Planning your trip to the snow

A trip to the snow is a highlight for anyone who loves fresh air, spectacular alpine scenery, skiing or snowboarding, and all the other activities you can do. The snowfields of NSW are located in Kosciuszko National Park, which has been a designated park since 1906. While people have been skiing here since the 1860s, the sport really took off in the 1950s with experienced European skiers arriving to work on the Snowy Scheme.

Today, making a pilgrimage to the snow is a highlight of the winter for thousands. The season opens on the June long weekend and runs until the October long weekend, with the best snow usually in July and August. Look for deals in the shoulder season or early bird deals, to save some money.

People enjoying a day of skiing and snowboarding at Blue Cow ski resort in Perisher, Kosciuszko National Park

Which resort is right for you?

There are four ski resorts in Kosciuszko National Park: Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn (note that Selwyn is closed for the 2021 season as it is being rebuilt with some incredible new offerings).

It is important that you make the right choice when picking a resort. Thredbo and Perisher are world-class resorts catering to everyone with plenty of terrain, excellent facilities and snowsports schools. Perisher is the biggest resort in the Southern Hemisphere, with four resorts linked together – Perisher, Smiggin Holes, Guthega and Blue Cow – giving you a plethora of runs accessed by 47 lifts.

Skiers ringing the Thredbo Community Bell at Australia's Highest Lifted Point

Thredbo has Australia’s only gondola, the longest runs, an established village, the Thredbo Leisure Centre for fun off the slopes, and the fascinating Thredbo Museum. Charlotte Pass is a smaller resort with an intimate feel, making it a great choice for families starting out. It’s also the highest resort in the mountains and is completely snowed in during the season.

Where to stay

The first decision is whether to stay in a town, like Jindabyne or Berridale, or at one of the resorts. A stay in town means you have a wide choice of accommodation, from lodges to inns, homes to holiday parks, as well as a plethora of dining options. You also get to enjoy the beautiful view of the lake. However, you will need to drive into the resorts or Skitube station.

Couple setting out for a fun day of skiing at Perisher in the Snowy Mountains.

A stay in Thredbo, Perisher or Charlotte Pass delivers on-snow accommodation. Thredbo has the biggest range of accommodation, mostly clustered around the village, while Perisher has hotels and a range of lodges dotted around Perisher and Smiggin Holes. Charlotte Pass also has on-snow accommodation, including the historic Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel.

Getting there

There are a number of ways to get to the Snowy Mountains. You can fly into the Snowy Mountains Airport near Cooma or choose to fly into Canberra, around 2hr 30min away. You can hire a car or arrange transfers from both these airports. There are also frequent bus services to the region.

Scenic road trip along Alpine Way, Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains

If you are going to drive, all 2WD vehicles in Kosciuszko National Park must carry snow chains between the months of June and October. All vehicles must pay to enter the park. It is a good idea to purchase a digital annual pass, which allows entry to all the national parks in NSW, from the NPWS website before you arrive. Annual passes are not available for purchase at the park entry gates.

You can drive right into the centre of Thredbo Resort and Perisher, though parking at Perisher is limited. If you’re staying at Perisher or Charlotte Pass, you can also park your car at Bullocks Flat outside Jindabyne and catch the Skitube which runs from, to Perisher Valley and Blue Cow. For Charlotte Pass, take the snowcat from the Skitube terminal at Perisher Valley.

Family enjoying a day of skiing at Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains

Prepare for the slopes

It is important you are wearing the right gear at the snow, so make a checklist before you leave. For beginners, the best option is to hire your skis, boots, snowboards and outer clothing in Cooma or Jindabyne, or at the resort. You don’t need to commit to buying expensive gear and it’s easy to change or adjust things if they are not right.

If you have your own skis or snowboard, have them waxed and double check everything in advance. You will need to buy your own goggles, socks and gloves, and don’t forget a helmet – it’s compulsory for kids and recommended for all. Don’t forget to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, snow boots for walking around off the slopes, a beanie or hat, and plenty of layers.

Other top tips:

  • Take snacks to stick in your ski jacket
  • Remember to drink plenty of water
  • See if you can store skis/boards in a locker rather than your room.
Mini mites skiing in Perisher, Kosciuszko National Park

Having a lesson is highly recommended for all levels, especially for absolute beginners and children. It is also beneficial to have a lesson if you haven’t been on the slopes for a while.

Resorts offer group or private lessons and check to see they offer childcare should you need it. Lessons should be booked in advanced. It is also wise to book other activities before you go, such as snowshoe tours, cross country lessons, backcountry lessons and so on.