When you ski Australia, the thing you have to keep in mind that these Alpine mountains are amongst the oldest mountains in the world. They’re over 40 million years old, so they’re very eroded. The ski regions of Australia are on the Great Dividing Range, which is the main range of mountains running along the east coast of Australia. This all used to be part of Gwondanaland.
This explains why the Australian ski slopes are relatively short. While there’s lots of snow in the back ranges and there is excellent cross country skiing and touring, the downhill resorts are disadvantaged by the natural topography.
Nonetheless, the Aussies have made the best of their natural resource and skiing in Australia is thriving. It is surprising how popular this sport is, in this small country.
NSW and Victorian Ski Resorts
There are only two states in Australia with ski resorts. If you’re in Sydney, the closest ski fields would be the NSW ski fields of Perisher and Thredbo. If you’re in Melbourne, Victoria, the closest ski resorts to Melbourne would be Falls Creek, Mt Hotham and Mt Buller.
NSW – Perisher Ski Resort
Perisher, formerly called Perisher Blue, has the largest and most expansive ski terrain in Australia. For those who want variety ranging from large areas of beginners areas to steep, challenging runs, to skiing amongst trails of gum trees, this is the resort to visit. This resort is the combination of 4 separate resorts:
* Blue Cow
* Smiggin Holes
The ticketing system allows access to all four ski resorts on the one pass.
On snow accommodation is well catered for in Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes. There is one commercial hotel at Guthega.
Lodges are spread out and unless your lodge provides transport to and from the lifts, you could be up for a lot of walking. Hans Oversnow does a good job with their oversnow transport. You’ll find them at the Perisher Ski Tube Centre. It’s best to try to find accommodation close to the ski lifts. However, most lodges that are a bit further away will provide skiers and snowboarders with free oversnow transport to and from the lifts in the morning and afternoon. There is also a free shuttle between Smiggins and Perisher. An important thing to note about Perisher is that there is NO overnight parking in the village. If you are staying over night, it is necessary to park your car at the Ski Tube terminal at Bullocks Flat and take the ski tube to the village. Most lodges will pick you up (and your luggage) from the Perisher ski tube terminal.
The fine dining restaurants are mostly at Perisher Valley. On-snow eating is pretty basic cafeteria style food, although for a good coffee and biscotti in lively yet sophisticated surroundings, Brunelli’s in the Perisher Centre fits the bill perfectly.
Cross Country skiing is free and is just across the road from the main downhill lift area. Go towards the Man From Snowy River Hotel and walk up the hill a little. You’ll come to a clearing with the nordic bowl and trails clearly evident. The XC trails are well groomed. It’s worth exploring the trails. You’ll see tracks of small mammals and even wombats, and it is just lovely skiing amongst the eucalypt forest.
Kosciusko Cross Country Ski School conducts nordic skiing tours, snow shoe tours, and instruction in cross country skiing. They only retain qualified ski instructors on their books.
The best part of Perisher, is the expansive ski terrain.
NSW – Thredbo
Thredbo is the resort for the smart set. The village is lovely and caters well for the apres’ ski crowd. The skiing is limited by comparison to Perisher, but when there is sufficient snow to go from top to bottom, the long supertrail is fantastic! However, when the snow is limited to the top reaches of the resort, the skiing here is limited.
Accommodation at Thredbo ranges from the very expensive to the youth hostel. There are numbers of self contained apartments located near Friday Flat ( a beginners area). The village is well served by a free shuttle bus.
NSW – Jindabyne
Jindabyne is the town closest to the two ski resorts of Thredbo and Perisher. Many vacationers will chose to stay at Jindabyne to save on costs and for the choice of either skiing at Perisher or Thredbo.
Bullocks Flat is the location of the Ski Tube. This is the Alpine train that goes to Perisher and then to Blue Cow. It’s very efficient. There is ample parking and you don’t need chains to get to Bullocks Flat.
On entry to the ski resorts, the National Parks charge an entry fee, about $27 a day. As usual, you must carry chains in the car.
Victoria – Falls Creek Ski Resort
This is the loveliest ski resort in Victoria. Both the village and ski terrain are well designed and the lifts fast and efficient. Free shuttle buses (or oversnows) run through the entire village, so you can get from one side to the other without walking.
Falls Creek is about a 5 hour drive from Melbourne and about a 2 hour drive from Albury Airport. As usual, you must carry chains.
The cross country ski trails are extensive and well groomed. The country’s best XC skiers are home grown mostly here at Falls Creek.
As well, the world class 42km cross country marathon, the Kangaroo Hoppet is held here, at Falls, every August. This is part of the World Loppet series.
Accommodation ranges from the very high end with the Quay West Apartments located right next to the Falls Creek Express Chair Lift to ltraditional ski lodges and self contained apartments. The village is almost entirely ski in ski out when conditions suit, making it easy to get to and from your lodge to the slopes. The Falls Creek Hotel, in the middle of the village, is located very close to the Eagle Chair Lift. You could also try the Cooroona Ski Lodge, located on Parrallel Street - giving you a downhill run to the Gully Chair, or a short walk and ski to the Falls Creek Express.
You’ll really enjoy the ambience and skiing at Falls Creek Ski Resort.
Victoria - Dinner Plain and Mt Hotham
Mt Hotham has a reputation for its steep pistes. It is a well developed purpose built resort quite well spread out. There are free shuttle buses servicing the resort to take skiers from their accommodation to the top of the ridge where the lifts are located.
Mt Hotham is unusual in that the main highway runs through the resort. You approach this resort either from the north – the top of the mountain or from the south – the bottom of the mountain. It’s generally considered that the south road from Omeo is the much safer road. In bad conditions such as when there is snow and ice on the road or in white out conditions, the northern approach is truly treacherous. This part of the road is steep, windy and you must have good quality snow chains.
Cross country ski trails to Dinner Plain are wonderful! They are well designed and well groomed.
Dinner Plain is the most charming village, ever. The village is about 20 minutes down the road from Mt Hotham and 10 minutes from the Biathlon range at Whiskey Flat. The development at Dinner Plain is controlled – the only colours permitted are those of the eucalyptus tree such as ochre, greys, greens and reds. It’s mainly large homes and chalets, but some smaller apartments as well. Dinner Plain is located outside the national park so no overnight parking fees are payable, however you still have to pay them to go to Hotham each day.
There is the lovely hotel, Rundells – it has a fine dining restaurant and a terrific lounge with a massive fire place. The Hotel is exactly that – basic pub grub, good value and good cheer.
Cross country skiing is very popular here with the wonderful trails surrounding the resort. The dog sled races are held in August around the village.
Check out Australia’s only Biathlon range at Whiskey Flat just up the road from Dinner Plain.
Victoria – Mt Buller
This is the resort closest to Melbourne and is only 3 hours away. That makes it hugely popular with the weekend crowd, and can be very busy. However its a great resort and with a new chairlift for 2012, it will offer the most state of the art system of all Australian resorts.
Another great aspect of Mt Buller is the Ski 7 Pay 5 deal you can get through ski travel specialists. A 7 day lift ticket costs the same as a 5 day, giving you the extra incentive to extend your stay.
Mt Buller is home the the Grand Mercure Mt Buller Chalet, arguably Australia’s best on snow hotel. Located on the main ski run and close to everything, it is convenient and classy all in one. Other accommodation is spread throughout the large village, and some is ski in ski out. Others rely on the shuttle buses that run all day and into the night.