It’s the truth – you don’t have to leave Australia to enjoy a white winter. In fact, hitting the slopes on the world’s largest (predominantly subtropical) island, or smallest continent, depending on how you see it, kind of sounds like something to tick off the bucket list. So go on… whether it’s a quaint snow village in the Victorian High Country, or a resort in New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains, use this as a basic guide to help give yourself an idea as to which southern slope you’ll be sliding down – or admiring from a hot spring – this chilly season.
Victoria Victoria offers a range of snowy locales wherein, during winter, activities are plentiful. Boasting some of the country’s best downhill and cross country trails and terrain parks, the Victorian ski fields can be roughly broken into three areas: Mount Baw Baw, Mount Buller, and Mount Hotham.
Victoria’s alpine resorts boast some of Australia’s best downhill and cross country trails, world class terrain parks and a multitude of activities including snowshoeing, dog sledding and luxury day spas. Whether snow-goers choose to jump on a snowboard, snap on some skis, or stick to on-foot adventures, there is something for everyone to enjoy – all within a few hours drive of Melbourne.
Kicking off on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend (6 June), the launch of the snow season will be celebrated at all the state’s major resorts. Here’s a rundown of what will take place throughout the season:
MT BAW BAW A smaller-scale alpine village roughly 120km east of Melbourne, Mt Baw Baw provides on-snow accommodation, meaning access to activities requires little to no travel time each morning (it’s less fuss).
Accommodation ranges from traditional-style lodges to self-contained apartments – so there’s no shortage of variety. Especially renowned as a great place for beginners, Baw Baw has about 30 hectares of gentle slopes among the gum trees, ideal for practice, but there is also 10km on offer for snowbunnies seeking that sharper descent.
The mountain itself is among several peaks atop the Baw Baw Plateau, including Mounts Mueller, Whitelaw, St Phillack, Tyers, Kernot and St Gwinear. Baw Baw rests within Victoria’s Gippsland region, which again, gives it some distinction from the other perhaps more wellknown ski esorts to the north.
Free tobogganing is also on offer in Baw Baw, but if you’d prefer to be off your feet for a bit, let the dogs do the work for you and explore back-country trails by husky dog sled. The village can be toured aboard a snowmobile.
Falls offers 65kms of free-to-access world class trails, all of which well-groomed and featuring some of the biggest and most impressive features in Australia.
The closest snow resort to Melbourne (it’s only a two-hour drive northeast), Lake Mountain is perfect for family snow getaways, or those wanting to base themselves in Melbourne and visit the snow for a quick day or two. Put simply, this might be just the place to learn how to stop and start while you’re attached to a pair of slippery skis. If that sounds terrifying, enjoy a glass of wine, beer, or piping hot coffee with a view at Heights Bistro and Bar within the resort.
Also worth noting is Marysville, located at the foot of Lake Mountain. The town boasts a variety of new accommodation, which is symbolic of its rebirth after being wiped out by bushfires in 2009.
Mt Hotham & Dinner Plain More for advanced skiers, or those looking for diversity in the athletic department, Mount Hotham is almost five hours by car from Melbourne and situated in the gorgeous Alpine National Park, equally as popular in summer. Here, there is over 40km of cross-country and multi-use trails, with uphill lifts capable of transporting over 24,000 people per hour.
For visitors hoping to enjoy the local culture, take the Brabralung Indigenous Interpretation Trail that links Mount Hotham and alpine village Dinner Plan (10km away) on one of the state’s most iconic Cross Country Ski Trails. The trail signifies the importance of Aboriginal heritage in the region.
Once at Dinner Plain, mix it up and enjoy skiing on lit slopes on a Wednesday or Saturday night between 6.30-9.30pm – it’s only $11. Off slope, Dinner Plain is home to a Japanese-inspired outdoor onsen (hotspring) and an indoor, heated swimming pool. The perfect way to relax and loosen the joints and muscles after a day spent stressing them.
