Australian snowfields offer a unique experience for skiers and boarders looking for fresh snow with a beautiful bushland backdrop.
By Rachael Oakes-Ash
As winter descends on Australia, the country's ski fields open for (snow) business. Here is our guide to where you can hit the slopes in New South Wales and Victoria – and what to expect when you get there.
Thredbo, New South Wales
Six hours south of Sydney lies Thredbo, a ski mountain for those who like longer runs, ski-in/ski-out accommodation and a thriving après scene.
Australasia’s longest ski run, the Thredbo Supertrail, will get your thighs burning down 5.9km of groomed snow. Advanced skiers can try The Bluff on a powder day or head out to Dead Horse Gap for some backcountry skiing. Intermediates will love The Cruiser area and High Noon, while beginners have their own dedicated ski area complete with chairlift. Ski into Kareela Hutte for a long European-style lunch or try Merritts Mountain House for a quick fuel stop before hitting the slopes again.
Sign up for the flare run, a weekly event every Saturday night when ski instructors and guests ski after dark from the mountain peak to the village base. When your thighs can’t take skiing any more, hit up the village for dining and dancing with live music and DJs, safe in the knowledge that your on-mountain accommodation is only steps away.
Perisher, New South Wales
If you like your ski resorts big, then Perisher is for you. The resort boasts the largest resort terrain in Australasia, with more than 1200ha of skiable goodness. Perisher is also six hours south of Sydney and can be accessed by car from the lakeside resort town of Jindabyne, or via the Skitube from nearby Lake Crackenback resort. You can stay on-mountain at Perisher, but there is no central ski village so you’ll have to make your own fun with fellow lodge guests over an in-house dinner. Perisher is part of the Vail Resorts Epic Pass – international travellers who ski at a Vail Resort in North America can ski for free if they have an Epic Pass. Skiers of varying ability will enjoy Perisher’s rolling slopes. If your kids love the terrain park, even better. Perisher has some of the best terrain parks in the country and many Olympic and X Games skiers and boarders train here.
Falls Creek, Victoria
The prettiest ski field in Australia is only four and a half hours from Melbourne or two hours from Albury airport. Falls Creek is a pedestrian-only ski village, where all the accommodation, dining and activities are literally ski-in/ski-out, so take your après boots. The largest ski resort in Victoria, Falls Creek is also great for families, with a thriving ski school and the sweetest child-dedicated runs through magical forests. Some 450ha are dedicated to skiing and snowboarding, with 92 named runs. If you fancy a bit more adventure, take a Steve Lee Backcountry Tour. Jump on a purpose-built sled behind a snowmobile as the Australian Olympian takes you to fresh powder snow to ski or board.
The ski village at Mount Hotham is perched on top of the mountain rather than at the base. This means your first ski of the day is down to the chairlift. It also means you’re sleeping high above the clouds in hotels and lodges with a real alpine feel. Hotham, as it’s known, is the sister mountain to Falls Creek and also a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Melbourne. If you fancy experiencing Falls Creek while you’re at Hotham, the two resorts have a day-return Heli-Link, so you can stay at one and ski the other.
This is a mountain for those who like their runs steeper and deeper, with an impressive mix of intermediate, advanced and expert terrain. Try Mary’s Slide for boasting rights. The beginners’ area here is separate to the rest of the hill, with a dedicated chairlift and kids’ ski school. Hotham is also serviced by Dinner Plain, a purpose-built village 15 minutes down the road, which offers a selection of restaurants, accommodation and a day spa onsen.
Mount Buller, Victoria
Melbournians love Mount Buller and its proximity to the city, just over three hours away. With more than 300ha of skiable terrain, some 80km of marked trails (and the largest lift network in Victoria), there’s enough to keep the thighs burning all day, with a decent mix of beginner to advanced slopes. This is the home of many of Australia’s Winter Olympians and the resort regularly holds competitive events including the ABOM Moguls, so you may witness the world’s best while you’re here. The kids will love the dog sledding – strapped into a traditional sled with a team of racing huskies taking them for a winter wonderland ride. Dine at Pension Grimus and meet local legend Hans Grimus, with his accordion and his snuff. Ski in for après at Snow Pony with the locals and don’t leave without at least one dance at the famed Kooroora Hotel.
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