The beginner’s guide to skiing down under

People don’t usually associate the southern hemisphere with skiing. A lot of people come to Australia or New Zealand for a holiday, but only few come to go skiing. Although different from Europe, Canada or America, Oceania offers some excellent skiing. If you happen to be here in winter, why not make a detour to a ski field.

Looking out over the mountains surrounding Coronet Peak

Looking out over the mountains surrounding Coronet Peak

Skiing in Australia or New Zealand differs from season to season and you can expect rainy days on the slopes as well. Since the temperatures are not always below zero during the day, the snow will get quite soft and freeze again overnight, causing some icy mornings, followed by slushy afternoons. The runs here go from green, to blue, to black (easy to difficult). When there is snowfall, the days are epic, with everybody getting excited and this vibe is contagious. Expect to see smaller resorts, expensive tickets, different scenery, shorter runs, variable snow conditions, but most of all a lot of fun.

Australia’s ski fields are spread out over the Southern Alps in Victoria and New South Wales, with a few in Tazzie as well. Located in the Kosciuszko national park lie the biggest resorts in NSW; Perisher and Thredbo. Both can be accessed via the town of Jindabyne, which is a good base if you’d like to explore both. The opinion of locals is divided, but most will have a favorite between the two. Expect to ski amongst the gum trees and enjoy the ride through the beautiful national park.

I spent two seasons up in Jindabyne, working in Thredbo and had an amazing time. Thredbo has a good variety of runs, ranging from beginner to black. When it snows, the black bowls and tree runs are truly amazing. Personally, I love skiing up at Antons and Sponars T-bars when the snow is good. The terrain can be called dark blue and gives you wide slopes to race down from. Thredbo’s also got some cool events during the season, so it’s worth checking out the calendar.

In New Zealand you can choose between the north and south island. Staying down south, you can find the major resorts around Queenstown and Wanaka. Wanaka’s got Treble Cone and Cardrona, where Queenstown’s got the Remarkables and Coronet Peak. There is transport to all four mountains from Queenstown. Smaller resorts are scattered around the country, so skiing is a must-do on a winter holiday.

I stayed in Queenstown and tasted the different vibes of Coronet and the Remarks. The Remarkables are a good option for those of you who’d like to get into the park. There are several different levels underneath the Sugar Bowl chair. When the snow is fresh there is also a lot of off piste for the more advanced skiers. Good hiking and powder opportunities here. The road up is treacherous, but the views amazing.

Coronet Peak has a different feel to the mountain. From here you can see the Remarkables and you look out over Queenstown and the surrounding mountains. There is less park and more downhill. When all the terrain is covered, it is a natural playground. The longest run, the M1, is fun and has a lot of other runs going off it. It’s also one of the runs that is illuminated every Friday and Saturday night at night skiing.

They say that if you can to ski in Australia or New Zealand, you can ski anywhere. This has much to do with the ever-changing conditions. It’s much warmer here than you might expect from a ski resort, but this has its upside as well. The roads going to the resorts are mostly clear. Spring skiing is amazing and afterwards you go down to the towns and enjoy a barbecue at the lake. And last but not least, you’re not freezing in the chairlift!

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