Alpine confidence scales renewed highs

JONATHAN CHANCELLOR, Mansion Australia - August

It’s now deep into the snow season in the Victorian Alps. There’s good cover at the resorts, and property sales appear to be rebounding after a few slow, somewhat disruptive, years. The market has been especially tough since the global financial crisis, with prices not yet fully recovered in the niche second-home market where banks are reticent lenders.

However, the iconic Cuckoo Lodge at Mount Buller (pictured) was snapped up earlier this month after being listed with $1.6 million hopes. It was designed in the late 1950s by Professor Peter McIntyre, a leading figure of alpine architecture, with the ski-in, ski-out property oozing European lodge charm amid the snow gums. The six-bedroom duplex lodge that sits on the edge of the Shaky Knees ski run even comes with a schnapps bar and has an enormous stone open fireplace, built from local mountain rocks to keep the lodge toasty warm.

RT Edgar agent Mark Woodsford, who lives on the mountain, says McIntyre had huge clout in region discovered by the NSW surveyor-general Thomas Mitchell during his 1830s expedition; celebrated botanist Ferdinand von Mueller was the first adventurer to reach its peak in the 1850s.

There have only been three Cuckoo Lodge owners over the past six decades with each continually upgrading and refining the decor to suit as the market has moved from primitive to almost urban. “It still stands as the classic Australian alpine chalet,” Woodsford says. 

Peter McIntyre, who first skied at Mount Buller in the 1940s when skiers had to walk to the top of the run, also designed Andre’s at Buller. The former bed and breakfast, now known as La Grangette, is under contract having been listed at $1.3m plus through RT Edgar.

McIntyre, who was on the Mount Buller management committee in the 1960s, is best known as a founding father of Dinner Plain. Once just the realm of high-country cattlemen, Dinner Plain was the creation of McIntyre, realestate agent John Castran and Olympic administrator and entrepreneur Geoff Henke, who recognised the potential three decades ago. Every abode has an individual look, inspired by the rustic characteristics of cattlemen’s huts, rather than a European style. Contrasting new and natural timber, stone and corrugated iron dominate the designs in the only freehold village in the alps. The other resorts are leasehold national park crown land.

The Victorian Alps’ next big development is being undertaken by the Melbourne-based Grollo family who have approval for Whitehorse Village at Mount Buller. Designed by Melbourne’s Interlandi Mantesso Architects, the complex being marketed through Castran Real Estate, is adjacent to the Bourke Street ski lift. “The metalclad upper floors hover over a solid stone and masonry base, anchoring each chalet to the ground,” the marketing says. Two of the eight chalets have sold.

Last year property mogul Rino Grollo sold his penthouse in the Mount Buller Chalet, the hotel which he built some two decades ago. His 300sq m Howqua suite was bought by Autobarn founder Garry Dumbrell for about $1.7m.

Prestige Victorian listings include Mount Hotham’s Blowhard, the 1999 chalet designed by Peter's son Rob McIntyre on the edge of Swindler’s Valley. It was initially listed in 2012 with $2.25m hopes. The alps face competition as investor focus has shifted to overseas snow destinations and that sort of price hasn’t been seen since 2008 when Under the Moonlight, the $750-a-night Dinner Plain chalet designed by the Rome-based architect Giovanni D’Ambrosio, sold for $2.25m. Blowhard is now listed at $1m.

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