Best in Snow Best in Snow

Best in Snow

WRITTEN BY: ANDREW CHESTERTON

For a typically sunburnt country, Australia’s alpine regions produce some sublime winter family fun. (You’ll still want sunscreen, though)

For all the romantic poetry Australia has inspired over the years—from unlucky jumbucks and suicidal swagmen to the rust-red beauty of her sunburnt and sweeping plains—our stunning alpine regions have rarely rated much more than a passing mention. Which is a little weird, because Australia actually serves up some of the most varied, and most accessible, snow-based fun in the whole wide world. Sure, our mountains mostly look like tree-covered speed bumps compared to the towering monsters of Europe and North America, but from ski-in (and then out, obviously) chalets to parks so remote you’ll feel a million miles from civilisation, Australia’s winter wonderlands are this county’s true hidden gems. You just need to know where to look. Read on.

1. THREDBO, NSW

If you like: Après-ski action

Not to take anything away from its world-class runs—it was named Australia’s very best at the 2018 World Ski Awards—but the real lure of Thredbo is the European-style village you’ll retreat to following your time on the mountain. Happily, there’s no need to pile damp and cold into your D-MAX or MU-X after a day on the slopes here. Instead, Thredbo Village serves up accommodation options ranging from luxury villas and private apartments to significantly less-luxurious dormitory-style cabins, all mere footsteps from the lifts. No matter where you stay, the focus here is on family fun. With live concerts all winter long, trampoline parks for the kids and a choice of more than 30 restaurants and bars, après skiing never looked so good. Getting there: Just over 2.5 hours from Canberra, Thredbo Village is a part of the Kosciuszko National Park in NSW. thredbo.com.au

2. MOUNT HOTHAM, VICTORIA

If you like: Serious skiing and snowboarding

The higher you go, the better the snow. And that’s exactly what makes Victoria’s Mount Hotham such a hotspot for serious skiers and snowboarders every southern hemisphere winter. Australia’s highest alpine village, Mount Hotham serves up a massive 320 hectares of skiable terrain, unlocked via 13 lifts, as well as three dedicated terrain parks and more cross-country skiing than you can shake a Rossignol at. The altitude of the village itself also lends it an, ahem, cool, snowed-in feeling. Be warned, though. Hotham’s bounty is no secret, so it can get very busy in holiday periods. Better, then, to avoid the heaving carparks and find accommodation in nearby Dinner Plain—where you might also enjoy a dog sled ride with Howling Huskies (howlinghuskys.com.au)—and take the 10-minute shuttle to the ski lifts. Getting there: Hotham is 4.5 hours from Melbourne on Victoria’s Great Dividing Range. mthotham.com.au.

3. SELWYN SNOW RESORT, NSW

If you like: Family-friendly fun

We can’t all be those James Bond types, boldly staring down a black-diamond run without a hint of terror. Besides, even 007 must surely have started somewhere. That somewhere might well have been (though to be fair, it probably wasn’t) the Selwyn Snow Resort in NSW. A much smaller and easier to navigate park than others in Australia, Selwyn has been designed as a place for families and beginners to sharpen their skills safely before moving on to more challenging terrain. With its ‘Friendly Family Fun’ motto, a proper world class ski school and among the cheapest lift passes in Australia, Selwyn is perfect for those families still finding their snow legs. Getting there: The Selwyn snowfields are actually the easiest to get to from Sydney—even if ‘easy’ in this case means a 5.5-hour drive.

4. FALLS CREEK, VICTORIA

If you like: Skiing into your accommodation

Billed as having Australia’s only ski-in accommodation, the Falls Creek Alpine Resort is a world-class park home to an extravaganza of lifts, terrain parks and night skiing, with a buzzy little village at its centre. At the core of its appeal is its plentiful snowfall, with more than four metres of snow blanketing the landscape each winter and a mid-season average of around 120cm of natural cover, all of which is shared over an impressive 92 skiable runs. By far the coolest part of a visit here is the ability to ski off the slopes and right to the door of your on-mountain accommodation—something you can do for around 70 days per year, before the snow melts and you find yourself grinding over half-buried rocks, tree stumps and angry wombats. Getting there: Falls Creek is around five hours from Melbourne’s CBD (and longer when the roads are dark and icy). fallscreek.com.au.

5.BEN LOMOND NATIONAL PARK, TASMANIA

If you like: Getting away from it all

Victoria and NSW steal plenty of attention when it comes to alpine fun in Australia. And if you ask the good people of Tasmania, they wouldn’t have it any other way. Because it ensures the Ben Lomond ski area, about an hour from Launceston, is never, ever crowded. The Ben Lomond mountain range is home to Tasmania’s second-highest peak (Legges Tor, not a Game of Thrones henchman), and so mid-winter snowfall is plentiful. With more than six kilometres of slopes to explore, it’s easy to escape the sparse crowds. A smaller park than those on the mainland, Ben Lomond serves up just four T-bars and three Poma lifts (a kind of pulley system that drags you up the slope), and the resort focuses on cost-effective skiing and boarding, with child passes just $20. A bargain. Getting there: It’s about an hour from Launceston and a very manageable three hours from Hobart. skibenlomond.com.au.

6. MOUNT MAWSON, TASMANIA

If you like: Not having to buy a lift ticket

If Tassie’s Ben Lomond feels short on crowds, Mount Mawson feels likes the wilds of Siberia. A part of the Mount Field National Park, Mount Mawson is home to just four T-bar-style lifts but, at 1250m in altitude, you can be assured of good snow coverage. Perhaps the biggest drawcard, however (other than the feeling of having an entire mountain to yourself), is the fact that the beginner ski area is free to use, meaning you can try your hand (or feet) at skiing before deciding if you want to upgrade to a bigger park. But that’s not to say skilled skiers should steer clear; the Roadway run is among the steepest in the state and, more importantly, lots of fun. Getting there: Less than two hours from Hobart, Mount Mawson is well within day-trip range if you’re coming from Tasmania’s most populated city. mtmawson.info.

7. EVERYWHERE

If you like: Simple snow fun

Yes, skiing is generally a pastime enjoyed by those with deep pockets (and some of the lift pass prices in Australia don’t do much to alter that theory), but that’s not to say you can’t enjoy a day in the white stuff for next to nix. Nothing is off limits in a 4WD Isuzu, but the location of Australia’s snowfields ensures you can pull up by the side of the road in even a 2WD D-MAX, pull the sleds from the tray and get to sliding without ever buying a lift ticket. No sleds? Try your hand at snowman building, making snow angels or just hurling a snowball or two at the kids. Getting there: Point the nose of your Isuzu towards Australia’s coldest areas, then keep an eye out the window for snow. Simple.

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