What do you need to know before heading to down to the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales? Well, lucky for you I’ve been heading to the snow around Jindabyne for years, so here is my best advice.
A bit of my back story… I learnt to snowboard while living in Canada many (many, many) years ago. Taking the opportunity to head down to the snow is a really good reminder of that experience, even if it’s not quite the same.
At least once a year I dust off the snowboard and make the road trip down to Snowy Mountains in southern NSW and relive some of those memories and create fresh new ones!
Fun fact: I’ve been to almost all the snow resorts on mainland Australia and I’ve snowboarded on three different continents. Am I any good? No. But it is fun.
Here’s a couple of rapid fire questions I often get asked about the Snowy Mountains:
New South Wales has four snow resorts. Perisher, Thredbo, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Snow Fields. Perisher is the latest in terms of lift access and ski-able terrain, while Thredbo has Australia highest ski-lifted point on Australia’s highest mountain Mount Kosciuszko.
For more information about the Snow Resorts, head to their websites below.
Perisher – http://www.perisher.com.au/
Thredbo – http://www.thredbo.com.au/
Charlotte Pass – http://www.charlottepass.com.au/
Selwyn Snow Fields – http://www.selwynsnow.com.au/
The resorts are located near Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains region of the Great Dividing Range, very close to the New South Wales/Victorian Border.
Three of the resorts (Perisher, Thredbo and Charlotte Pass) are located within the Kosciuszko National Park, which is about a 6-hour drive south from Sydney. From Canberra, it’s about a 3-hour drive, while if you are making the trip from Melbourne its about 7-hours.
Selwyn Snow Fields is further north, about 2 hours drive from Jindabyne, located between Tumut and Cooma. However, the driving time from Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne is roughly about the same.
Getting To and From the New South Wales Snowfields?
Getting to and from the New South Wales snowfields is fairly simple. When making the trip from Sydney/Canberra, just follow the Monaro Highway to Cooma and then Kosciuszko Road to Jindabyne.
The key thing to keep in mind is that there is not a lot of overtaking opportunities on the Monaro Highway. Please make sure that you remain patient on the drive, it can be slow particularly on Friday afternoons and Sunday nights with the weekend rush to and from the mountains. So just give yourself plenty of time, and take it easy.
When it comes to getting around the snowfields, having a car with 4WD/AWD capabilities (or a 2WD car with snow chains) will just give you a few more options.
Being able to drive right up to Perisher and Thredbo to park at those resorts does make things a little more convenient when it comes to carrying your gear around. Even just having quick easy access to spare dry warm clothes after a big day on the mountain.
Keep in mind that you will need to buy a National Parks Pass to enter the Kosciuszko National Park, which is where the resorts are located. For more information about the parks pass visit – http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/passes-and-fees.
A National Parks Pass that includes access to the Kosciuszko National Park can be quite expensive if you are just doing a day trip by yourself or as a couple, but for longer trips with a full car it does make a lot more sense.
One thing that the NSW Snowy Mountains do have that other Australian ski resorts don’t is the SkiTube.
Providing access from the bottom of the mountains up to Perisher Village (from which you can continue to Blue Cow resort or take an overland transport over to Charlotte Pass) the SkiTube is a really good alternative if you only have a 2WD car or just generally not confident with your ability to drive on snow-covered/icy roads.
The SkiTube is an underground cog train service that you can access from Bullocks Flatt, which is halfway between Jindabyne and Thredbo along the Alpine Way. It sits just below the typical snow line and you don’t need a National Parks Pass to access it.
As I mentioned before, to access Charlotte Pass you will need to use the overland transport option. Luckily they offer this as part of your lift pass, but unlike the other resorts, you need to buy these at least a day in advance.
Where To Stay While Visiting The New South Wales Snowfields?
You’ve got a few options of places that you can stay when you visit the Snowy Mountains region.
Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass all offer on snow (also known as ski-in/ski-out) accommodation options in their respective villages. These definitely have their advantages, especially if getting first lifts is a priority for you. Although I find these options to be a bit too expensive and also a bit restrictive in terms of exploring more of the region.
Personally I prefer to stay in the town Jindabyne as it has quite a variety of different accommodation options. It’s also a good place to base yourself if you would like to have plenty of variety for non-snow activities, as well as a good selection of dinner/food options, supermarkets etc…
Jindabyne also allows you to have the option of spending your time at two or three different snow resorts conveniently located at the junction for both Perisher and Thredbo.
A couple of recommendations in Jindabyne:
- Banjo Paterson Inn – Is a really good option if you are travelling with a small group of friends and the pub downstairs is massively convenient after a full day on the slopes.
- Lake Jindabyne Hotel – A great alternative in Banjo’s is booked out.
- Discovery Parks – Jindabyne – Better if you are travelling as a family and looking for something a little more self-contained.
