Not many people think of Australia as an ideal skiing and snowboarding destination because the country is better known for its sun, sea and surf.
The truth is, Australia has an abundance of snowfields that truly come alive in winter with snow-capped mountain tops and slopes that challenge beginners and experienced skiers alike.
If you’ve arrived in Sydney and you want to snowboard or ski, NSW (New South Wales) has plenty of ski resorts to offer. Blessed to be the home of the country’s highest mountain – Mt Kosciuszko – the state is a snowy paradise for those who want to learn to ski, ski cross-country or downhill or go snowboarding or tobogganing.
You can reach the Snowy Mountains by car in five hours if you depart from Sydney or just two hours if travelling from the nation’s capital, Canberra.
In the Snowy Mountains, you’ll find four major alpine resorts, all of which are contained with Kosciuszko National Park: Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Pass.
The world class resorts are known to be centres of fun and relaxation and you can choose the pace of your visit to suit your preferred level of activity. Each resort destination has its own charms.
A picturesque village at any time of year, Thredbo’s permanent population of around 471 welcomes more than 700,000 visitors annually! It was named by CNN’s Travel section as ‘Australia’s most European ski resort’ because it is an alpine-style ski village. It features backpacker hostels through to lodges, more than 40 cafes and restaurants as well as shops and a thriving nightlife, it boasts in excess of 50 ski runs and Australia’s steepest overall ski terrain.
Daredevils flock to Thredbo because it features a vertical drop that is almost double that found in any other Australian ski resort. Interestingly, however, snow is not its most prolific asset! Situated at the base of Mt Crackenback, it actually has a comparatively low altitude of 1365m.
As a result, the temperatures are higher and it doesn’t retain snow on the lower half of the mountain as well as the other resorts do. To combat this, Thredbo uses the largest snowmaking system in the southern hemisphere, which has increased the average number of days where the mountain could be skied from top to bottom from 18 to 100.
Even if you’ve never skied in your life and want to take some lessons, you’ll find plenty of fun at Thredbo. And if you’re the type who needs a bit more adrenaline in your life, you’ll find that too. Go there if you want to try snow shoeing, tobogganing, snow tubing, snowboarding and skiing.
An amalgamation of four individual villages – Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Guthega and Blue Cow, Perisher is the largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere with approximately 1,245 hectares.
It is more conveniently accessed by Skitube (a Swiss-designed underground rack-rail line that goes directly to the resort) instead of by car and is considered to be more family-friendly thanks to facilities like its Snowy Day Care centre for small children who don’t ski.
The ski school puts all ages through their paces and takes care to group children of a similar age and experience together when participating in any of the snow sports activities.
Twenty-two per cent of the ski runs are designated as suitable for beginners and considering that the 47 lifts can move 53,990 riders every hour, it’s incredible to think just how many beginners that must be!
For snowboarders and skiers of better-than-intermediate standard, there are plenty of areas that are challenging and guaranteed to exhaust (in the happiest way).
Night skiing and snowboarding are available for those who want a bit of extra excitement or who simply can’t stay off the snow when the sun goes down! Perisher offers over 100 kilometres of marked cross-country ski trails for all standards.
Drive for six and a half hours from Sydney (and the same from Melbourne) and you will arrive at Charlotte Pass, Australia’s highest altitude ski resort at 1,765 metres above sea level.
Less of a thrill seeker resort, it is better suited to families and leisure skiers who enjoy the exercise, the outdoors and the remarkable scenery. A smaller, family-style resort, Charlotte Pass offers gentle ski slopes through to intermediate terrain and more challenging runs for the advanced skier.
Snowboarders will not be disappointed as there is plenty of room for their fun and excitement, and all without the commonplace queues and long lift lines of Thredbo and Perisher. Travel to Charlotte Pass is only by oversnow access during most of the ski season as, due to its altitude, it is usually snowbound.
For those who much prefer the slower pace of a beginner’s snowfield or somewhere where families are particularly welcomed and assisted, Selwyn Pass would be the best choice.
There, you can learn to ski and also give snowboarding a try. Known primarily as a learn-to-ski, family snow recreation area, it has a dozen ski lifts and also a cool magic carpet lift for children. Enrol the kids in Snow World where, from ages 18 months to 7 years, programs are designed to teach little ones snow awareness and how to ski.
What Selwyn doesn’t have is resort-style accommodation but there are tons of options nearby including self-contained homes for holiday rentals, bed and breakfasts and hotels and motels in surrounding villages Cooma, Talbingo, Tumut and Adaminaby.
Wherever in the world you come from, if you crave a bit of snow time, then jump in the car and find your way to the New South Wales ski fields. You can book snow holidays online or book your accommodation directly after viewing the numerous options.
If you don’t have ski gear, you can purchase most – if not all – of what you need at the resorts. Medical facilities, tourism information and entertainment options are available at all.
Do you feel the “brrrrrrrrrr”? Get yourself to the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales and discover how beautiful Australia’s high altitude regions can be!