How’s the weather where you are? Australia’s been having a really cold winter this year. To those in Europe and in North America, you may laugh at how we can’t take a ‘little bit of cold’, but it’s not really normal to be snowing in some parts of Australia during winter.
We took advantage of the cold weather and headed to the Snowy Mountains a couple of weeks ago with Zombie’s and my family. It was my first time to ski, and I haven’t gone to the Snowy Mountains in about 9 years so I was inspired to write this post.
First of all, there are 2 main Ski resorts in the Snowy Mountains. Thredbo and Perisher Blue. There are many forums comparing the two, but this article will be in reference to Thredbo. I have not been to Perisher Blue, but I’d been to Thredbo twice. Once 9 years ago and most recently 2 weeks ago.
Perisher Blue and Thredbo are both located in Kosciuszko National Park, the biggest national park in New South Wales.
1.) Determine how to get there
The above maps are a fair indication of Snowy Mountains/ Jindabyne’s location from major Australian cities in the East Coast. Jindabyne is the main town proper to get to the ski resorts.
From Sydney, it is a 5 and a half hour drive. From Melbourne, it is 7 hours and from Canberra it is just about 2 hours. You can drive it from Brisbane too, which will probably take a day and a half minimum or even two (in a relaxed pace).
Many visitors fly to Canberra, then hire a car at the airport and drive to the Snowy Mountains.
2.) It’s best to drive
While there are buses from Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane to Jindabyne (and from Jindabyne to Thredbo / Perisher), I personally think it’s best to have your own car on a trip like this. (if you still insist on taking a bus, you can click here and here)
I suggest this purely for convenience because no doubt you will be taking a lot of gear. If you have ever packed for a skiing trip, you’ll know that it’s like stuffing a deflated hot air balloon inside a bag. And then there’s the ski / snowboard gear. Even if you hire your gear, you still need to get to and from your accommodation to the ski fields. Unless you’re staying real close at Thredbo Village.
3.) Jindabyne vs Thredbo Village: where to stay
Jindabyne is the main town proper that leads you to Kosciuszko National Park. It’s about a 40 minute drive to and from Jindabyne to Thredbo. Thredbo Village is like a mini community of lodges, accommodations, cafes and shops that is just walking distance to the slopes of Thredbo. There’s also a shuttle service around Thredbo Village that takes visitors from the Village to the slopes.
There are pros and cons to staying in Jindabyne and Thredbo Village:
- More choices of accommodation, you can choose one that suits your style and budget
- More choices of restaurants, shops, and non-snow things to do
- Closer to driving back to Canberra/Sydney
- 40 minutes drive to Thredbo slopes. Which means you need to head out early in the day. And also means you need to drive back and forth daily. There’s a shuttle service available but it is costly at AUD 44.00 per adult/return. (And you are not just going to ski for one day, let me tell you that)
- very close to the ski slopes
- accommodations look like proper ski lodges with nice views
- has an ‘exclusive community’ feel to it
- much more expensive, and the accommodations book out as far as 6 months back
- limited choices of restaurants / cafes and shops
4.) For first time skiers, investing in proper lessons are worth it
As a first time skier, I can tell you that skiing is not very similar to ice skating. (I can ice skate and confidently believed that if I can ice skate, I can ski easily). Sure, you use the same muscles but it’s so different. It may help if you know a bit of ice skating but to me it’s such a different ball game.
The ski hire lessons package I got had a free half day included, so on the day we arrived, I put the skis on to get a feel. It took me ages to even get from point a to b.
The next day, my proper lessons started and it really made a world of difference. Thredbo has a really good ski lessons program that caters to your personal level of progression. I went with the 4 day package. While day 1 (basics of skiing, like stopping and turning) went really well, day 2 was abit of a disaster for me. I’ve lost count the number of times I fell (on my bum, in the ditch, you name it!). On the 3rd and 4th day, I decided to go with personal lessons (one on one with Zombie, who is a moderately good skier). And I regained my confidence.
5.) Go for 3 or more days
If you are skiing / snowboarding for the first time, I would suggest going for 3 or more days with your package and lessons. This is because you will probably (realistically) only get the hang of it by 2nd or 3rd day. This is when your muscles would have been used to the movements and strength needed for skiing, and to put it figuratively, this is the time your body will be like a “well-oiled machine”, so you don’t want to suddenly stop when it’s at it’s peak of performance. I won’t lie, you will feel so knackered and tired every end of the day and there are times I just look on with envy at those kids speeding left and right, down the slopes. But it does feel great when you feel your confidence build up in a sport you’ve never ever done before.
The package also comes out cheaper the more days you take.
6.) It’s better to invest in your own ski clothing
I hired ski boots, helmet, and poles (which comes with the package I got), but I had my own clothing (most of which are what I packed for my Iceland trip). My sister ended up renting ski pants which cost her more than what it would be if she purchased her own. The biggest concern that puts non-skiing people off buying their own ski wear is a.) storage and b.) where will they wear it again? For storage, I suggest getting those vacuum seal bags, which you would normally need anyway for change of season clothing. And as to when you’d wear it again, you can always wear this in places where you’d be doing outdoor things and where it’s cold, not necessarily skiing. For instance, I wore almost the same things when I was in Iceland, and I didn’t do any skiing there.
A good ski / snow gear is highly durable and will last you years. I also recommend getting your own ski goggles. Thredbo does not have any goggles for hire, they sell them and it can be expensive.
7.) Start your days early
Thredbo and Perisher Blue are open just 3-4 months out of the year so they are naturally packed during this time of the year. I have to admit that it can sometimes get stressful learning to ski while dodging snowboarders/ skiers left and right. But if you start early, you can have the slopes almost all to your own and this will help when you are just starting out.
8.) Even if you don’t ski, there are things for you to enjoy
My sister did not ski at all during our time in Thredbo and Jindabyne but she was able to explore a lot of places. If you stay in Jindabyne, there is the pristine Lake Jindabyne (left) and in Thredbo, one can go on the Merritts Scenic Chairlift which gives you a great view of Thredbo and is open 365 days a year.
It’s also pleasant to walk around Thredbo Village, there’s also a toboganning area so non-skiers and non-snowboarders can also play.
I’m not a snow person (or a cold weather person at all), but I can say that I did have fun in Thredbo and I’m glad that I gave skiing a try. More than the skiing though, it was great to reconnect with family while travelling – hitting two birds in one stone.