While the Land Down Under is best known for its beaches, surfing, scuba diving and warm temperatures, the high country of Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales does catch a fair amount of snow. The Australia skiing season typically begins in June, with the higher elevations celebrating the beginning of the ski season with their first snowfall. In contrast to the sharp peaks and dramatic angles of new mountains, the mountains in Australia are ancient, with smooth, undulating forms that exhibit their incredible age. This makes for some of the more distinctive skiing terrain I’ve ever seen and sets Australia apart from other ski destinations around the world.
New South Wales
Thredbo Ski Resort, Australia, NSW. Photo by Enoch Lau. License: CC BY-SA 3.0.
Perisher is one of the more popular destinations in NSW, a mountainous area with seven peaks, some more than 2,000 meters in height and offering a total of 47 lifts. As one of the four main resorts sharing a combination ticket, a visit here is also a good value in addition to its prime skiing. Beginners will definitely enjoy the slopes, but that doesn’t mean an advanced skier will be bored with the runs on offer.
Guthega is another of the four, a resort that just had a new chair installed in 2014 and the site of some great restaurants right on the snow. There are 16 runs to challenge any level of ski enthusiast. While Perisher is often the favorite, I found Guthega more enjoyable for its Double Blue and Black runs. There’s ample challenge for boarders as well, with spectacular views and some first-rate terrain.
Blue Cow is an interesting alternative, so named for the breed of cattle a rancher would let wander across the hillside. It’s easily reached via Skitube and offers instant access to its nice range of both Black and Blue runs, such as the memorable Kamikaze, Pleasant Valley and Roller Coaster. There’s no level of skier who won’t be pleased with the challenge they’ll find at this enjoyable and highly accessible resort.
Smiggen Holes, the last of the four resorts, beckons beginners with its distinctive bowl that return skiers back to the beginning when their runs are completed. It’s a good place to learn or brush up on skills before striking out to the more challenging runs offered by the other resorts.
Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia. Photo by Alex Cohen. License: CC BY-SA 3.0.
Melbourne’s closest access to the snow fields is Mount Hotham, a resort offering the entirety of the ski experience, from beginning classes and equipment outfitters to lodging, restaurants and bars. There are dozens of runs, making full use of Australia’s Great Dividing Range to offer a full range of challenges for any level of skier. The peaks rise to nearly 1,900 meters in height and offer spectacular views in addition to enormous fun.
Mount Buller is a 300 hectare resort, smaller than some but with a spectacular Black run on the back of the summit. Accommodation right on the runs allows skiers instant access to any part of the resort and it is very welcoming to any level of skier. There’s snow making equipment to fill in any blanks left from the weather and 22 lifts means skiers won’t lack for something new to try.
Ben Lomond, Tasmania, Australia. Photo by Lauchlin. License: CC BY 1.0.
While cross-country is a popular way to ski Tasmania, it does offer alpine slopes for the avid downhill skier. Ben Lomond offers enthusiasts seven lifts and an elevation of almost 1,600 meters. Mount Mawson is another popular choice, an area with excellent access from Hobart and three lifts to its peaks measuring a little over 1,200 meters.
For those wanting to travel around Australia and ski, there’s a wonderful range of options in three territories. Australian mountains offer a unique and challenging experience for any level of skier.