Apres-ski, I'm with the band
Terri Jacobs finds room just off-piste for a three-piece of snow-weary death-metallers.
Sometimes we speak before we think things through, and this is exactly how my weekend away with "the band" came to be.
The teenager has a birthday and I offer to take some of his friends away to celebrate, and before you know it, "the band" is joining us for a weekend in the snow. Now when I say band, don't think Silverchair or even the Stones; this group is, by their description, "brutal, metal".
Thankfully, Putrid Infestation's equipment stays at home, saving our ears and our sanity, but their energy is put to good use on the slopes. These three young men, and my husband, take to the downhill runs with enthusiasm, if not experience.
We travel to the mountains for three days, but are at Mount Buller for only one full day. But what a day, in an exotic winter wonderland.
Accommodation at the top is expensive, and difficult to find. An internet search puts us, instead, "off mountain" at Merrijig, just 29 kilometres from Buller, which is an easy drive on your snow day. Whatever savings we make in accommodation go towards snowboarding and chairlifts on our big day.
And while it is a bit of a blink-and-you-miss-it destination, Merrijig is perfect for us at just 21/2 hours' drive from Melbourne.
We book into the Elm Apartments, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, self-catering flat within the Delatite Apartments complex.
The self-contained apartments can sleep up to six and include a decent-sized living and dining area with stereo, TV and DVD (but no DVDs to watch, so bring your own or visit the Merrijig Motor Inn for free DVD with takeaway meals), a kitchen with dishwasher, laundry facilities, reverse-cycle air-conditioning, and extra heaters in the bedrooms (a blessing in winter).
The main bedroom's en suite has a two-person corner spa and shower, while the other bathroom, off the second bedroom, has a shower, basin and toilet. The linen is pristinely clean and crisp. And while not quite right for this season, we have access to a swimming pool, floodlit tennis court and barbecue area.
The instruction that we leave the place as we find it, with a warning that cleaning fees will be deducted from our credit card if it is not left up to scratch, strikes a sour note.
And while the literature claims the kitchen is fully equipped, we find it a little wanting - small things perhaps, but ones that hamper our cooking. There is salt but no pepper and certainly no sign of other spices. So be warned, as not only is Mansfield the last stop for petrol but it is the closest grocery store, too. There is, however, a convenience store just up the road at the Merrijig Motor Inn and this, we subsequently discover, stocks the basics including milk, bread, eggs, paper and coffee.
All this means, of course, is that you have to be more organised than we were. But if you aren't, help is at hand. Actually, help is right next door in the form of the Hunt Club Hotel.
The hotel serves bistro-style meals such as chicken parmigiana, crumbed lamb chops, crumbed calamari and pizzas for about $20 each. It also has a good bar with a pool table and a couple of arcade games.
But we are here for the snow, and for that we are perfectly situated. Just a 15-minute trip up the road is the entrance to Mount Buller, and if you have reached Merrijig with the idea of hiring ski gear on the mountain, look instead, once again, to the Merrijig Motor Inn.
Why waste time queueing on the mountain when you could be carving up the slopes? Or not, as in our case.
Forty dollars will see you kitted out with snowboard, bindings, boots, wrist guards and helmet without the fuss and stress of the bigger locations. The inn also hires chains and has a qualified technician who repairs ski equipment.
For those who prefer not to bother with chains and the winding drive up the mountain, there is a regular bus service to and from Mount Buller during the ski season, with pick-up and drop-off at the Hunt Club Hotel.
Merrijig is in the scenic Great Dividing Range, and has some spectacularly beautiful scenery and a number of picnic areas along the Delatite River, which passes through the town on its route between Mount Buller and Lake Eildon (which, sadly, is not even a shadow of its former self when we pass by).
So whether your weekend trip to the snow includes a death-metal band or not, Elm Apartments are super for a family or group of friends who want to hit the slopes by day but enjoy some down time, or recovery time, by night.
And by the way, none of the boys broke anything, of theirs or anyone else's - is that some kind of record?
Elm Apartments, Merrijig, Delatite Apartments, Mount Buller Road, Merrijig. Bookings Phone 5777 5288 or see alpineholidayrentals.com.au/html/elm.html
Elm apartments is part of the Delatite Complex, Merrijig, and is about 17 kilometres past Mansfield on Mount Buller Road. The Hunt Club Hotel is next door and both properties are on the right when driving towards Mount Buller.
Two weekend nights in a two-bedroom apartment, peak season, is $800.
Super location, great space for people trying to escape the snow rush, and the kids, as their room is on the other side of the apartment. But at $800 you wouldn't expect to have to sweep up before leaving.
The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable, well-run.
Weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for.