When you think of foreign and exotic places to ski, you probably picture mountains in Europe, South America and maybe even New Zealand. But, what if I told you the Land Down Under has world-class skiing, too? There’s more than just red dirt, rugby and kangaroos here in Aussie Land—we also have mountain ranges that rival some of the best in the world, namely the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales and the Victorian Alps. It may seem like a long flight to the homeland of Crocodile Dundee, but only a few hours drive from major airports in Sydney and Melbourne there are bountiful, powder-filled turns up for grabs, an après scene that’ll make your head spin and lift lines that are totally non-existent.
1. There’s lots to choose from
Here in Australia, there are 10 resorts—eight in continental Australia and two in Tasmania. In New South Wales you have Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Snowfields; while in Victoria, you have Mt. Buller, Mt. Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt. Baw Baw; and in “Tassie,” as the locals call it, there’s Ben Lomond and Mt. Mawson.
2. You can use the pass you already have
With Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company, Aspen Skiing Company and KSL/Intrawest snapping up resorts left and right, your ski pass is becoming more valuable by the week. In Australia, two of the biggest resorts, Perisher and Thredbo, are on the Epic Pass and Mountain Collective, respectively.
3. You can go pow skiing in August and September
Who among us doesn’t love a bit of pow? No doubt, in the depths of summer in the Northern Hemisphere the itch for fresh snow can get pretty strong. Last season, there were three major storms that blanketed the alpine regions of Australia with feet upon feet of surprisingly fluffy, dry snow. In the first week of September (which is spring in Australia), Thredbo and Perisher reported 50+ inches of new snow—and the forecast for this season is just as bright.
4. Backcountry skiing is as good as anywhere
While the resorts have plenty to offer, the best skiing in Australia is truly outside the ropes, with heaps of day tours and terrain accessible without the need for a mountaineering tent and minus 30-degree sleeping bag. The Main Range backcountry situated behind the Guthega area of Perisher and off the back of Thredbo allow access to well-known zones like Blue Lake, Twin Valleys, The Paralyzer and Leatherbarrel Creek, to name a few. In Victoria, you’ve got Mt. Loch, The Razorback and Swindler Chutes which you can tour in a day. Historically, the snowpack in Australia is pretty stable late into the season, however, avalanches do happen, so don’t forget your beacon, shovel, probe and knowledge to safely navigate the backcountry.
5. There’s an après scene to write home about
In Australia, the après-ski scene varies from resort to resort and each ski area has a few choice watering holes to get your drink on. Here are a few FREESKIER-approved locations: Situated at the top of the Shakey Knees Chairlift at Mt. Buller, the Tirol Cafe is where the locals know to go for a post-ski beverage. On a sunny day, a table on the deck overlooking the resort with a cold beer and a wood-fired pizza is tough to beat.
Because Perisher is made up of four resorts, it lacks a central village; but, that doesn’t mean there’s nowhere to grab a brew and some nachos before you take off your ski boots. The place to be in Perisher is The Man From Snowy River Hotel (not to be confused with the movie) just across the street from the Ski Tube terminal. During the winter, there is live music, food and drink specials du jour, every day of the week.
Finally, at Thredbo, you’ve got the historic Alpine Hotel Lounge Bar in the Village. With $5 Schnapps at happy hour and $10 espresso martinis all day, you can enjoy your drink on the patio—or in the hot tub! And don’t forget to pack your best and brightest ’80s one-piece because once a month during winter Thredbo puts on one of its First Base: Vintage Après Ski Soirees, with the hottest local musical acts performing in the heart of Thredbo Village.
6. You’re guaranteed to see a kangaroo
The majority of the population in Australia lives within 93 miles of the coast—but, as you go inland, the towns get smaller and the wildlife denser. Especially around Thredbo and Perisher, there are countless troops of kangaroos, wallabies and even deer roaming the mountainous landscapes. These animals are more active at night and some of the big male ‘roos can stand over six feet tall, so be careful driving after dark.
7. Thredbo’s annual AFP World Tour stop is one to witness
Every September, the AFP World Tour comes to Thredbo for the One Hit Wonder Mountain Festival. Not only is this the only AFP Gold ranked competition in the Southern Hemisphere, historically it has offered the biggest jump on the tour. The event attracts some of the world’s best big air riders and we’ve even seen a few world firsts on the jump, like Alex Hall’s switch triple cork 1800, pictured above.
8. The parks are always improving
Mt. Perisher and Thredbo have been in a bit of a battle of the terrain parks over the past few years. While Perisher’s park initially set the benchmark, attracting top pros from around the world to train and hosting two SLVSH cups, Thredbo has recently stepped up its game and riders are noticing. No matter which ski hill you choose, you win because the construction and design of these parks are improving each year.
9. The terrain here is some of the best in the world
Each resort has its own character but in Australia, you’ll find the most technical terrain at Thredbo, Mt. Buller and Mt. Hotham.
Thredbo has the most vert in Australia (2,204 feet) and the highest lifted point of all the resorts (6,683 feet). The treeless upper spur makes for endless windblown pow turns, and the mountain is littered with giant boulders that make for a veritable mini-golf course of hits, jibs and drops.
Just three hours outside of Melbourne, Mt. Buller offers some of the steepest skiing in Australia. The Summit Chutes are jagged, imposing and packed full of gnar factor, and when it snows, McLaughlin’s Shoulder and Bull Run Bowl are tough to beat.
Mt. Hotham looks like it should be somewhere in Europe not Australia and is one of the most breathtaking areas in the country. Hotham has what they call the “Extreme Zone” which is made up of Gotcha Ridge, the Chute, Mary’s Slide and Coles Bowl. This area feels quite isolated despite being located within the resort boundaries: it’s steep and offers plenty of rocks, trees and gullies—just be careful in the spring as some of the creeks are open and running.