Can You Ski In Australia? (Yes & This is What It’s Like)
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Does Australia, a country known for its beaches and the long expansive outback, really have skiing? Many people are surprised to learn that you can hit the slopes down under.
Australia has a small but vibrant ski industry across several alpine resort towns in the southeastern portion of the country. There are 15 ski resorts spread between New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Some of the most popular places to ski in Australia include Thredbo, Perisher, Falls Creek, and Mount Buller.
What Is Skiing Like in Australia?
While the ski resorts in Australia are smaller than those found in places like Europe and North America, with shorter vertical drops and less skiable terrain, the skiing and snow conditions can be magnificant. Most of the resorts sit between 1,200-2,000 meters (4,000-6,500 feet) in elevation and receive annual snowfall in the 10-20 foot range. Like most ski resorts, the weather is not always ideal.
For North Americans used to places like Whistler Blackcomb, skiing in Australia will feel small, but don’t let the smaller resort size fool you – this is a country with legitimate mountains where the skiing is just as good.
The skiing and terrain itself in Australia is best suited for beginner to intermediate skiers. You’ll find wide, groomed trails but a limited amount of steep, advanced runs or true expert terrain. Hiking and snowcat accessed backcountry skiing is also more limited than found in New Zealand or North America.
Advanced skiers will likely find Australian ski resorts small, with the longest runs topping out around 3 km (1.9 miles). But the skiing is smooth and well-suited for families or less aggressive skiers. Australia also has a fun, laidback ski culture similar to North America’s west coast.
Where to Go Skiing in Australia:
Most ski resorts in Australia are located in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales and the Victorian Alps. The main ski towns and resorts are:
- Thredbo, New South Wales – The most famous Aussie resort, with terrain for all levels and the longest runs in the country. Offers vibrant village and après-ski scene.
- Perisher, New South Wales – Largest resort in Australia with four interconnected towns and varied terrain over 1,245 hectares.
- Falls Creek, Victoria – Family-friendly resort with wide, groomed slopes and a reputation for great snow cover.
- Mount Buller, Victoria – Largest resort in Victoria and known for nightlife. Closest major resort to Melbourne.
Perisher: Australia’s Largest Ski Resort
As Australia’s largest ski area, Perisher offers impressive size and terrain variety spread across four interconnected resort areas: Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Blue Cow, and Guthega. With 1,245 hectares of skiable terrain, it has enough runs and lifts to keep you exploring new zones over multiple days.
Massive Terrain Range
From wide groomers to steep chutes, Perisher has slopes for all ability levels. Advanced and expert skiers flock to Front Valley for the best challenging runs like Twin Valleys and the chutes off Mt Perisher. Intermediates will enjoy cruising the rolling trails at Smiggin Holes and Blue Cow. Beginner areas are found at each base area.
Snow Inconsistency Can Be Problematic
While Perisher sees good annual snowfall, its lower base elevation compared to Thredbo means the snow quality here can be quite variable. Early and late season conditions tend to be disappointing. The extensive snowmaking helps ensure coverage, but natural snow lovers may be left wanting more.
Lively Base Villages With Après Options
The main Perisher Valley village offers bars, restaurants, shops, and lodging. Smiggin Holes and Blue Cow bases are smaller but also have amenities. Apres-ski vibes are laidback rather than wildly energetic – grab a drink at Man From Snowy River bar or Overlook Restaurant. The towns of Jindabyne and Bullocks Flat are 15 minutes away for more dining and nightlife.
Large Resort That Can Feel Impersonal
Some may find Perisher’s sheer size to be a negative – long travel times between the base areas and a more corporate ski resort feel. But for intermediate cruisers who love racking up vertical, its expansive trail network is a huge draw. Just don’t expect a charming alpine village feel here.
Mount Buller: A Popular Ski Resort Near Melbourne
Nestled in the Victorian High Country just 180 miles northeast of Melbourne, Mount Buller is Victoria’s most popular ski resort and a favorite winter playground for Melburnians.
