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Published August 20th 2015
Hints & tips for a great snow holiday
Have you thought about visiting the NSW snowfields but are not sure what is involved? It can be daunting if you've never done it before - what do you pack, where will you stay, will the kids enjoy it? To help you get started here is my beginner's guide to a snow holiday.
The NSW snowfields are a 5 - 6 hour drive from Sydney and around 2 hours from Canberra. The magic of seeing falling snow for the first time, making a snowman (or snowpal if you want to be politically correct) or snow angels, having a snow ball fight and tobogganing are all worthy of being added to your bucket list.
When to go - In Australia the snow season officially runs from the Queen's birthday long weekend in June until early October, but you are not guaranteed a good cover of snow for this extended period. From my experience the best time to go is during August, but it is best to check on the resort homepages to find out exactly what the snow cover is like.
What to take with you - Warm and waterproof clothes are a MUST - beanies, gloves and boots to walk in are also required. Thermals are a good idea if you are spending a lot of time in the snow. If you are skiing or snowboarding you may also need a helmet. If you don't have any snow gear there are many places you can hire it in Jindabyne or at the ski resorts.
You need the right gear to stay warm & dry in the snow
Where to stay - There are many options for accommodation either in the snowfields or nearby. While staying on the snow is convenient and fun, it can be a lot more expensive than staying in Jindabyne. Ski in, ski out accommodation can be found at Smiggins, Perisher, Guthega, Thredbo and Charlotte Pass.
The town of Jindabyne is a great base for a snow holiday
If you don't want to stay on the snow there is a wide range of accommodation available in Jindabyne from hotels to apartments, caravan parks and cabins. I find there are advantages to making Jindabyne your base. There is a variety of restaurants, cafes, hotels and bars. There are two shopping complexes - Nuggets Crossing and the Old Town Centre - containing a supermarket, bakeries, cafes, a bookshop, chemist, doctors surgery, ski hire and more. There is also the lake to explore or a cinema if you are having a rest day from the snow.
Transportation - If staying in Jindabyne you can easily drive to Perisher or Thredbo. It only takes about 30 minutes to get to either resort from Jindabyne. However if it is snowing or if the roads are icy it is a slower journey. Vehicles that are not 4WD may have to fit chains to the wheels.
Snow Chains - By law you are required to carry properly fitting snow chains for your tyres whenever you enter the Kosciuszko National Park. Chains are not required for travel to the Skitube or if you have a 4WD vehicle. You can hire snow chains in Jindabyne but you must make sure you know how to fit them properly.
If you don't want the hassle of driving, parking and possibly fitting chains there is another option - catching the Skitube from Bullocks Flat. The Skitube is a train that takes you from Bullocks Flat Terminal on the Alpine Way to the Perisher Resort. There is an underground station at Perisher Valley and another at Blue Cow. At Bullocks Flat Terminal, there is free day and overnight parking and because it is located below the snow fall levels, you generally won't require chains. You also don't need to purchase the National Parks entry ticket. For more information about the Skitube click here.
National Park Entry fee - If you are driving to either Perisher or Thredbo you will need a National Parks Entry permit. It is possible to pay by the day, or purchase an annual pass. Entry permits can be purchased at the entry stations on the Alpine Way and Kosciuszko Road or at the Visitor Centre in Jindabyne.
Visitor Centre Jindabyne (Image Credit: NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service)
Perisher Ski Resort includes 1,245 hectares of skiable terrain across four resorts, Smiggins, Perisher, Blue Cow and Guthega - all interlinked by an network of 47 lifts.
Smiggins is a small resort with 9 ski lifts (mainly t-bars and one chair lift). It is a great place to start if you are learning to ski or snowboard for the first time. You can access the other resorts via the Link T-Bar.
Perisher includes over 20 lifts and a wide range of terrains including areas for advanced skiers and boarders such as Mt Perisher which boasts Australia's highest chairlift, the Mt Perisher Double Chair. Beginners are catered for in front valley, while intermediates can enjoy some great runs in the valleys adjacent to front valley. From Perisher you can access Smiggins via the Link T-Bar and access Blue Cow via Perisher Express Quad Chair or Interceptor Chair.
There are plenty of photo opportunities amongst the snow gums.
Blue Cow is named after the cattle that were bred here in the 1840's. Not accessible by road, you can get to Blue Cow via the Skitube or from both Perisher (see above) and Guthega (via Guthega Way). Blue Cow is a great place for boarders and skiers of all abilities as there are a range of green (easiest), blue (intermediate) and black (Advance skiers & boarders only) runs available. Blue Cow is also a great place to take a break from a hard days skiing or boarding. At the terminal building there is a large bistro serving hot and cold food and drinks. There is also a licensed bar, cafe and when the weather is fine there is sometimes an outdoor BBQ.
Guthega was established in the 1950's as a small stand alone resort but is now part of the Perisher Ski Resort. There are a range of runs available from beginners to advanced skiers and boarders. You can drive to Guthega (it takes around 40 minutes from Jindabyne), or ski across from Blue Cow via the Guthega Way trail run which takes you down to the Burning Log Restaurant. There are 4 lifts at Guthega and it is easy to spend a day here exploring. The Burning Log restaurant serves hot food and drinks and is a nice place to take a break from the days activities.
For Perisher trail maps click here. Thredbo Resort boasts 480 hectares of riding terrain catering to all levels of skier and snowboarder. It also boasts a longest run of 5.9km (Karels T-bar to Friday Flat.) and 14 lifts. Beginners can start their lessons at Friday Flat, while intermediates will enjoy the Cruiser area and more advanced boarders and skiers can enjoy the higher and longer runs. There are several restaurants and kiosks to enjoy on the mountain and many more in Thredbo village. For a Thredbo trail map click here.
Charlotte Pass is the highest resort in the country and is snowbound during the ski season. You get there by catching an over snow transport from Perisher Valley. There is on snow accommodation available and it is a great resort for beginners as all runs lead back to the main village area. Charlotte Pass is the closest resort to Mt Kosciusko, the highest mountain in Australia. Make sure you check out the view of Mt Kosciusko from the top of the Triple Chair.
We have visited Charlotte Pass on the Daytripper ticket for the past couple of years and have found it to be fantastic value - including return oversnow transport, lift tickets and even lunch - for the one low price. The best thing about Charlotte Pass is that you don't get the crowds like you do at the other resorts, which means less time waiting in queues and more time skiing. For more information click here.
You feel like you're on top of the world at Charlotte Pass Ski Resort
Selwyn Snowfields is a family owned and run resort, and marketed as family friendly and a beginner's paradise. I have not visited Selwyn Snowfields myself but you can find out more information by clicking here. It is important to note that there is no accommodation at the resort.
There is a lot to love about a snow holiday - even if you're not skiing or snow boarding - it is an experience worth having and a beautiful landscape worth seeing. Whether you are visiting with the family or with friends, and whatever your budget, you should be able to find something that suits you at one of the NSW ski resorts.