Into Thin Air at Mt. Buller: Exhilarating Mountain Biking in Victoria, Australia’s Beautiful High Country

Mount Buller is well-known as one of Australia’s premier ski resorts. While it’s very popular during the winter, not many people realize that Mt. Buller has established itself as a fantastic summer resort. Most notably, it has become a premier mountain biking destination. Over the past seven years, the resort has worked closely with Glen Jacobs from World Trails to develop a singletrack trail network that is second to none.

I was lucky enough to be invited by the crew from Bike Buller for a three-day pre-season industry weekend at Mt. Buller. It was a great chance to check out their fantastic trails and all that Mt. Buller has to offer first-hand.

Photo: Sam Doman

In 2012, Mt. Buller was announced as the first International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA)-endorsed Ride Center in Australia. It has now joined a select group of mountain biking destinations around the world that represent IMBA’s model trail recognition for large-scale mountain bike facilities. The Mt. Buller Ride Center features well-over 60 miles (100km) of exceptional trails, which stretch around the mountain and include neighboring Mt. Stirling. The Ride Center also includes the Delatite and Howqua Valleys.

Photo: Mt. Buller

In addition to the fantastic trails, Mt. Buller has a great selection of hotels and lodge-style accommodations available. Some have been given the “Bike Buller Recommends” stamp of approval for cycle-friendly accommodation. At Bike Buller Recommends properties, you will have access to bike storage, a bike wash, and so much more. Their knowledgeable staff are on hand to give you all the tips and support you need to make your tour a great adventure. Above all, the costs are very low, and start at around $50 AUD per person, per night.

Just Three Hours From Melbourne

After a three-hour drive and a quick stop along the way, I checked into my accommodations and met up with two other riders who were also there for the weekend: Norm and Sandy from MTBskills. Norm and Sandy, two of the best skills coaches in the business, had been recruited by the Mt Buller crew to guide us throughout the weekend.

We headed to the Hotel Arlberg for dinner, and the rest of the group arrived later that night. The weekend hadn’t even begun yet, and I was already having a great time!

Photo: Sam Doman.

Saturday morning our group of eleven riders all met at the Powder Bar. After a quick introduction, the coaches checked over our bikes and we headed straight onto the singletrack.

GangGangs, Corn Hill, and Silk Lane

The first trail we rode was GangGangs, which starts right at the Village Center. This trail begins with some tight, technical turns and berms, flowing onto gently-traversing singletrack which stretches over to Corn Hill.

As we tackled the first climb, it struck me just how quickly I ran out of breath. The rest of the group also had the same issue. I didn’t anticipate how much thinner the air would be at 5,900 feet (1800m) than it is at sea level!

Photo: Mt. Buller.

We kept riding along a beautifully laid-out track named Corn Hill, which is a mixed bag of steep, rocky trail, flowing singletrack, and wide firetrail that climbs to the top of Corn Hill.

From there we followed the Silk Lane track, which is another beautiful mix of singletrack and firetrail, before arriving at Howqua Gap. This is where the famous Stonefly singletrack starts.

Stonefly

Stonefly is arguably the best 6 miles (10km) of singletrack that Australia has to offer. It was designed and built by Glen Jacobs from World Trail, like most of the other trails at Mount Buller.

Our pre-season industry weekend was held one week before the official opening of the resort, and Stonefly was still closed, with the crew still cleaning up the trails after winter. Mt. Buller spends an immense amount of time each spring getting all the trails into tip-top shape, and that takes time. Not being able to ride Stonefly was a little bit disappointing, but a closed track is to be respected, and Stonefly is the best reason to come back to Mt. Buller again soon.

Misty Twist

We backtracked a little and then went on to tackle Misty Twist. The first section consisted of a rather challenging climb with an incredible number of switchbacks. The views of the neighboring mountains and the valley below were simply breathtaking! This masterpiece of Jacobs-designed singletrack brought us back to the summit of Corn Hill.