- Panorama Jindabyne – Is more of your typical hotel experience, better suited for a more quiet, relaxing trip.
An alternative is to stay in Cooma. It’s a much bigger township with probably even more options than Jindabyne, however, it is an hours drive further away from the biggest snowfields. So while it is typically a bit cheaper to stay in Cooma than it is Jindabyne it does add an extra two hours of driving to your day on the mountains.
That said, it is much closer to Selwyn Snow Fields, and if you are looking to experience the snow for the first time or looking for a cheaper option, then this might be the better choice for you.
The best options in Cooma are:
- Cooma Motor Lodge Motel – Clean, comfortable and centrally located.
- Snow Season Motor Inn – Another good option having recently refurbished its rooms.
What To Do In The Evenings?
After a big day of snowboarding, skiing or even just exploring the Snowy Mountains there is nothing better than chilling out and sharing tales of triumph or showcasing battle scars.
Both Jindabyne and Cooma offer plenty of restaurant and bar options to either relax or kick on depending on how you are feeling.
It really doesn’t matter if you are looking for something simple or a bit more fancy, both Jindabyne and Cooma will have you covered.
That said, I’ve got a couple of recommendations for Jindabyne, in particular:
If you are looking to unwind then your best bet will be either the Banjo Patterson Inn or Lake Jindabyne Hotel. Both offer a decent pub-style menu (offering specials on alternative nights if you are on a budget) with a good selection of beverages and ample opportunity to kick on after if you so desire.
If you are looking for something a little more low-key, and maybe just a decent feed, then I would recommend Mario’s Mineshaft, Thai E Saan and the Beach Burrito Co.
Realistically there is no shortage of options within easy walking distance of Nuggets Crossing (the main shopping center).
Where Do You Get Snow Gear?
If this headline grabbed your interest then the chances are you won’t own your own snow gear. Don’t fret! There are several options for picking up snow gear no matter what you are looking for.
Both Perisher and Thredbo ski resorts have snow gear shops and rentals on site. Honestly, I’d only go to these shops if you are just doing a day trip to the snow, or need emergency repairs for your existing gear. Could also be an easier option if you are staying in one of the resorts.
However if you’d like a bit more variety and the option to save a bit of money on the rental prices, there are several shops in both Jindabyne and Cooma that offer both sales and rentals.
Where To Get Snowboading/Ski Lessons?
Nobody is going to make you get on a ski lift before you are ready. In fact, you really shouldn’t get on a ski lift until you’ve had at least one lesson.
The good news for you is that Selwyn Snow Fields, Perisher and Thredbo all offer lessons to cater for a variety of different levels of skiing and snowboarding experience.
You can easily book in lessons as part of your lift pass purchase and I would highly recommend it if you’ve never snowboarded or skied before.
Let’s be honest, top of the first chairlift is not the place to workout you don’t know what you’re doing. That said, I often find myself to be a bit rusty on my first couple of runs each year, but after the first couple runs, I get back into the rhythm of it.
To find out more about the lessons on offer visit each resorts website:
My General Snow Tips:
If it’s your very first time to the snow: then definitely go get yourself some lessons before attempting a lift.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the top of the mountain is not the place to work out how to ski or snowboard, especially the offloading ramps for the chairlifts.
Your knees and butt will thank me in the long run.
Skiing vs Snowboarding: If it is your first time heading to the snow then you’ve got a decision to make, do you learn to ski or snowboard?
Something you might want to keep in mind is that you can learn the basics of skiing in a day, so if you’re only trying it out for a weekend this might be a better option. But if you really want to enjoy it and get properly proficient in skiing then you’ll need to relearn the proper way to ski in the future.
However, when it comes to snowboarding, it will take you a bit longer learn, realistically it’ll take you about 3 days to get comfortable on a snowboard. But once you’ve got it, there is nothing else to learn, the rest is all practice.
Fitting Snow Chains: Let’s say you are driving to the snowfields with a 2WD car and are required to carry snow chains.
Do yourself a favour, if it looks like it will be a snowy/icy day, fit your chains when you park your car in the morning at the resort. The last thing you want to do in the afternoon after a day on the mountain is to try and fit snow chains in a snow storm. In all honesty, it doesn’t happen often here in Australia, but it does happen and fitting chains after a big day on the mountains can be an arduous task.
Give Yourself a Break: Pro-tip, if you’re planning your first snow trip give yourself an opportunity for a rest day every few days. It doesn’t matter how fit you think you are, snowboarding and skiing use different muscles, and if you are learning you really are going to need a day to recover after 3 or 4 days. It’ll actually speed up your learning process as well to allow yourself to recover.
So just account for that when you are planning your trip. Why not take the opportunity to see some of the other attractions around the Snowy Mountains have to offer? Here are my picks of the best things to see and do in the region.
I hope you have picked up some useful information to help in planning your trip to the New South Wales Snowy Mountains.
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