The NSW snow season runs from mid-June to early October and, with a moderate drive from Sydney, you can enjoy all that the snow has to offeri.
NSW has four ski resorts: Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Snowfields. They're all in the Snowy Mountains at the very southern reaches of NSW. Jindabyne, on the edge of Kosciuszko National Park, is accepted as the gateway town to the resorts. If you're coming from the north-east, it's a 460km drive from Sydney to Jindabyne via Canberra. It's a long drive, so plenty of breaks are recommended.
If you'd like to turn the drive into a more relaxed journey, there are interesting stops along the way. Take a detour to Bowral, enjoy a meal in Goulburn, visit some of the world-class vineyards near Canberra like Clonakilla Winery, take the kids to a museum in the ACT, or have a coffee in Cooma. Stop for a meal or stay overnight. For inspiration, visit websites including The Poacher's Way, Visit Canberra, iGoulburn, Destination Southern Highlands, Visit Cooma and Visit NSW.
From Jindabyne it's a short trip to the ski areas. You'll be driving in an alpine environment and all ski areas are located in Kosciuszko National Park. This means you will need to be prepared for driving in the snow. This includes the need to carry snow chainsii.
Voted 'Best Australian Ski Resort' in Luxury Travel Magazine's 2014 Gold List Awards, Thredbo offers great skiing, ski school, accommodation, shopping and off-the-hill activitiesiii. You can either stay in Thredbo or drive up for the day to ski.
Thredbo's 14 lifts and 480 hectares might not match Perisher's numbers in terms of quantity, but the resort offers long runs including the 5.9km thigh burner from the top of Karel's T-bar all the way down to the specially constructed beginner area Friday Flat. The resort also boasts 672 vertical metres from base to summit. When you're on the hill, there are plenty of places to enjoy a stop, like a hot chocolate on the open air balcony at Frostbite Kiosk, or lunch at the iconic Kareela Hutte.
Staying in Thredbo Village means you'll be able to walk or catch the free shuttle bus to and from the lifts each day, as well as enjoy the restaurants, bars and nightlife of the village in the evening. Not to be missed is the Thredbo Saturday night flare run and fireworks. Watch as skiers with flares snake down the Supertrail - a great spectacle that can be seen from all over the village. If you are an advanced rider you can sign up to be part of the runiv.
Snow cams and loads of information is available on the resort website, and the My Thredbo App is available for Android and Apple IOS. The App provides a wide array of information as well as powder day alerts and the ability to track "how many days you have had on the snow, vertical metres, top speed, number of runs and more".
Getting to Thredbo: To get to Thredbo it's a 34km drive from Jindabyne on the Alpine Way. Thredbo is located in Kosciuszko National Park and you will need a pass for your vehicle. Day and annual passes can be purchased at booths on the Alpine Way as you enter the parkv. If you are staying in Thredbo, you will either have an allocated parking spot with your accommodation, or will have to use one of the overnight car parks. A day visitor car park is also available - this gets cleared of snow nightly, so don't leave your car there!
Perisher is a large resort. It has 47 lifts and covers 1,245 hectares. There is 355m of vertical elevation that can be skied, and the longest run is 3km. The resort has terrain parks, half pipes, rider X courses, mogul runs and night skiingvi. The ski area's terrain suits all levels. Rounding it all off is a quality ski school.
2014 ski season sees a new chair due to open at Perisher - the Freedom Chair in the Guthega area of the resort. The resort claims the new chair will carry 2,400 people per hour and not only make skiing on Guthega runs better, but also improve the linking of the Guthega area to the rest of the resortvii.
Many skiers catch the Skitube - an underground alpine railway - from the Bullocks Flat Terminal, or drive up each day. However, if you get a chance to stay in Perisher - in one of the lodges or hotels - it's a real treat. You'll be staying on-snow and be able to ski-in ski-out: a real winter wonderland.
Perisher provides snow cams, lift, trail status, grooming and cross country reportsviii. For the opening weekend of the snow season, Perisher plays host to the Perisher Peak Music Festival with entertainment for the whole familyix. As an added incentive, kids of 14 years and under get in for free.
Getting to Perisher: There are two alternatives to get to Perisher from Jindabyne. The first is to drive from Jindabyne to the Bullocks Flat Skitube terminal, a distance of 20km. From there, it's a 10 minute trip on the Skitube directly to Perisher Valley and another 7 minutes to Blue Cow Skitube Terminal. There is no overnight parking in Perisher, so if you're lucky enough to be staying at one of the on-snow lodges, you'll have to catch the 'tube. Oversnow transport is available to get you and your luggage from the terminal to your lodge. The Skitube is also for day skiers out of Jindabyne. Parking at the Bullocks Flat Skitube Terminal is free and it's not inside Kosciuszko National Park, so you will not need a park entry pass for your car.
Alternatively, day skiers can drive directly to Perisher Valley and park in the day visitor car park. It's a 31km drive from Jindabyne on the Kosciuszko Road. Perisher is also located in Kosciuszko National Park and you will need a pass for your vehicle. Day and annual passes can be purchased at booths on the Kosciuszko Road as you enter the park. Just as at Thredbo, the day visitor car park gets cleared of snow nightly, so don't leave your car there!
You can only get to Charlotte Pass by catching oversnow transport from the Perisher Valley Skitube Terminal. Being completely snowbound, it provides the sensation of a total winter escapex. Charlotte Pass even holds a famous Christmas in July festivalxi,xii. The resort is decorated with tinsel and Christmas trees to celebrate the traditional white Christmas, and Santa skis by for a visit.
The ski area is compact, particularly in comparison to Perisher just next door. The area has five lifts: one chair, one T-bar, two Pomas and a carpet. There's loads of runs for beginners and intermediates, making it a great resort to improve your skiing. If you just can't get enough turns during the day, don't worry, there are plenty of night skiing opportunities available every Wednesday and Saturdayxiii.
Charlotte Pass features ski-in ski-out accommodation where you can ski to or from your front doorstepxiv. Charlotte Pass's snow cams provide up to date coverage of the weather conditions and snowfall.
Getting to Charlotte Pass: In summer, it's as simple as driving a further 8km along the Kosciuszko Road from Perisher Valley. Snow makes things a load more complicated: there is no car access to the Kosciuszko Road past Perisher Valley during ski season. You have to catch oversnow transport from the Perisher Valley Skitube Terminal, and if you're staying overnight - as most people do - that means catching the Skitube up as there is no overnight parking at Perisher Valley. See Perisher information above for details on catching the Skitube.
Selwyn Snowfields is a good choice for families learning to ski. The ski school has group and private lessons available, as well as Mini Mites, Mighty Mites and Mega Mites programs for children from 18 months to 7 years.
There are 11 lifts at Selwyn, as well as a Snowtube and Toboggan Park. There is no accommodation at Selwyn Snowfields: nearby townships include Adaminiby, Cabramurra and Talbingo.
Getting to Selwyn Snowfields: Unlike Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte's Pass, you don't have to go through Jindabyne to get to Selwyn Snowfields. If you're coming from the north, after passing through Cooma, instead of continuing on to Jindabyne for 55km, turn right to stay on the Snowy Mountains Highway. The ski area is 96km from Cooma, and 45km from Adaminiby. Other nearby towns include Talbingo (62km away) and Cabramurra (17km away). Selwyn is also located in Kosciuszko National Park: a day or annual pass for your vehicle will be required.