Australia offers a unique skiing experience with classic Aussie scenery – schussing through snow gum forests is something you can only do on the slopes Down Under. Despite the country’s relatively modest peaks, Aussies love winter sports, and the nation has produced world class competitors, including snowboarder Torah Bright and aerial skier Alisa Camplin, both winter Olympic medalists. Most of the country’s ski areas snuggle in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales and the Victorian Alps and lie less than a day’s drive away from Sydney or Melbourne. Besides downhill skiing and snowboarding, the resorts usually offer tobogganing, tubing, terrain parks, cross country trails, and many also offer night skiing and extensive snow making capabilities.
Typically the ski season opens in early June and ends in late September. When planning a ski trip in Australia note that most of the resorts lie within national parks that require a daily entry fee. Also chains or 4WD vehicles are mandatory for access to most of the resorts. Finally, what Australia lacks in steeps and snow pack, it compensates for with a bubbly après ski vibe, so be sure to mingle with the friendly locals while you’re there.
Perisher, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW
About a six-hour drive from Sydney, Perisher is one of the most popular ski resorts in Australia and it positively fizzes with activity in peak season. Now owned by Vail Resorts, it’s the largest ski area in the Southern Hemisphere and encompasses four interlinked ski resorts: Blue Cow, Smiggin Holes, Guthega, and Perisher, which skiers can access with one pass. From 2016, Epic Pass holders will also have access to other Vail Resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek, and Park City. A whopping 3,076 acres of terrain caters to all ability levels (with a definite bent towards intermediate skiers), and includes seven peaks; Mt. Perisher is the highest at 2,054 meters, and Mt. Piper is especially good for beginner skiers. Perisher also boasts five terrain parks, including a superpipe; a three-kilometer run; and 47 lifts to whisk you to your preferred slope. Australia’s highest chairlift ascends to 2,034 meters here. Cross country skiers can glide along 100 kilometers of well-groomed trails through beautiful forests of gum trees where wombats snuffle in the snow.
Due to its vast area, ski lodges in Perisher tend to be quite spread out, and some lie a considerable distance from the ski lifts, however most lodges provide lift transportation. Skiers should note that Perisher does not allow overnight parking in the village. Visitors must park their car and take the ski tube into the village. About 30 kilometers from Perisher, the lakeside town of Jindabyne is an alternative base with good-value accommodation and the option of skiing either Perisher or Thredbo.