10 Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Australia
Australia offers a unique skiing experience with classic Aussie scenery - schussing through snow gum forests is something you can only do on the slopes Down Under. Despite the country's relatively modest peaks, Aussies love winter sports, and the nation has produced world class competitors, including snowboarder Torah Bright and aerial skier Alisa Camplin, both winter Olympic medalists. Most of the country's ski areas snuggle in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales and the Victorian Alps and lie less than a day's drive away from Sydney or Melbourne. Besides downhill skiing and snowboarding, the resorts usually offer tobogganing, tubing, terrain parks, cross country trails, and many also offer night skiing and extensive snowmaking capabilities.
Typically the ski season opens in early June and ends in late September. When planning a ski trip in Australia note that most of the resorts lie within national parks that require a daily entry fee. Also chains or 4WD vehicles are mandatory for access to most of the resorts. Finally, what Australia lacks in steeps and snowpack, it compensates for with a bubbly après ski vibe, so be sure to mingle with the friendly locals while you're there.
1 Perisher, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW
About a six-hour drive from Sydney, Perisher is one of the most popular ski resorts in Australia and it positively fizzes with activity in peak season. Now owned by Vail Resorts, it's the largest ski area in the Southern Hemisphere and encompasses four interlinked ski resorts: Blue Cow, Smiggin Holes, Guthega, and Perisher, which skiers can access with one pass. From 2016, Epic Pass holders will also have access to other Vail Resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek, and Park City. A whopping 3,076 acres of terrain caters to all ability levels (with a definite bent towards intermediate skiers), and includes seven peaks; Mt. Perisher is the highest at 2,054 meters, and Mt. Piper is especially good for beginner skiers. Perisher also boasts five terrain parks, including a superpipe; a three-kilometer run; and 47 lifts to whisk you to your preferred slope. Australia's highest chairlift ascends to 2,034 meters here. Cross country skiers can glide along 100 kilometers of well-groomed trails through beautiful forests of gum trees where wombats snuffle in the snow.
Due to its vast area, ski lodges in Perisher tend to be quite spread out, and some lie a considerable distance from the ski lifts, however most lodges provide lift transportation. Skiers should note that Perisher does not allow overnight parking in the village. Visitors must park their car and take the ski tube into the village. About 30 kilometers from Perisher, the lakeside town of Jindabyne is an alternative base with good-value accommodation and the option of skiing either Perisher or Thredbo.
2 Falls Creek, Alpine National Park, Victoria
Family-friendly Falls Creek, about a five-hour drive from Melbourne, is known for its lovely walking village, well-designed runs, and some of the best snow coverage of all the Victorian resorts. It also boasts excellent cross country skiing, with more than 65 kilometers of trails, and has produced some of Australia's top competitors in the sport. Skiers and snowboarders can schuss down the slopes on more than 1,114 acres of skiable terrain and practice their tricks at the four terrain parks. The longest run is about three kilometers. Falls Creek also has a reputation as a hotspot for freestyle and hosts many important competitions.
Perhaps the highpoint of a stay here is the classic alpine ambiance of the pedestrian-only village and its excellent dining and accommodation options. When conditions allow, the village is ski-in ski-out, as are many of the lodges, a bonus for those who appreciate fast access. Falls Creek also offers guided snow biking tours.
3 Thredbo Alpine Resort, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW
Thredbo, about a six-hour drive from Sydney, offers a chic European-style village atmosphere and some of the best vertical runs and steeps of all the ski resorts in New South Wales. When snow conditions are favorable, the Supertrail here is Australia's longest run at 3.7 kilometers. Skiers and boarders have access to more than 1,186 acres of terrain including four terrain parks, with extensive snowmaking. Beginners will find gentle terrain at Friday Flat. Intermediate skiers enjoy the highest proportion of the terrain here, while backcountry skiers have some of the best options among all the resorts with chutes, as well as access to Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, on the Kosciuszko Express chairlift.
Free shuttles take you to Thredbo's lively village, which offers plenty of accommodation options, from youth hostels to luxury lodges (although few ski-in and ski-out options). Day spas, trendy shops and restaurants, and a leisure center with an Olympic size pool and rock climbing wall round out the après ski experience. Kids will have a ball at the tubing and tobogganing park. Thredbo is also one of the mountains available on the Mountain Collective Pass, which offers two free days and then 50% discounts on lift passes at international resorts such as Jackson Hole, Aspen-Snowmass, and Whistler-Blackcomb. About a 30-minute drive from Thredbo, the lovely lakeside resort of Jindabyne offers more affordable accommodations and the option of skiing at either Thredbo or Perisher.
4 Mt. Buller, Victoria
Only a three-hour drive from Melbourne, Mt. Buller boasts the largest network of lifts among the Victorian resorts and is the easiest to access from the city, making it a popular choice for Melbourne's weekend warriors. Here, 22 lifts whisk skiers and snowboarders to 741 acres of skiable terrain, including three terrain parks and a rider cross course. About 35% of the runs cater to more experienced skiers, and the longest run is about three kilometers. Cross country skiers can glide along nine kilometers of trails.
The village offers a lively après ski scene with plenty of restaurants, as well as some ski-in ski-out lodges. Not surprisingly, it can be especially busy on weekends. To access the village, you must park about 1.5 kilometers away and hop aboard a free shuttle. Spas and shops offer alternatives for non-skiers, and the two toboggan parks keep the little ones busy.
