What do you need to know before heading 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 s 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 perfect 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 of Sydney. From Canberra, it’s about a 3-hour drive, while if you are making the trip from Melbourne it’s 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.
Obviously, the peak time to visit the Snowy Mountains region is winter. The snow resorts typically open on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June and try to stay open until the Labour Day long weekend in October. For the best of the winter conditions (i.e. snow) aim to visit the Snowy Mountains in late July and/or throughout August.
But don’t rule out the Snowy Mountains in the summer months either. The national parks are a great place to explore in the warmer months also.
It’s about a 6-hour drive from Sydney to Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains along the Federal and Monaro Highways.
It snows each winter (between June and September) in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales.
Getting To and From the Snowy Mountains?
Getting to and from the New South Wales snowfields is fairly simple. When making the trip from Sydney, follow the Hume and Federal Highways down to Canberra. From the Australian capital, it’s just a matter of following the Monaro Highway to Cooma and Kosciuszko Road to Jindabyne.
The key thing to keep in mind is that there is not a lot of overtaking opportunities along the Monaro Highway. You will need to be patient and take your time while making the drive down to the Snowy Mountains. It can be particularly slow-moving on Friday afternoons and Sunday nights with the weekend rush to and from the snow resorts. So 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 give you a few more options.
Being able to drive right up to Perisher and Thredbo to park at those resorts will make everything a lot more convenient when it comes to spending time on the snow. Especially carrying your snow gear around. Even just having quick, easy access to spare dry, warm clothes after a big day on the mountain makes a huge difference.
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 their website – 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 making a day trip just by yourself or as a couple, but for longer trips with a full car of friends, it does make a lot more sense.
One thing that the New South Wales Snowy Mountains do offer that I haven’t seen at any other Australian ski resorts (or anywhere else for that matter) 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 perfect alternative if you only have a 2WD car or just generally not confident with your ability to drive on snow-covered/icy roads.
Also, if you typically like to sleep in and start your days on the mountain a bit later than most, parking will be much easier at the SkiTube. The car parks at the resorts fill up early and quickly.
So what is the SkiTube? It is an underground cog train service that will take you from Bullocks Flat. You’ll find the SkiTube car park halfway between Jindabyne and Thredbo along the Alpine Way.
Bullocks Flat is just below the typical snow line and just outside of the entrance to the Kosciuszko National Park, and you don’t need a National Parks Pass to access it. In fact, your National Park entrance fee is included in the SkiTube ticket price.
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 in the Snowy Mountains, you need to buy these passes at least a day in advance.
Where To Stay While Visiting The Snowy Mountains?
When you visit the Snowy Mountains region, you got plenty of options of places to stay depending on your budget and the experience you are looking for.
Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass all offer on snow (also known as ski-in/ski-out) accommodation options in their respective villages. These on snow options definitely have their advantages, especially if getting first lifts is a priority for you. As you can imagine these options book out very quickly, and I find that they are way too expensive.
Personally, I prefer to stay in the town of Jindabyne. A tourist town, it’s well set up with a good variety of different accommodation options from backpacker all the way through to luxury resorts.
Jindabyne is also a good place to base yourself if you would like to explore more of what the Snowy Mountains have to offer and not just the snow resorts. You will also give yourself a good selection of dinner/food options, supermarkets etc… Especially if you are travelling as a group with friends.
Staying in town also allows you to have the option of spending your time at two or three different snow resorts as it is conveniently located at the junction for both Perisher and Thredbo.
A couple of my accommodation recommendations in and around Jindabyne:
- Banjo Paterson Inn – This is a really good option if you are travelling with a small group of friends. The pub downstairs is massively convenient after a full day on the slopes.
- Lake Jindabyne Hotel – A great alternative if Banjo’s is booked out.
- Discovery Parks – Jindabyne – A better option if you are travelling as a family and looking for something a little more self-contained.
- Panorama Jindabyne – Offers more of your typical hotel experience, better suited for a more quiet, relaxing trip.
- Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa – The ultimate luxury experience in the NSW Snowy Mountains.
If you are trying to visit the Snowy Mountains on a budget, then a cheaper alternative is to stay in Cooma.
Cooma is a much bigger township with even more accommodation options than Jindabyne. The major drawback to staying in Cooma however is that it is about an hours drive further away from the biggest snowfields. So while it is typically a bit cheaper to stay in Cooma, and restaurants etc, are all bit cheaper with many more options, it does add an extra two hours worth of driving to your day in 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.
My suggestions for 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 fancier, both Jindabyne and Cooma will have you covered.
That said, I’ve do have a couple of recommendations around 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. All excellent options but tend to get busy in peak season, so book ahead.
Realistically though, there is no shortage of options all within easy walking distance of Nuggets Crossing (the main shopping centre).
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. These could also be an easier option if you are staying in one of the on-snow accommodation options within these resorts.
However, if you’d like to save a bit of money on the rental prices and probably end up with better gear, there are several shops in Jindabyne and Cooma that offer both sales and rentals.
In my experience, ESS Boardstore, Rhythm Snow Sports, and Larry Adler offer the best service, friendly advice and the biggest range of gear.
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 lessons as part of your lift pass purchase, and I would highly recommend that you take up that option if you’ve never snowboarded or skied before.
Let’s be honest; the top of the first chairlift is not the place to work out that you don’t know what you’re doing. That said, I often find myself a little bit rusty on my first couple of runs each year. It takes a couple of runs to get back into the rhythm of it.
To find out more about the lessons on offer visit each resorts website:
What Else Is There To Do In The Snowy Mountains?
I’ve put together another dedicated blog post with a few more suggestion of things that you can do while you are in the Snowy Mountains. Check it out here.
My General Snow Tips:
If it’s your very first time going 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.
Despite what your friends might say, 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 will be the better option for you. 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 to 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 through the Snowy Mountains with a 2WD car during the winter, then you will be 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 ski 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 all that 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 than you would typically use.
Especially if you are learning, you really are going to need a day to recover after 3 or 4 days. You will actually find that it speeds up your learning process as well to allowing yourself time to recover, instead of getting tired and frustrated.
When you are planning your trip, account for that. Especially if you are staying in the mountains for a week or longer. Why not take the opportunity to see some of the other attractions around the Snowy Mountains have to offer? I’ve put together a separate blog post with 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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