Snow is very much a novelty for Australians, with the keen ones visiting the ski resorts of New Zealand's South Island or Japan. The good news is that you don't have to go that far to have a great days outing, or stay a while and really brush up on your ski and snow boarding skills. The top places to ski or enjoy some snow driving are Mt Buller, Mt Hotham, Falls Creek, Baw Baw, Thredbo, Perisher Blue and Selwyn.
All of these resorts are located in Victoria or NSW and they are continually reaping the spoils of multi-million dollar investment in recent years, offering a wide range of accommodation, plenty of evening entertainment and some resorts are investing big in snowmaking technology, ensuring there is plenty of the white stuff… even when there isn't! There are now over 100 snow making guns operating at local resorts and other capital works have included the installation of Australia's first six-seater chairlift at Mount Buller.
So lets take a look at what's on offer at the major resorts.
Falls has traditionally been a family focused resort, with plenty of intermediate runs, a nice village and a wide variety of off snow activities. An adult day lift ticket will cost $80 between September 13 and October 3. A child ticket is $40.00. There is a gate fee of $32 per vehicle per day, or $270 for a season pass, but this late in the year, do your arithmetic before choosing what's best for you. There are 14 ski lifts, and slopes to suit everyone from beginner through to old pro, with the longest run being the Wishing Well at 3kms. There is an accommodation hotline on 1800 453 525 or email [email protected]. Falls Creek is located about 356km from Melbourne and you should allow at least 4 and a half hours via the Hume Freeway. If you really want to arrive in style you can fly to Albury and take a helicopter at around $1000 day return.
Buller has plenty of slopes for beginners and intermediate with snow boarding also very popular. A day lift pass will cost $99 ($54 for children), while parking is $35 a day for a car or 4WD, an additional $7.00 for a weekend, or $14 for Friday and Saturday nights. 4WD taxi from the car park to the village is $17.50($35.00 return) an adult. Buller is just 248 kms from Melbourne, and takes about 3 hours by car. There is an accommodation hotline on 1800 285 537 or via email at [email protected].
Hotham is spectacularly located along a ridge top. The main road snakes along the ridge with the village strung out along it. While there are some suitable beginner's slopes, there are many challenging slopes for experts. There are 12 lifts, with the longest run 2.5 km from the top of Summit Chair, down Sun Run, Sundowner and Swindlers Trail to Village Chair. Costs for lifts are the same as Falls, with gate entry $35 for cars and 4WDs per day. Accommodation enquiries are welcome on 1800 468 426. As per all resorts there is a wide selection of accommodation, with prices to match. Most accommodation houses have a web site and are easily found on the Internet. Mount Hotham is located 357km from Melbourne. Travel via the Hume Freeway to Wangaratta and then via Bright will take about 4 and a half hours. From the east of the state it can be reached via the Princes Highway to Bairnsdale, then via Omeo.
Primarily a location for cross country skiing and snow play with 37kms of trails. A great deal which includes a 90 minute ski lesson (including equipment) and trail passes costs $64 for adults and $52 for children. Gate entry is $35 per vehicle on weekends and holidays. There is a trail fee of $11.90 adults, and $5.90 children. Lake Mountain is 120kms from Melbourne, along the Maroondah Highway through the Yarra Valley. Details are found at lakemountainresort.com.au.
Buffalo has a string of marked and 20km of unmarked cross-country trails. Buffalo is 320kms from Melbourne, with nearest accommodation located at Myrtleford, Bright or Porepunkah.
Rated by many skiers as Australia's best skiing conditions, with plenty of challenging trails. Cost of an adult lift ticket is $103, with National Park entry fee of $27, or annual permit for $190. Thredbo is reached by a 6 and a half hour drive from Sydney or about 7 hours from Melbourne. The closest town is Jindabyne, 33kms away. Accommodation enquiries call 1300 020 589.
Perisher holds the distinction of being Australia's largest ski resort. It is reached with a 5-6 hour drive from Sydney (495kms) via Canberra, a 7 hour drive from Melbourne, or by air, flying with Regional Express from Sydney to the Snowy Mountains Airport. The resort has both beginners and advanced slopes, but the majority of trails will suit intermediate experienced skiers. An adult day lift ticket costs $105, and children $58.00. National Park day entry is $27 or an annual permit is available at $198.00. There are 49 lifts available and around 40 trails. Accommodation enquiries are welcome on 1300 655 811. Perisher is an excellent family resort with plenty of facilities for all the family
Dinner Plain is a niche resort with 16kms of cross-country trails and one ski lift. There is no gate entry, and plenty of accommodation choices at visitdinnerplain.com. It is located just 10kms from Mt Hotham.
Stirling offers a little bit of everything from snow shoeing, tobogganing, cross country trails and even snow camping for the hardy. Day gate entry is $35 per car with additional weekend fees. It is reached via Mansfield, about 3 hours from Melbourne.