5 Mt. Hotham, Australian Alps National Park, Victoria
About a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Melbourne, Mt. Hotham is often the top choice in Australia for advanced and expert skiers. It has some of the steepest runs of all the Aussie resorts and the highest proportion of black runs. At 1,861 meters, it also scores more natural snow than most of the other Victorian resorts and is known as the "Powder Capital of Australia," although bear in mind that this is a relative term in the realm of elevation-challenged Aussie ski resorts. Tree glades and chutes are among the 791 skiable acres, and three terrain parks provide dedicated trick space. Backcountry options are also decent here with cat skiing for faster access. Despite its reputation as a hotspot for advanced skiers, beginners and intermediate skiers will find plenty of runs to keep them busy. Cross country skiers can explore 35 kilometers of groomed trails.
Unlike the other Aussie resorts, Mt. Hotham's village lies above the treeline in the upper reaches of the mountain with most of the slopes descending from the village. Thanks to this high elevation (1,750 meters), the village offers beautiful views, however Great Alpine Road runs right through the middle of the resort. Accommodation and restaurants are scattered along either side of this main highway, but free shuttles run between the ski areas and hotels. Non-skiers have plenty of options here including dog sled rides, day spas, snowmobiling, and tobogganing. Like most of the resorts, Hotham offers great childcare programs, though the kids' ski area lies a fair distance from the main ski slopes. For convenient access to the resort itself, you can fly to the nearby airport, about 20 kilometers from the slopes. Just 10 kilometers away from Hotham, the charming alpine village of Dinner Plain is a great base to ski Hotham with more accommodation options and family-friendly amenities.
6 Charlotte Pass, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW
About eight kilometers from Perisher, Charlotte Pass, at 1,765 meters, is the highest and oldest ski resort in Australia. Snowbound during the winter months, the resort is only accessible via a snowcat from Perisher Valley, but the reliable snow is a major drawcard. The resort sits in a large open bowl, providing ideal runs for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Advanced skiers can explore the backcountry and hike to some steep chutes. A bonus here are the spectacular views of Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia's highest peak. In fact the resort is named after Charlotte Adams, the first European woman to climb Mount Kosciuszko in 1881. Freestylers can strut their stuff in the terrain park, and kids will love the play park. Dating from 1930, the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel is the Grand Dame of accommodation here and offers ski-in ski-out access when conditions permit.
7 Mt. Baw Baw Alpine Resort, Baw Baw National Park, Victoria
Only 120 kilometers from Melbourne, Mt. Baw Baw is the closest ski resort to Melbourne and offers great terrain for beginners and intermediates. This resort is also a favorite with families thanks to its three snow play areas. Skiers and snowboarders can carve up the snow on more than 30 hectares of skiable terrain serviced by six lifts, and the two terrain parks provide dedicated space for freestylers. Cross country skiers can glide through the snow gums on 10 kilometers of trails. The resort offers several accommodation options, including ski-in and ski-out lodges (when conditions permit), as well as ski rentals, ski school, and several restaurants.
8 Selwyn Snowfields, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW
Family-owned and operated Selwyn Snowfields, a two-hour drive from Canberra, is a great choice for beginners to boost their confidence on the gentle slopes. Many families bring their kids here for first-time snow experiences. Zooming down the tubing and toboggan runs, and freestyling on the mini-terrain park are favorite activities here, as are the skiing and snowboarding lessons. Cross country skiers will appreciate the 45 kilometers of Nordic trails. Equipment rentals, a ski shop, and cafe are all on-site, and accommodation is available a 30-minute drive from the resort in Adaminaby, Old Adaminaby, and Anglers Reach.
9 Dinner Plain, Victoria
About 10 kilometers from Mt. Hotham, the charming alpine village of Dinner Plain is a fantastic option for beginner skiers as well as families who want a good-value base to ski Mt. Hotham. The resort hosts a small 175-meter downhill ski slope that's perfect for kids who are polishing their skills, and it's relatively sheltered from icy winds that can whip across the Hotham slopes. The town's rustic elegance recalls its rich history as a grazing stop for cattlemen, and the buildings use plenty of natural stone and wood. A big plus here is that Dinner Plain lies outside the national park, so no overnight parking fees are payable, however if you're driving to Hotham each day, you still have to pay the daily resort gate entry. Alternatively, you can hop aboard a shuttle or glide along a 10-kilometer cross country trail from here to Mt. Hotham and skip the parking fees. Another bonus of staying in this quaint little town, is that you can usually drive to the door of your accommodation instead of lugging travel bags across the snow. Accommodation is mainly self-contained apartments, houses, and chalets, which are great for families and big groups. The village is also home to a couple of fabulous restaurants.
10 Ben Lomond Ski Field Area, Ben Lomond National Park, Tasmania
About an hour and a half by car from Launceston, Ben Lomond Snow Sports is the only ski area in Tasmania accessible by car. With seven lifts, this is a great spot for beginner and intermediate skiers who want to escape the long lift lines often found at the resorts in New South Wales and Victoria. To access the resort, which sits at 1,453 metes, visitors must negotiate the switchback-riddled Jacob's Ladders, a serpentine two-lane road, but it's worth it for the spectacular views. Alternatively, visitors can hop aboard a shuttle from the Parks and Wildlife Service registration booth. The resort offers a sheltered toboggan run and snow play areas for the kids as well as cross country ski terrain. Rentals are available at the local ski shop. Accommodation options are limited and range from a rustic lodge to an alpine hotel.