Mount Buller & Mount Stirling Often dubbed the most popular resort in the state, Mount Buller is a three-hour drive northeast of the state capital. The area’s popularity is at least in part due to its plethora of off-slope pursuits, which include a skin-in cinema, a sculpture walk, dogsledding, snow-shoeing, and snowgaining (high altitude orienteering for the outgoing).
For foodies, there are more than 30 onmountain eateries, including an Asian food court at the Mount Buller Chalet Hotel. Night life in Buller is also up to par, with a raft of bars and clubs open for a drink and dance if the evening calls for it.
Another activity that can be taken on overnight (or over multiple nights) is snow camping at Mount Stirling, just a short drive from Buller. This can be done as part of a tour, or independently – there are a range of camping programs available for beginners through to advanced skiers. Either way, this might be an exercise preferred by those with an adventurous soul and a good set of lungs. The reward is like no other: you will be immersed in a silent wonderland of icedover creeks, frosty snow gums and a toasty outdoor fire.
Alpine Winter Camp is a social ski-in, ski-out accommodation option that features a central tepee for food, and seven tents on raised and insulated platforms.
The largest ski resort in the state, Falls Creek, more than any other, resembles a European-style alpine village – a true ski-in/ski-out experience. As the country’s home of cross-country skiing, Falls offers 65km of free-to-access world class trails, all of which well-groomed and featuring some of the biggest and most impressive features in Australia.
Those preferring not to attach any sort of board to their feet can partake in riding down the free toboggan slope, or have fun in the Snowplay Park with young family members. On this end, there are twice-weekly Pete the Snow Dragon shows for children, and a weekly Street Party and Night Show during July and August.
If big is best, then Falls Creek is a place to prove it – sticking with its title of the largest ski resort, Falls has a big range of bars, restaurants and spas to ring in the evening. Try Spa Q, based at QT Falls Creek, a boutique apartment hotel.
New South Wales Everyone has their preference, but the two most well-known snow towns in New South Wales are Perisher and Thredbo.
With a reputation as one of the finest ski resorts in the nation, Thredbo, about 500km southwest of Sydney in the Snowy River Shire, has the longest runs in the country. Like Falls Creek, Thredbo has a Euro-styled cosmopolitan village with a wide host of accommodation to suit all sorts of visitors. For snow sports amateurs, Thredbo’s Friday Flat was purpose built, and once you’ve graduated from there you can attempt Merritts Spur. For even more experienced skiers and snowboarders, hit the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift – it will have you at the top of the mountain in no time.
The charming pedestrian village is central to the resort. As a plus, the village offers a complimentary shuttle bus service which constantly loops the town and will help get you from spa to snow and back again much quicker than walking. Or you could stop off at one of the stores, cafes or restaurants to grab a gourmet delight, creamy latte, or cocktail, if that suits. All, of course, are available in company of a comforting fire.
From a historical point of view, Thredbo was originally used by graziers – up until 1955, when a visionary Czechoslovakian, Tony Sponar, saw potential for ski runs. Sponar, previously a ski instructor for the renowned St Anton Resort in Austria, was working as a hydrographer for the Snowy Mountains Authority. It wasn’t long after that chairlifts were installed and Thredbo began the journey to its current state.
Not to be confused with Falls Creek’s reputation as the largest ski resort in Victoria, Perisher Ski Resort is the largest in Australia. In fact, it’s the biggest ski resort in the southern hemisphere. Only an hour’s drive north of Thredbo on the other side of Mount Kosciuszko, Perisher is super family-friendly. It encompasses four resort areas: Perisher, Smiggins, Blue Cow and Guthega, plus the Skitube Alpine Railway and The Station Jindabyne. As many as 47 lifts can be in operation across the resort areas in quality snow weather.
A holiday here would include a visit Tube Town (the resort’s snow-tubing park), scenic chairlift rides and fireworks displays.
For more information on snow resorts in Austraila, head to www.snowholidays.com.au.