A budget ski trip to the Snowy Mountains
A trip to the snow doesn’t have to be a luxury – picking the right stay, getting meals included and exploring the region’s free activities will help you save and score extra value.
First up: you need a place to stay, and the Snowies offers a range of accommodation for those on a budget. If being close to the snow fields is a non-negotiable, YHA Thredbo is located at the foot of the mountain and in the heart of Thredbo Village. The hostel offers a variety of rooms, such as private rooms, co-living dorms and family rooms with bunks.
Over at Perisher, Ski Rider Hotel is just a 15-minute drive from Snow Mountains town Jindabyne, 11km from the ski resort and offers a free shuttle service to the slopes. Bunk rooms also make it super affordable for groups or families, and accommodation includes a generous hot breakfast and a dinner each night.
If you don’t mind travelling to the mountain every day, Jindabyne has lots of accommodation options to choose from, you’ll just need to factor in daily trips by car (all 2WD cars driving to Thredbo are required to have chains between the June and October long weekends). If you need public transport, the Swiss-designed Skitube train heads to Perisher, and the Snowy Mountains Public Bus Service takes skiers to Thredbo on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
NRMA Jindabyne Holiday Park offers everything from camping sites and cabins to villas and their new ‘glamtainers’ – refurbished shipping containers turned into stylish yet affordable four-person pods.
Get your meals (& more) included
All-inclusive stays will mean you don’t shell out for pricey slope-side meals and have access to bonus activities. Lake Crackenback Resort offers a range of accommodation, from chalets to one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with breakfast included, plus free activities for all guests including golf, heated indoor swimming pools, mountain biking, tennis, archery and more.
At Boonoona Ski Lodge all meals and over-snow transfers are included on arrival and departure days, and kids will have non-stop off-the-slopes entertainment at their very own lounge filled with video games, board games, a foosball table and more. Boali Lodge also includes three meals a day and is conveniently located in the heart of Thredbo village, just two minutes’ walk to the chairlifts and village shops.
The Man From Snowy River Hotel in Perisher Resort also supplies all meals during the ski season, and has a pub with regular live entertainment, an onsite gym, steam room, kids’ club, and day spa. It’s also well-positioned, directly opposite the Skitube terminal and is just a short walk to the Village 8 chairlift.
If you know where to look, there are free activities all over the Snowy Mountains region to both thrill and relax. Head down the mountain to the Yarrangobilly Caves, where it’s free to go for a dip in the Thermal Pool – a large pool surrounded by forest that’s a balmy 27°C all year round thanks to a natural hot spring.
The Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre (a museum that guides you through the history of the heritage-listed hydroelectric power station) in Cooma, is also free to explore. Take a virtual flight over the mountains, see how the hydro operates, and hear stories from the workers.
Before the snow begins to fall in June, there are plenty of free hikes to tackle in Kosciuszko National Park, while the Thredbo Valley Track offers 35km of both beginner and advanced mountain bike tracks that take you through lush eucalyptus forests, across bridges and on elevated paths along Thredbo River.
If you have snowshoes and have experience trekking through snow, you can take on the 16.8km-return Mount Kosciuszko Summit Walk from Charlotte Pass to the peak of Mount Kosciuszko, which is snowbound between June and October.
Save with a pass
If you’re a frequent skier, you’ll save serious money with a season-long pass, which can give you unlimited access to ski resorts around Australia and the world. Perisher is part of the Epic Australia Pass – offering non-stop, unrestricted access to the resort, lifts and the Skitube – plus lift passes to world-class resorts from Japan to Canada. The Epic Australia Pass also entitles you to a range of discounts on equipment rental, ski lessons, food and drinks, accommodation, plus free night-skiing on certain days.
Thredbo is part of the Ikon Pass, which gives you seven days of unlimited access to Thredbo's resort as well as access to more than 50 winter destinations across 11 countries. The Ikon Pass also offers discounts on gear, food and drinks, and tickets for your mates. If you don’t have plans to go abroad, Thredbo has its own passes – look out for flexible lift passes and season passes, and keep in mind, mid-week passes are usually cheaper.
It pays to book your snow trip as soon as you can, to take advantage of early-bird offers. Both the Epic and Ikon passes are cheaper the earlier you buy and you’ll score extra discounts if you buy friend and family passes before the season, too. Thredbo’s early-bird passes offer 35% discounts, and their best-value passes sell out fast, so get in quick to save. Thredbo also offer a 10% discount on group snow school lessons if you book an afternoon class. Perisher will also reward early birds who book in advance, with 35% off on lift tickets, rental and snow lessons. Many hotels in Jindabyne offer early-bird discounts the further ahead you book.
Selwyn Snow Resort, which reopens in 2023 after extensive bushfire damage from 2020, has discounted lift passes if you travel in June or August to October, and early-bird season passes if you book online in advance. Selwyn, just a 30-minute drive from Kiandra, also has the largest tobogganing park in all of Australia, with all-day tobogganing passes available online in advance from just $25 per person – a very affordable option for snow play for kids.
Try cross-country skiing
The Perisher Valley Range is threaded with 58km of marked and back-country touring trails through Kosciuszko National Park's high country. While you need equipment, tenacity and skill for cross-country skiing, you will save money on ski passes and lift rides. Choose from gentler 2.5km and 5km groomed loops or longer, remote trails that venture further into the alpine wilderness. If you’re a novice, sign up to some lessons or a tour with Snowy Mountains Backcountry before embarking on anything on your own. They also offer snowshoe tours, which requires just a one-way chairlift pass from Thredbo.
Catch a lift
A fun and affordable way to experience the scenic beauty of the snow is to ride the scenic gondola to the top of the mountain – usually priced around $65 per person. While Perisher Resort doesn’t offer scenic chairlift rides, Thredbo’s Merritts Gondola takes passengers from Thredbo Village to a base halfway up the mountain in approximately six minutes. From there you’ll have epic views and access to Merritts Mountain House – a European, ski-inspired restaurant and bar.
During winter, Thredbo’s skiers and snowboarders with a lift pass also have access to the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift, a 1.8km-long ride that rises 560 vertical metres. The journey takes 15 minutes one way and offers spectacular valley views as you are lifted to the closest access point to Mount Kosciuszko, as well as Eagles Nest Restaurant, where you can have a meal or hot chocolate at the highest venue in Australia.
Outside of winter, this scenic chairlift is open to the public and visitors can purchase a single lift ticket to see the Snowies’ stunning landscape from up high.
Save on rentals
Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass all have options for hiring ski and snow boarding equipment, but you pay a premium for convenience. Plan ahead and save by dropping into Cooma, a quaint town en route from Sydney and the closest airport town to the snow resorts. There you’ll find a number of shops renting out skis, gear, snowboards and more for a cheaper price. The historical gold rush town also has a thriving local community, check the calendar to see what festivals, markets and events will be on while you’re there.