By Ashlea Wheeler
The Australian Alps receive their fair share of skiiers and snowboarders each winter season, but these sparkling white landscapes offer a much wider range of snow-themed activities for those looking for adventure, fun, or relaxation.
There are plenty of places to enjoy snow in Australia - some of the major destinations include Perisher, Thredbo, Charlotte Pass, Mt Hotham, Falls Creek, Mt Buller, Selwyn, and Mt Baw Baw. Hang up the skis and venture into the mountains of Victoria and New South Wales for a different kind of winter experience.
An exciting way to see the best of Australia’s spectacular winter landscapes is via snowmobile – a motorised sled built specifically for zooming across the snow. At Falls Creek you can do a snowmobile tour with one adult driver and one passenger (adult or child) per vehicle. Tours explore the back country of the high plains, which provide magnificent views of the surrounding ranges.
If the kids want their very own snowmobile experience, Mt Hotham offers children 5-14 years a turn at riding their own kid-sized vehicle. These miniature snowmobiles are guaranteed fun for the 15 minute rides around Snow Stuff Park.
The thrill of being pulled through a sparkling white landscape by a team of Siberian Huskies is entirely unique. Dog sled tours are available from June to September, allowing guests to snuggle up in a sled under layers of thick blankets while the dogs run ahead through the snow.
Howling Huskys dog sled tours at Mt Hotham range in length from 30 minutes to just over an hour and will take you through the pristine wilderness of Alpine National Park. All sled tours include 15 minutes of pats and cuddles with the friendly team of dogs. Tours at Mt Baw Baw range from 30 minutes to five hours and take you through various back country trails. For a special treat, choose a sunset tour where you’ll be handed a glass of wine to watch the sun set peacefully over the blanketed white mountain tops.
Australian Sleddog Tours offer trips at Mt Buller ranging from 30 minutes to 3.5 hours, some of which allow you to have a turn at driving the sled with a hands-on introduction to handling a team of huskies.
A toboggan is a small sled used for sliding down slopes, and they are a classic way to enjoy the snow in Australia. Alpine parks with toboggan facilities include Selwyn Snow Resort in New South Wales, and Mt Buller, Mt Baw Baw, and Falls Creek in Victoria. These parks have dedicated slopes in their snowplay areas where you can rent a toboggan for endless fun.
Fun for all ages, tubing is one of the most exhilarating winter activities. There are tube parks at Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Perisher, and Selwyn where you can purchase single rides or bulk rides, or get timed use of the tubes. Once you have your inflatable donut, get ready to slide, spin, or bounce your way downhill.
Snowshoeing isn’t just for hardcore adventure seekers – this spellbinding activity is possible for all ages and fitness levels. Hire snowshoes from ski rental stores then take off to explore the mountains at their peak winter beauty. Mt Hotham has 35 kilometres (22 miles) of trails that you can make your way along, many of which provide stunning alpine views. If you’d prefer a guided tour, Mt Buller offer Yeti Snowshoe Tours during the day or at twilight, Falls Creek have the option of doing a Nordic Snowshoe Tour for a perfect introduction to snowshoeing, or Thredbo have Snowshoe Tours that can take you as far as the peak of Mount Kosciusko.
Yes, it’s possible to ride a bicycle on snow! Special bikes with fat tyres (appropriately named Fat Bikes) are similar to mountain bikes and are the latest trend in snow adventure activities. At Falls Creek, you can rent these Fat Bikes and take them out on the snowshoe/biking trails for a day of exploration along the pretty white mountainside.
Alpine Nature Experience at Mt Hotham offers a wilderness retreat with a difference. After snowshoeing through the gum trees to your secluded camping location, you’ll be presented with a cheese fondue on arrival then spend the night in a luxury snow-dome tent complete with a wood fire to keep you cosy. Cover yourself in the layers of thick blankets provided then wake up to the sounds of nature and hopefully the dustings of a fresh snowfall. A weekend in the alps doesn’t get more romantic than this.
Australia’s colder destinations come alive in winter, with an array of festivals taking place over the snow season. Peak Festival at Perisher is the only music festival in the Snowy Mountains, and it kicks off every June at the beginning of ski season. The festival includes four days of music with some of Australia’s best artists in attendance, and tickets include unlimited chairlift rides and one evening of free night skiing.
Other wonderful winter festivals around Australia include Yulefest in the Blue Mountains, DARK MOFO in Hobart, Winter Wonderlights in Sovereign Hill, and Bathurst Winter Festival in Bathurst. While these destinations aren’t guaranteed to get snow, they celebrate the colder months with various winter-themed festivities including special art installations, music and entertainment, and Christmas in July decorations.