All that white powder, big lines, trying to avoid losing it on ice… Skiing and snowboarding is very addictive.
Your humble scribe spent his younger, formative years living in ski resorts being a ski bum with bad goggle tans and a liver that hated me.
Be warned however. You’ll try to break the habit after you realise you’ve been virtually homeless for two or more years, in the same stinky long johns and can’t remember what your ol’ friends or family look like.
On returning to warmer climes you’ll stick your head in the freezer before walking to your local pub for “après” in your ski boots and scarf at four in the afternoon and complaining about “muscles I never knew I had”, and telling exaggerated stories of your extreme airtime (dood!).
It’s often difficult for travellers to comprehend that Australia has ski fields. You’ve come for Fraser Island, the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef and the only goggles you’re thinking about are scuba ones. But when you’re at the top of Thredbo’s Crackenback run, I don’t suggest spitting inside your lenses.
Mind you, the enjoyable part of skiing or snowboarding in Australia is that it never gets bitterly cold.
The Australian Alps, which cover a large area on either side of the NSW/Victorian border, are a close proximity to Sydney and Melbourne. They’re perfect for a weekend getaway from “the Man” and the 9-5 city life.
Pack the car on Thursday night, sneak out of work early on Friday and you’ve got a good head start on the rest of the weekend warriors.
You’ll be in the Alps to catch the bell ring for last orders before an early rise for the first chair in the morning.
Whether you’re in steep and deep or racing along on the groomed trails, Australian slopes are pretty unique. You might have to dodge a wombat or a stampede of brumbies (wild horses) who call the Snowy Mountains home.
Australian tree runs aren’t slaloming amongst tall pines like they are in North America. Instead, sprawling white and blue snow gums are squat and round and much tougher to dodge.
Of course the nightlife is just as important. From sunny balconies in Thredbo to the nightclubs in Jindabyne, great restaurants at Falls Creek and a fervour for schnapps in every resort, the party is quickly started every night.
Bands from Sydney and Melbourne pop into resorts every weekend so be sure to be on top of the local gig guide.
Pace yourself though. I’ve had nights go downhill quicker than Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. You still want to wake up reasonably fresh to ride another day.
The NSW Slopes
One of Australia’s most popular resorts, this famous slope is also one of the busiest. It’s home to major competitions each year and operates four high-speed quad chairs to pump the skiers to the top of the slopes as quickly as possible. Just 530km from Sydney, the resort claims to have the longest runs and largest snow-making system in Australia. A lot of money has been poured into the village, which has expanded into a thriving town with a lively nightlife.
The damage & the details: Lift pass daily $97, five-day pass $412. Visit Thredbo
This massive chunk of glorious white terrain is Australia’s answer to European mega resorts. Spread over 1,250 hectares of land and seven mountain peaks, your legs will be burning by the end of the day. Perisher Blue has an extensive snow-making system and is the highest resort in Australia. Its slopes are steep and the downhill incline is regarded as one of the most vicious in NSW.
The damage & the details: Day pass $98, five-day pass $431. Visit Perisher Blue
The VIC Slopes
Boasting the highest average snowfall of any Aussie resort and reputedly the best powder, head here for excellent free-ride facilities and some of the most challenging runs in Oz.
The damage & the details: Day pass $94, five-day pass $428. Visit Hotham
With the second-largest lift system in the Southern Hemisphere, you’re sure to get more runs for your dollar. Just a three-hour drive from Melbourne, this resort has the official training slopes for the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia and is a breeding ground for many top snow athletes. The resort covers 263 hectares.
The damage & the details: Day pass $94, five-day pass $400. Visit Mt Buller
Home to some of Victoria’s best back-country terrain, this mountain also has a huge snow-making capacity and is one of the first resorts to open. Falls Creek prides itself on its 120 metre super-pipe and rail park, not to mention its 15 lifts and more than 92 ski runs.
The damage & the details: Day pass $94, five-day pass $428. Visit Falls Creek