Rekindle your love for an Alpine classic this summer - get back to Buller!
Words and photos: Georgina von Marburg
For many of us, it’s been while since we gave Mount Buller a second thought. Perhaps you were underwhelmed by the tight and twisty old-school style, or felt the gravity trails weren’t exciting enough to warrant a weekend’s worth of riding. Well, now is the time to reconsider your stance. The mountain is undergoing a facelift and vying to become one of the most coveted mountain bike destinations in Victoria’s High Country.
1. New Trails
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Buller has recently received a $1.25 million grant to refurbish and upgrade their entire trail network. Anyone who’s ridden here in recent years will know Buller was sorely in need of such a grant. While the trails were world class 10 years ago, they failed to adapt and grow with advances in bike technology and rider abilities. With its proximity to Melbourne, bike hire facilities, shuttles, and varying landscape, the resort was desperate for the final piece to the puzzle: quality, modern trails. This year their prayers were answered with a state grant to overhaul and revamp every piece of single-track. Contour Works and TrailScapes – two of the leading trail building companies in Australia – are leading the renovations. (Fortuitously, the crew at Contour Works were also part of the World Trail team that originally built the Buller network back in 2009.) Some upgrades have already been completed, and we had the pleasure of riding them during the season opener this month. Suffice to say, these sections were unrecognisable; with lines and features to suite all levels, the stoke was palpable on every rider who gleefully bound down the trails. Finally, Buller is starting to feel like a proper alpine mountain bike park worthy of hype.
2. Views, view, and more views
It’s one thing to appreciate Instagram edits of Mount Buller, but it’s another to be truly immersed and present in it. Alpine areas make up less than 0.15% of Australia, and Buller provides one of the most unique settings for this precious terrain. For some comparison, I live in the alpine village of Bright, where a breathtaking landscape awaits up every climb. But without any reservations, I’ll admit Buller has the grandest views in Victoria's High Country. The hills ribbon down from the summit to reveal an unobstructed mountain-scape unlike any other. The Summit can be accessed via foot on a short walking track, and sunset picnics up there are a summer ritual amongst tourists and locals alike. So grab some takeaway and a bottle of local vino, and head up to enjoy this serene experience.
3. Avoid the tourist havens
With cities and borders re-opening, tourists are descending on alpine towns in droves. While this is great for local businesses, it can create a crowded and stressful environment in which to spend your long-awaited holiday. Something we all love about mountain biking is the peace and quiet afforded by remote locations and majestic landscapes. So venture upwards, and escape the maddening crowds that afflict valley towns such as Bright and Jindabyne. Yes, we love these places too, but there are other quality trail networks to explore. On-mountain food and accommodation at Buller is plentiful and doesn’t involve a 45 minute way for your morning coffee. Buller Chalet is one of many convenient and affordable options, just a stone’s throw from the Village Bike Café and grocery store. And unlike an overpriced unit in Bright, you’ll likely enjoy a sublime sunset and sunrise right from your window. Start your own trend this summer by heading up to Buller to live and breathe that high-altitude lifestyle. You won’t be disappointed.
4. Parma night at ABOM
ABOM is one of many dining options on the hill, open throughout both the ski and green seasons. Its cozy atmosphere and timber décor make it the perfect wind down to a long day on the Epic - or the ignition for a long night of banter. Like every good Aussie bistro, Tuesday nights are parma night. We know, parmas are a macho cliché, but there’s also a vego parma for the more progressive amongst us. Either option will certainly leave every member in the group happy and satiated. In fact, these parmas are so good they continued the Tuesday night tradition throughout lockdown, delivering this iconic meal to the doors of mountain residents during the loneliest time of year.
5. The Epic Trail
The term “epic” is one of the most overused superlatives in the MTB world. But while we’re all guilty of splashing this word across every second ride, Buller has officially earned this description from the IMBA. The International Mountain Bike Association bestows the Epic title on routes which are “physically and technically challenging, beautiful to behold and worthy of celebration. EPICS are more than 80% singletrack and 20 miles in length.” This gives you an objective idea of what to expect from Buller’s Epic, but the details are what really bring riders and events back to the Epic trail year after year.
The Epic Trail is comprised of distinct segments showcasing the best features of alpine backcountry riding. It’s extremely demanding to race, but can also be approached as day-long adventure. From ridge-line fire roads to tacky hero-dirt, and from tight, technical climbs to some of the longest descents in the High Country – Buller’s Epic trail touches upon everything worthwhile about mountain biking. This ride is an exceptionally unique experience in Australia, engulfing its participants in blanched-white snow gums, fluorescent green ferns, and pristine views across the Victorian Alps.
6. Trail diversity
The combination of the long-standing Epic and new gravity trails make Buller one of the most diverse networks in the region. You could easily come here with one, mid-travel bike and be content; or you could bring along your entire fleet of specific superbikes and go Strava hunting. The Buller features range from winding climbs to modern flow, from classic alpine rock gardens to manmade drops. For the juniors who desire nothing more than to throw whips all day, they can shuttle ABOM and International until their hearts are content. For those who prefer to earn their turns, there are also plenty of XC and all-mountain loops which don’t require you traversing the entire Epic trail.