders to move freely between the mind-boggling amount of terrain on offer. Excellent skiing and snowboarding conditions prevail this weekend and the consistent clear sunny days and cold evenings have allowed the snowmaking teams to pump out snow night after night.

What a great start to the season. Let’s hope it continues. Send us your images and stories if you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains.

The SRA team.