Our North East Australian Alpine region may not be the French Alps, but a young Frenchman is determined to showcase the beauty of the snow, without skis.
Jean-Francois Rupp, who grew up in the French Alps, has created a new business venture, Alpine Nature Experience at Mount Hotham.
His aim is to help visitors truly immerse themselves in the remote, pristine Australian alpine environment.
“I’ve realised that a lot of people don’t go to the snow because they don’t like to ski, so I wanted people to come up to the snow and discover how good it is without having to do that,” Jean-Francois said.
“It’s the same as going to the beach, where you don’t have to surf to enjoy being by the ocean, it’s a similar idea and an alternative offer to skiing.”
The Alpine Nature Experience at Mount Hotham starts with an evening snowshoe walk through the majestic snow gums, weaving its way to a hidden eco-village and central tipi with a fireplace.
Visitors will then learn the secrets to making a traditional French fondue, with cheese imported from Jean-Francois’ home town of Annecy (Haute Savoie) in the French Alps.
Although Mount Hotham is vastly different to the French Alps, Jean-Francois quickly fell in love with the Alpine region.
“It’s one of those funny things, I’ve been skiing all my life, from about two-and-a-half years old I’ve spent a lot of time with my feet in snow,” Jean-Francois said.
“When I moved to Australia, marrying an Aussie girl, she said ‘you should go check out our mountains’, and I said ‘you mean your little hills?’ I was a bit sceptical at first, but in the end I really fell in love with it.
“It’s got that sense of remoteness without the harsh conditions that we’ve got in Europe. The Alps here are a lot more accessible. You don’t have to be a mountaineer to go out there and enjoy it.
“Here you can walk along in the snow gums, and there are beautiful look-outs. Where we come from there are no trees, it is all snow, and steep cliffs.”
The first Alpine Nature Experience Tours gets underway on 15 June, and continuing on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until the end of September.
“So far response has been excellent,” Jean-Francois said.
“People are just amazed you can set up something like this in the middle of nature, a little bit out of the beaten track on the Dargo lookout.
“The sights and sounds of the Alpine environment at night is incredible.
“The snow sort of softens every sound and offers a unique sensory experience. It’s very relaxing.”
There are also plans to create summer experiences and an accommodation retreat – but first the snow beckons!
For more information visit: http://alpinenatureexperience.com.au/