Skiing in Australia? There are several Australian ski resorts, yet when most people think of Australia they conjure up thoughts of hot sun, the beautiful beaches, or Ayers Rock amongst the flats of the red desert centre.
In such a sun blessed country, you could be forgiven for not realising there’s snow skiing in Australia. Down in the south-east there is skiing and snowboarding at various Victorian ski fields and NSW ski resorts. Downhill skiing in Australia is incredibly popular and cross country skiing at various mountains is also a common pastime.
Characteristics of Australian Ski Resorts
The quality of skiing in Australia might not be on par with that in parts of North America or Europe, but it’s still super fun particularly if the snow is on. The mountains of the Great Dividing Range are incredibly old, so they’ve eroded down significantly and many of them are more rounded on the top than the “peaky” mountains found in other parts of the world. So with the Australia ski resorts, super steeps are not that common and there aren’t that many chutes, cliffs or rock features.
And although some of the Australian ski resorts are called mountains, many of them are more aptly described as “hills” when you compare them to the Alps, the massive Andes, and the Rockies. The elevation isn’t particularly high and the highest lifted point is only 2,037 metres (6,681 ft).
Associated with the low elevation, the vertical isn’t particularly long. It’s definitely not like many Europe ski resorts
where it feels like you can ski forever, but the upside is that you’re less inclined to get major thigh burn in Australia!
Like other ski resorts in the Southern Hemisphere, the Australia snow conditions tend to be a hit and miss affair, and the snow tends to be even more inconsistent than the New Zealand ski resorts
and the Chile ski resorts
. Sometimes it dumps with heavy powder snow and the skiing in Australia can be absolutely amazing. At the other end of the snow spectrum, it sometimes rains at the Australian ski resorts and the base can be inadequate for many of the lifts and trails to open.
Thankfully significant snow making equipment has been introduced at the major resorts which has reduced uncertainty about the snow base on the main trails.
NSW Ski Resorts
The NSW ski resorts are located close to the capital city of Canberra, and are popular with Sydney-siders.
is the NSW ski resort for the trendy folks. The village is lovely and the après ski scene is reasonably vibrant. Thredbo has the longest vertical of the Australia ski resorts at a modest 672 metres, a variety of terrain, including trails that are somewhat demanding.
is massive (especially by ski Australia standards!) with 1,245 hectares and 47 lifts, and it’s incredibly well suited to intermediates.
Charlotte Pass is a small and very family friendly NSW ski resort. It has a high village base that can only be accessed via over-snow transport which contributes to minimal crowds.
Selwyn Snowfields is perfect for beginners and families. There is no on-mountain accommodation at Selwyn and most people stay in nearby towns about 35 minutes away.
Victorian Ski Fields
Mount Buller is only 3 hours from Melbourne and as a result of this relative proximity it is the most popular of the Victorian ski fields (especially on weekends) and has the largest village of the ski resorts in Australia. Recent years have seen significant investment in the snowmaking and lift infrastructure at Mt Buller.
is known as a serious skiers’ mountain with some steep short runs as well as a spread of trails for other abilities. Hotham doesn’t have a fantastic village feel as it’s rather spread out across the top of the mountain, but the nearby settlement of Dinner Plain
has a beautiful village atmosphere.
has the amazing convenience of most accommodation being ski-in ski-out, and wandering around the car-free village is delightful. The ski terrain is perfect for intermediates and the terrain park is pretty cool too.
Other Victorian ski fields are Mount Buffalo and Mt Baw Baw, both of which are small and family oriented.
Skiing in Tasmania
Ben Lomond near Launceston has 7 surface lifts servicing terrain ideal for the beginner to intermediate rider.
Mount Mawson has very basic facilities including ropetows that service a few gentle slopes as well as some steeps.
How Does Australia Skiing Compare to New Zealand
Many people like to compare Australia skiing with skiing in New Zealand
just across “the ditch”, and even though each resort is different, there are some generalisations that can be made.
When you go skiing in Australia, a major benefit is that you can stay on-mountain and some of the Australia ski resorts have ski-in ski-out accommodation. This is very different to the New Zealand commercial ski resorts that have no or negligible on-mountain lodging. For those travelling with small children, this offers a significant advantage, and others also enjoy the ease of being able to slide off the slopes via après drinks to the lodge.
The on-snow villages are also a major part of the drawcard of Australian ski resorts, and there are various snow activities for the kids as well as the big kids. The other obvious advantage is that you don’t have to drive up and down a mountain road each day, and by golly those New Zealand ski field roads are super scary!
Many of the New Zealand ski resorts have more steeps (due to the pointy new peaks!) than Australia, yet the main Australian ski resorts tend to be bigger and provide more variety. Many of the Australian slopes are below the treeline (unlike the treeless NZ ski fields) and this provides huge advantages when the foul weather blows in. New Zealand has resorts such as “Mt Shut” and even if they don’t close the resort or most of the lifts, the visibility can be poor necessitating skiing by braille, whereas in Australia they seem to be able to run at least some of the lifts and the vis isn’t too bad near the trees. Furthermore, the snow gums in Australia make skiing very unique.
One con of Australia is that the major resorts tend to be more crowded relative to New Zealand (remember that the population of NZ includes many more sheep than humans!). Ski holidays in Australia are also much more expensive than New Zealand skiing holidays
. This is largely due to the typical currency exchange but Australian ski resorts also attract additional charges such as resort entry/car parking (in excess of $45 per day!!), compulsory chain hire, and high prices for food and drink that has to be transported up the mountains. It’s no wonder that many Aussies save their pennies for Japan ski holidays
and swarm to places like Hakuba and Niseko to revel in the abundant powder.
Australia Skiing Season
The Australia snow season is pretty short and can run from early June through to the end of September or early October, which in part is the reason for the cost of skiing in Australia. Be aware that whilst the “official opening” of the ski season is in early June, this often doesn’t actually correlate with adequate snow cover and the true opening of the ski resorts.