Driving through the snowy mountains towards your snow adventure.
The chill is in the air. Images of roasting fireplaces and flitting snowflakes are conjured from some ancient domain of the imagination. Rumours of snow enthrall both young and old.
While Australia does not immediately come to mind when one thinks of snow, it does have extensive skiable terrain, much of it located in the South East states of the country. Landscaped with snow gums, Australian snow country has its own unique flavour.
Encompassing tips for newbies, key facts and info, here's your guide to where to see the white stuff in the Eastern State of the land of Oz.
Six hours drive south of Sydney is Kosciusko National Park, located in the Snowy Mountains and home to the key NSW ski resorts of Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass and the highest elevations of Australia.
Possessing mountain views, snow gums and trickling streams, Thredbo village lies in the valley of Thredbo River at the base of the Ramshead Range. Here you will find the longest ski runs and the steepest terrain of any ski resort in Australia (not including TAS) with the highest lifted point reaching 2037m. Thredbo's base elevation is 1365m.
Terrain Parks provide a less challenging option for the little-one while heaps of modern conveniences, swanky bars and restaurants provide other options.
Thredbo ski resort has plenty of options for advanced and intermediate skiers. Friday Flat and the Terrain Parks offer something for beginners.
Thredbo is about 500 km's south of Sydney, via the Alpine Way - over a 5 hour drive.
Beginners at Thredbo Ski Resort
The largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere, Perisher consists of four main ski towns - Perisher Valley, Smiggins Holes, Blue Cow and Guthega. It's also 5 hours from Sydney.
Perisher has a base elevation of 1,720 metres while the summit of Mount Perisher climbs to 2,054 metres.
There are 50 lifts and over 1250 hectares of space in the large expanse of Perisher. Best spots for beginners are Pleasant Valley at Blue Cow, or Smiggins Holes.
Creek in Perisher. Pic: courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
For those who abhor crowds, this smaller, quainter family friendly alpine resort offers a less busy option.
Located at the base of Kangaroo Ridge, Charlotte Pass village boasts a chilly elevation of 1,760 metres and is the highest permanent settlement in Australia. Due to its elevation, Charlotte Pass receives the most natural snow and the most reliably consistent snowfalls of all the Australian ski resorts.
The resort has 5 chair lifts and one small terrain park and plenty of options for all levels of skiers. Accommodation options include lodges and the historic Kosciusko Chalet.
In winter, Charlotte pass can only be accessed via special over-snow transport
from Perisher (8 km's away). Be aware, this isn't cheap.
Charlotte Pass is a bit further away at six and a half hours drive from Sydney. It's also the closest of the ski resorts to Mount Mt Koszciusko - Australia's highest mountain.
Looking down to Charlotte Pass Village. Pic: courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Nearby Selwyn Snowfields (60km from Charlotte Pass), is tiny at 45 hectares size and is known as the beginners learn-to-ski, family snow destination. There are less crowds and the terrain is easy. There is no accommodation at this resort and no buses head here, so you need a vehicle and snow chains to access the place.
The closest guest accommodation is at the town of Cabramurra, however more extensive accommodation is available at the village of Providence Portal
near Lake Eucumbene at Adaminaby (35 minutes away) and Kiandra (1.5 hours).
Selwyn, with its rugged mountain views, has a base elevation of 1492 m and a top elevation of 1614 m.
Mount Selwyn is about 5 hours and twenty minutes drive from Sydney.
Selwyn snowfields - great for beginners.
At the gateway to the Kosciuszko National Park, Jindabyne lies in the heart of the Snowy Mountains overlooking Lake Jindabyne. It services the resorts within the Park including Perisher and Thredbo (both 30km's away).
Jindabyne offers a more economical, budget conscious alternative to the other ski resorts, with facilities, cafe's and shops aplenty.
Be aware that if you want to access the resorts in the Kosciuszko National Park you may be required to pay park entry fees of about $27 per vehicle per day and carry snow chains.
Jindabyne has an elevation of 918 metres above sea level and is one of the highest townships of its size in Australia.
Jindabyne is about five hours drive from Sydney.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES
Clothing Basics for the Snow.
Jindabyne as viewed from Lake Jindabyne. Pic: courtesy of Wikpedia Commons.
You DO need waterproof clothing - or risk being sodden and frozen (not recommended). Think top to toe - as in gloves, boots, bodysuit or top, jacket and pants, face coverings and even eyes. Clothing requirements include the inner, insulating layers and the outer, windproof and waterproof layer. You will need thermals and lots of thin layers work better at trapping heat and keeping you dry than two bulky layers. Fibres which retain the heat best include wool, polypropylene and fibre pile.
For your outer layer you need a waterproof and windproof jacket, over pants (or bib and brace), waterproof gloves, a head covering and eye protection. The latter is important because of the issue of sun-glare radiating off the snow.
You can borrow, hire or buy the gear. Garage sales (including the online variety), Ebay and department stores like ALDI can be a cheap source of snow suitable clothing.
When to go:
The most likely time to see decent snowfalls in Australia is late July to early August - hence it's the peak tourist season and the most expensive. However, the official snow season runs from the beginning of June to the end of September. Obviously, as the weather is fickle and snow falls vary from year to year, when to go isn't fixed in concrete.
Grab a cheap deal
by going in the shoulder of the peak ski season. Most ski resorts in Australia have special snow making equipment to cover periods of low snowfall. The man-made snow is harder and less powdery - not too suitable for snow-ball fights, but fine for ski-ing and tobogganing.
Package deals can save you bucks.
There are many package deals incorporating such offers as free ski-ing and accommodation for kids, chair lift passes, meals and so on. Shop around.
You need a lift pass
(for your car)
The Alpine Resorts Regulations of 1998 makes it mandatory to carry snow chains when entering the snow fields or alpine resorts during snow season - if so required. This applies to all vehicles that can be properly fitted with them.
For a starting point on information on fitting your car with snow chains, check your owners handbook manual or contact the vehicle manufacturer.
Snow chains can be hired from most petrol stations in the area.
Be aware of the hidden extra's
that might range from entry permits, resort fees, ski hire, lift passes, hidden transport costs and the requirement to bring chains for your car.
Dr Who type apparatus - a snow making machine (at Smiggins Holes, NSW) - extends the chance to see snow. Pic: courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.