Extensive Terrain Offerings
With its extensive lift network accessing 300 hectares of terrain, Buller offers something for skiers and riders of all abilities. Wide, groomed intermediate runs make up the bulk of the terrain and are perfect for leisurely cruising, while advanced skiers can challenge themselves on the steep chutes off Chamois and Stirling lifts.
Snow Quality Can Be Inconsistent
The ski area’s high base elevation of 4,315 feet means the snow quality is generally good, and natural snowfall averages about 5 meters per season. However, early and late season conditions tend to be variable, depending on weather patterns.
Options for Beginners
For beginners, the Bourke Street carpet and tube conveyors provide access to gentle slopes perfect for first-timers. The ski school here is excellent, making Mount Buller a great place to learn.
Lively Village Scene with Nightlife
Après-ski is lively, with Chamois and Grimus bars at the base being popular hangouts. Buller also has a cute alpine village with shops, restaurants, and bars, many of which stay lively late into the evening during peak season.
Night skiing is offered on Friday and Saturday nights, allowing you to extend your days on the slopes.
And when you’re ready for a day off, go ice skating at the outdoor rink or try your hand at tobogganing at the family-friendly adventure park. With its awesome terrain and vibrant village, Mount Buller is a premier winter destination for many Victorian skiers and boarders.
When is Ski Season in Australia?
In Australia, the ski season typically runs from early June through the end of September. This coincides with winter in the southern hemisphere. The exact start and end dates vary slightly by resort and year-to-year.
The best snow conditions are usually found during the Aussie winter school holidays from late June through mid-July and again in early September. If you’re looking for less crowds and cheaper prices, aim for early June or late August/September. But the weather down under is less reliable and some resorts can close early if the snow pack isn’t sufficient.
Getting to the Ski Resorts
Most visitors drive to the ski resorts in Australia. The snowy mountains and major cities are well connected by highways and roads. From Sydney, expect a 5-6 hour drive to Thredbo, Perisher or Selwyn. The drive from Melbourne to Mt. Buller, Falls Creek or Mt. Hotham is approximately 3-4 hours.
Flying is also an option, with airports servicing cities like Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. Small regional airports like Cooma or Albury provide the closest access for Perisher and Thredbo. Shuttle vans and buses connect the airports to ski resorts. Driving does provide more freedom and flexibility however.
Top Tips for Skiing in Australia
Taking advantage of multi-mountain passes that include both Victoria and NSW resorts can give you added variety. The higher elevation resorts like Perisher, Thredbo and Hotham have the most reliable snow.
Book accommodations like hotels and apartments as early as possible, ideally before the southern hemisphere winter starts. The ski towns fill up quick on weekends and during Aussie school holidays.
Aim for the start or end of the ski season for cheaper prices on tickets and lodging. Keep in mind that early and late season conditions can be more variable.
Renting a car and self-driving between the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alps resorts allows you to chase the best snow.
|Resort||State||# of Runs||Elevation (m)||Vertical Drop (m)||Avg. Annual Snowfall (cm)|
|Perisher||NSW||104||1,720 – 2,054||334||150|
|Thredbo||NSW||65||1,350 – 2,037||672||240|
|Falls Creek||VIC||90||1,210 – 1,840||630||185|
|Mount Hotham||VIC||36||1,462 – 1,868||406||200|
|Mount Buller||VIC||22||1,300 – 1,804||504||120|
|Selwyn Snowfields||NSW||34||1,550 – 1,900||350||100|
|Charlotte Pass||NSW||60||1,768 – 1,963||195||240|
|Mount Baw Baw||VIC||11||1,370 – 1,560||190||120|
While Australia may fly under the global skiing radar, it offers legitimate ski resorts and alpine experiences to discover. The ski resorts sit at elevations high enough for plenty of natural snowfall during the Antipodean winter months. The skiing itself is high quality, if not quite as extensive in scope as New Zealand or western North America. Overall, Australia provides a great opportunity for a fun winter ski trip for beginners and families looking to stay close to home rather than cross the globe to the Alps or Rockies.