By: Reb Johnson
People don’t normally think of snow, skiing and snowboarding when they think of Australia. Usually it’s images of Uluru, Bondi Beach, red sands and the Great Barrier Reef, along with plenty of sunshine and friendly people. Even when I was travelling around Australia, plenty of the Aussies didn’t know about their winter sport destinations. Fair enough, as I’m sure there’s plenty about Canada that I don’t know.
Due to the climate and the location, no Australian resort is 100% natural snow. Snowmaking is a fact of life down here and the resorts are quick become masters. With the snow season only months long, they make sure not a moment is lost.
Located between Melbourne and Sydney (a 5-6 hour drive from either) is some of the best snow in the southern hemisphere. Whether you’re a skier, a snowboarder or a snow-shoer, there’s something to satisfy your desires.
The largest ski resort in Australia and New Zealand is Perisher. Located 30 minutes from Jindabyne in New South Wales, Perisher is an amalgamation of four separate but interconnected ski areas: Blue Cow, Guthega, Smiggins Holes and Perisher. The resort is so large in fact, you can ski/board all day and not ride the same lift twice! With the interconnections, you can switch ski areas and not have to leave the hill although it does require some familiarization.
Because of the vast size of the resort, Perisher offers skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, snow shoeing and snow tubing. There is definitely something for everyone’s tastes.
Perisher has a base elevation of 1640 metres, a top elevation of 2054 metres and covers 1245 hectares with 49 lifts. There are 126 runs with the difficulties graded 22% beginner, 60% intermediate and 18% advanced.
The second largest ski resort and the best rated resort is Thredbo, located a short drive from Jindabyne and Perisher in New South Wales. It has over 600 metres of vertical (the most in Australia) and the largest snow making of any of the resorts, ensuring that there’s always snow.
In addition to normal lessons Thredbo offers some more intensive training programs that run over a few days, including the High Intensity Program (HIP) and Women’s High Intensity Program (WHIP).
Thredbo has a base elevation of 1365 metres, a top elevation of 2037 metres and covers 480 hectares with 14 lifts. There are 20 runs with difficulties graded 16% beginner, 67% intermediate and 17% advanced.
Hothamis Australia’s only ski resort above the tree line. Located 350 km north east of Melbourne, Hotham is on the Great Alpine Road and offers a range of snowsports including dogsledding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. The resort also boasts a variety of black diamond runs including Mary’s Slide – Australia’s most difficult run.
Hotham has a base elevation of 1450 metres, a top elevation of 1861 metres and covers 245 hectares with 13 lifts. There are 66 runs with difficulties graded 20% beginner, 40% intermediate and 40% advanced.
Mt Buller is one of the three major ski resorts in Victoria, located only 230 km from Melbourne.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Mt Buller also offers tobogganing and ice skating. The mountain boasts 3 slopes (north, east and south) which offer users the option of outrunning bad weather.
Although it has the dubious title of the most expensive season pass in Australia, Mt Buller also owns the title of the most vibrant night life of any ski resort in Australia.
Mt Buller has a base elevation of 1375 metres, a top elevation of 1780 metres and covers 300 hectares with 25 lifts. There are 19 runs with difficulties graded 25% beginner, 45% intermediate and 30% advanced.
The ski resorts of the Snowy Mountains have the best skiing and snowboarding in Australia, and offer locals and international visitors alike the opportunity to ski among the snow gums and eucalyptus. The season is short and intense, lasting only 4 months from June until October. With opposite seasons, the ski resorts of Australia offers northerners the chance to ski through their summer and practice for the upcoming northern winter.
Traveler, writer and nomad. I experienced the skiing in the Snowy Mountains on my trip around Australia in 2010 and fell in love with the area. So much so that I created a website about it. The snow, the red sand and the beaches just add to the mystique that is the land down under.