Photo: Jurgen Mennel.

Delatite River Trail

After Misty Twist, we headed over to the start of the Delatite River Trail. This 5.5-mile (9km) descent was massive, with the trail starting at around 5,600 feet (1700m) above sea level. It stretches all the way down to Mirimbah at the base of the mountain, which finishes at around 1,600 feet (500m) above sea level. This singletrack includes a number of beautiful river crossings, and offers spectacular riding and scenery.

Photo: Sam Doman.

Merimbah Store

We arrived at the Mirimbah Store at the base of the mountain for a well-earned late lunch. From there, you can catch the bike shuttle back to the top of the mountain. They operate every weekend from the 2nd weekend in November to the end of April. Make sure you book your shuttle in advance to avoid disappointment.

After an incredible day of riding, we caught the shuttle back up to the village to our accommodations. Everyone was quite exhilarated and exhausted, so we took the afternoon to relax and enjoy the resort before meeting up for a great meal at the Hotel Arlberg.

Klingsporn Bridle Trail

Sunday morning we headed straight onto an epic trail called the Klingsporn Bridle Trail. It is a steep, technical track that will test everyone’s skills and nerves. It is definitely a trail for advanced riders only. This track is outside of the Mt. Buller resort boundaries, so it isn’t maintained by resort management.

Photo: Sam Doman.

The grueling 5.5-mile (9km) trail left us truly exhilarated… and also very hungry. The track finishes at the Mirimbah Store, making access back to the top of the mountain via the shuttle a breeze. After a well-earned breakfast, we took the shuttle back to the top of the mountain and headed over to the Copperhead trail.

Copperhead

Copperhead is Australia’s first flow trail. This fun trail is about 2 miles (3km) long, and is suitable for intermediate riders. Copperhead offers up a lot of nice berms, switchbacks, and other fun features.

In January, the chairlift will take you back to the top of the run. At other times of the year, a shuttle service can be organized.

We repeated the run several times before fatigue and a few mistakes began to set in. As we all know, sometimes the seemingly-easier trails, combined with a little bit of fatigue, can really bite you! I escaped with a few scratches and scrapes–nothing serious and all part of the fun, although my wife didn’t quite see it that way!

Photo: Mt. Buller.

Later on we met at the Powder Bar in the village to share our trail experiences. I could feel the energy in the room and that spark of enthusiasm for a truly physical and mentally-challenging weekend. It was a privilege to be able to ride with such a passionate group of people. Experiencing Buller first-hand on my mountain bike was nothing short of inspiring. We all agreed that Mt. Buller should be conquered again very soon!

Photo: Jurgen Mennel.

Big Plans for the Future

Ben Annear of the Bike Buller Team shared their plans to expand this already incredible mountain biking destination with us. We learned that the Buller trail network is nowhere near finished. Currently there is a project underway which to add another 25 miles (40km) of trails to this already extensive network. Apparently, World Trails and the Buller Team are well on their way to finishing this epic project for the 2014/2015 season.

Photo: Mt. Buller.

Ben shared the behind the scenes work the Buller Team faces each year. Spring is their busiest time, since they have to bring the trail network up to standard and get it ready for the mountain biking season. Mt. Buller is on a mission to be known as the first-choice summer holiday destination in Australia, with mountain biking as it’s biggest draw.

Very shortly, they will also be erecting a large modular pump track. It was incredible to realise at how big this whole project is going to be! The Buller Team is putting everything into place to bring their great vision to life.

This was definitely one of the best weekends away riding I had in a long time, and I will be back for more! A big “thank you” to Ben and the Bike Buller team who really showcased what an exceptional mountain biking resort Mount Buller truly is.

Photo: Jurgen Mennel.
Jurgen Mennel publishes Terrain Mountain Bike Magazine, a digital mag available via the Apple Newstand. Launched in October 2013, the monthly magazine features trail news and reviews from around the world. Give it a try for free using a coupon code.

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