Australia may not boast the world’s biggest ski fields, but skiing and snowboarding is a popular winter pastime. As a recreational sporting activity, the appeal to both genders and all age groups is virtually unmatched as a whole-of-family activity. Like other Southern Hemisphere ski resorts, the Australian snow conditions tend to be a bit of a hit and miss affair, and more inconsistent than the New Zealand and the Chile ski resorts (primarily due to the elevation isn’t particularly high with the highest lifted point at 2,037 metres (6,681 ft)), but when it dumps with heavy powder the skiing in Australia can be absolutely amazing.
Thankfully, some heavy investment has been injected into the major resorts with significant snow making equipment introduced, which has reduced uncertainty about the snow base on the main trails.
However, the Australia snow season is pretty short and can run from early June through to the end of September or early October, which in part is a major reason for the high cost of skiing in Australia (particularly from Australians), but when the Australian dollar is low against the $US it can prove very economical for visitors. Be aware though that whilst the “official opening” of the ski season coincides with the first public holiday in early June, this often doesn’t actually correlate with adequate snow cover and the true opening of the ski resorts. Therefore, the best times to ski in Australia is from mid-July to early September.
When you go skiing in Australia, a major benefit is that you can stay on-mountain and some of the Australia ski resorts have ski-in ski-out accommodation, which is particularly appealing for those travelling with small children, or being able to slide off the slopes for après drinks at the lodge. This is very different to the New Zealand commercial ski resorts that have no or negligible on-mountain lodging and the on-snow villages are a major part of the drawcard of Australian ski resorts.
The following are the best Australian ski resorts easily accessible from either Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra;
Downhill skiiing, boarding, snow tubing, snow shoeing, cross country, telemark, tobogganing, half pipe (1), terrain parks (4) – 100kms of trails being 20% Easy, 60% Intermediate & 20% Advanced. 49 ski lifts.
Perisher in New South Wales has the most lifts and covers the largest area with a higher base than most other Australian resorts, which means it holds snow better in marginal seasons and late season. It is an amalgamation of four separate but interconnected ski areas: Perisher, Smiggin Holes, Blue Cow and Guthega. Skiers and boarders can ski and board from one end to the other, assuming adequate snow cover. Perisher is a huge, family friendly resort and can be skied all day without having to catch the same lift twice.
Mt Hotham (VIC)
Downhill skiing, night skiing, boarding, snow shoeing, cross country, telemark, tobogganing with halfpipe (1), snow parks (2) – 50kms of trails being 20% Easy, 40% Intermediate & 40% Advanced. 13 ski lifts.
Hotham is an alpine village located in Victoria, Australia, along the Great Alpine Road. The mountain offers a range of snowsports terrain in the winter and is regarded by some as “the deep n’ steep powder capital of Australia”. For the advanced skier, Hotham has a wide variety of black diamond (expert) runs to choose from such as those in the Extreme Zone including the famous Mary’s Slide. Head out on to One Tree Hill or take part in Kat skiing adventures to access incredible terrain amongst the trees. With so many challenging steeps to choose from it is the perfect place for an adventure.
Hotham also offers a true snow holiday experience with ski in/ski out accommodation on top of the village and spectacular views across to Mt Feathertop. Close by are great restaurants, bars and cafes, a mountain shuttle bus at your doorstep and airport just down the road with direct flights straight into the Southern Hemisphere’s highest commercial airport.
For those of you not looking for an extreme ski experience there are also a wide variety of additional activities at Hotham including snowshoeing, winter dogsledding tours, sparkling sunset tours, kids snowmobiling, grooming tours and two on-mountain day spas to choose from (Hotham and Dinner Plain).
It also has quite a vivid nightlife and has an array of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Downhill skiing, alpine skiing, night skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, cross country, telemarking, skidooing, , snow park (1), terrain parks (4) – 70kms of trails being 16% Easy, 67% Intermediate & 17% Advanced. 14 ski lifts.
Thredbo in New South Wales is considered by some people to be the best resort in Australia. It has Australia’s greatest vertical, at 621 metres and longest run (just over 5kms in length), and all the facilities of a major alpine resort. It boasts Australia’s highest lift, but also the mainland’s lowest base, at just 1365 metres, below the natural snowline.
Another big plus is the snowmaking – largest in Australia. With the installation in 2009 of snowguns on True Blue, Little Beauty, Anton’s and Sponar’s T-bar, every major run below the treeline is now covered. It allows most of the mountain to be used and maximises the benefit of the vertical drop, even in a bad season.
Thredbo has a great village with many options for dining and partying. The village is well laid out, good commercial centre and lots of options on accommodation and restaurants. It is consistently ranked as one of Australia’s best tourist resorts, in both summer and winter, with free shuttle buses to ferry people quickly and easily around the village.
Falls Creek (VIC)
Skiing, snowboarding, night skiing, snowshoeing, crosscountry, backcountry, snowmobile tours, telemark, tobogganing, snow tubing, snow parks (2) – 92kms of trails being 17% Easy, 60% Intermediate & 23% Advanced. 15 ski lifts.
Falls Creek is one of Australia’s finest ski resorts dedicated to families and terrain park enthusiasts. Based in the heart of Victoria’s high plains, Falls Creek receives the most snowfall of all Victorian resorts making Falls Creek the most reliable you’ll find; Falls Creek ski resort back this with a snow guarantee.
Offering the largest ski area to explore, you’ll always find something and you wont have to worry about a lack of skiable terrain.
The village is absolutely beautiful. The streets remain snow covered in normal conditions so you can ski to and from the slopes, hassle free. The only true ski-in ski-out accommodation in Australia.
Mt Buller (VIC)
Downhill skiing, night skiing, boarding, snow shoeing, cross country (9km), telemark, tobogganing, half pipe (1), terrain parks (3) – 100kms of trails being 20% Easy, 45% Intermediate & 35% Advanced. 22 ski lifts.
Mount Buller is one of the 3 major ski resorts in Victoria. Located only 234 km from Melbourne, it is a popular destination for day and weekend skiers.
Mt Buller has a superb variety of terrain from cruisy green beginner runs right through to double black chutes. It features North, East and South facing slopes, meaning in poor weather it is often possible to find a sheltered area.
A vibrant, cosmopolitan village with bars, restaurants, nightclubs, a cinema and accommodation choices ranging from luxury hotels & apartments to club lodges and a youth hostel, makes Mt Buller a great short stay destination.