Mount Stirling Alpine Resort Interpretive Trail

Merit Award 2015

Mount Stirling Alpine Resort is a cross-country and backcountry ski resort on the slopes of Mount Stirling in the Australian Alps, about 140 miles from Melbourne. It’s become a popular destination year-round: after the snow melt, hikers come to enjoy its beautiful Alpine Ash forests, Snow Gum woodlands, and breathtaking alpine meadows.

When resort management decided Mount Stirling’s most popular bushwalking trail was in need of an interpretive solution and some minor wayfinding, they called on HeineJones (Melbourne). HeineJones’ goals were to help guide visitors along the trail, enhance their experience with the cultural and natural history of the region, and educate them about the fragility of the environment and how they can contribute to its care.

With a limited budget, timeframe, and limited access to the trail, a simple, cost-effective, and easy-to-install solution was required. HeineJones’ created a suite of interpretive elements that highlight local history and resources and presented the information on trail markers that provide visual clarity while blending into the natural environment. Sturdy cypress pine posts are laser-etched with the name of the resort and at eye level, partially encased in three-sided aluminum panels with digital prints applied. The interpretive panels provide simple trail wayfinding as well as walking distances between points of interest and information about animals and plants, helping to enrich walkers’ enjoyment of the trail.

The low-cost and lightweight solution references the strong vertical aesthetic of the surrounding bush, as well as the angular nature of the alpine trees and undergrowth. Caps protecting the tops of the angled posts are color-coordinated with the interpretive panels. HeineJones chose the color palette in sympathy with the local environment, typically a gentle gray/green punctuated by random spots of bright color. In time the cypress pine posts will fade to a silvery gray, allowing the design to blend further into the natural environment.

HeineJones’ simple system allowed resort staff to quickly and easily install the infrastructure even though winter had started and trail access was limited. The signs were transported to site on a sled towed by a snowmobile, footings were hand dug, and the signs installed by hand. The in-ground rated timber allowed a simple earth backfill without the need for concrete. The design has proven popular with resort visitors and they have reported a much-improved appreciation and understanding of the resort and the beautiful natural environment.

Jury Comments: 

“Integration into the existing vertical alpine forest is the key to the success of this design. The typical outdoor interpretive landscape is littered with post-and-panel solutions. This execution forgoes the customary panel and achieves its purpose without heavy intervention.”

“This is a sensitive and sensible solution to wayfinding and interpretive content presentation in a natural environment. Essentially, three elements complete the mission; a wrapped, bent, metal graphic panel, a colorful metal cap, and a cypress post (soon to weather back to the match the surrounding forest). No more, no less—just right.”

Design Firm: 

HeineJones

Client: 

Mount Buller and Mount Stirling Management Board

Location City: 

Mount Stirling, Victoria, Australia

Project Area: 

52,500 ft

Open Date: 

2013

Photo Credits: 

HeineJones

Design Team: 

Mike Heine (creative director), Steve Jones (production director)

Consultants: 

N/A

Fabricators: 

Banana Graphics (aluminum display panels), Origin Laser (laser etching)

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