The Be a Fun Mum Guide to the Australian Ski Fields
I’m tempted to start this off by singing an entire rendition of, “Do you want to build a snowman?” from Disney’s Frozen. But I won’t.
Snow. Being a Queenslander, snow holds a magical storybook quality for me, and I think many Australians feel the same. Taking my kids to the snow for the first time was a special experience and in my opinion, a must for the bucket list.
Once you start looking into a family snow holiday, there’s a lot of different options and added costs and it can be quite overwhelming. Expedia Aussie travellers usually spend 4 nights in the Snowy Mountains. The school holidays are definitely peak periods to travel, so make sure you book your trip well in advance.
I’ve boiled it down into the main areas to take into account when planning a family ski holiday.
Where to stay and play
First thing to consider is where to stay. This really depends on your budget, age of children and ability levels. Below are the main options for a snow experience in New South Wales:
- Charlotte Pass – More intimate than the larger resorts, Charlotte Pass is open to a limited number of guests so skiers are guaranteed short lift lines. There are both beginner and advanced level runs.
- Selwyn Snowfields – This family operated resort is fantastic for first timers. Activities include ski runs, tobogganing, snow play, snowboarding, snow tubing, just to name a few. There’s a café and hire gear available on-snow, however no accommodation is available so this needs to be sourced in the surrounding towns.
- Thredbo – Thredbo has a lot to offer in terms of skiing slopes and other snow fun, from snow play for kids to tobogganing. There’s also an indoor leisure centre with a 50-metre pool, gym and child care centre.
- Perisher – Perisher and its surrounding villages make up the largest alpine resort in the southern hemisphere, so if you’re looking for everything in one place, it’s a great option. The five terrain parks are varied so all ability levels are catered for.
- Jindabyne and Kosciusko National Park – These areas are popular spots to stay outside the main ski resorts. It’s the more affordable option and you can make the trip to a ski resort each day by car in under an hour
We enjoyed Perisher last time we visited the Australian ski fields. There was plenty of beautiful snow coverage and it was a great experience for our children, then aged from 4-10. Tobogganing and building a snowman were the highlights.
Can you do a family snow holiday on a budget?
A snow holiday can be done on a budget with some careful planning and a little compromise. We did a short budget snow holiday when our kids were young and below are my top three tips:
- Find accommodation outside of the direct snow region. Jindabyne is popular. You may need to allocate half an hour or so to get to the snow, so bring thermal mugs and enjoy the trip early in the mornings with a hot drink.
- Plan in advance so you can find cheap snow jackets, pants and gloves at second hand stores, or for good prices at the end of the snow season at places like ALDI and Kathmandu. This will save you money on hire gear.
- Pack your own food. Snacks and fruit are a good idea, and bring money for a cup of hot chocolate. If your accommodation is self-contained, a slow cooker is fabulous. Make room for it! Plan easy meals you can throw into the slow cooker in the morning before you leave and have a yummy warm cooked dinner waiting for you after a day in the snow.
- Two wheel drive cars will require wheel chains (you can hire them). Four-wheel-drive vehicles are exempt.
- A permit is required to enter the national park area. You can book online and costs vary around the $27 mark.
- If you’re staying at Jindabyne, you can catch the Skitube train out to Perisher.
What to bring
If you’re enjoying most days in the snow, you actually don’t need much outside of your snow gear.
- Sunglasses / Snow goggles
- Waterproof ski jacket (or equivalent)
- Waterproof ski pants (or equivalent)
- Waterproof boots
- Waterproof gloves
- Plenty of thick socks
- Clothes for under snow gear. It can be surprisingly warm with proper snow gear on; long sleeve pants and a light long sleeve shirt will do the trick.
- Warm pyjamas/lounge wear
- Something warm and comfortable for going out to lunch or dinner. For example, jeans, top and jacket.
What to hire
You can hire all your snow clothing gear if desired, and then depending on what activities you choose, you’ll also need:
- Helmet (compulsory for most snow sports)
- Locker – this makes it easier to store your camera, day bag and anything else you may need. Highly recommend.
- Book as much as you can before your trip, including accommodation, gear, national park permits, ski lessons and lift passes so you can enjoy every minute in the snow.
- Allow time for changing into snow gear, especially for younger kids.
- If it’s your first time at the snow, consider doing a 2 day trip and round it into a longer holiday by staying in Canberra which has many family friendly activities.
- Your mobile battery may be sapped of life more quickly in the cold so a portable charger is helpful.
- Being in the snow provides a fabulous opportunity to grab a family snap to use for the annual Christmas card.
Snow Activity Ideas
- Snow play
- Build a snowman
- Make a snow angel
- Snow tubing
- Scenic chair lift rides
- Groomer tour
- Snowball fight
- Enjoy a hot chocolate (or a gluhwein, an alcoholic beverage that’s essentially warm, spiced red wine)
- Bring a few small plastic figurines toys to play with in the snow. Maybe an Olaf!
- Print winter related colouring in pages and bring drawing materials
How to Build a Snowman
Building a snowman is a MUST activity for your family’s first time at the snow. One afternoon in Perisher, we noticed many families building snowmen together by scraping balls together with their gloved hands. This can take a surprisingly long time and it’s tricky to get that snowman ball shape. My husband lived in Minnesota in the USA (which experiences months of snow each year) and learned a technique for building a big snowman.
- Find an area of fresh snow, deep enough (about 15 cm or so), to roll the snowballs for the snowman. Moist snow works best. Much like building a sand castle, it needs to be moist, but not too dry or too wet.
- Compact a snowball, about the size of a large grapefruit.
- Then start the base of the snowman by gently rolling the snowball over the fresh snow. It’s amazing how fast it picks up the snow, and grows in size. Change the direction of the rolling action every so often, or the ball will start looking like a big hale bale instead of a round shape.
- When the size of the first ball is big enough, roll it to the site where you want to build the rest of your snowman.
- Repeat the process for the other snowballs, making each one a little smaller than the last. Place gently on top of each other. A stack of three snowballs is a timeless classic.
- Now, all that’s left to do is decorate the snowman. We used fallen branches from gum trees for the arms, sunglasses for the eyes, a stick for the nose and a drawn in mouth.
Our kids enjoyed making mini snowmen too!
A snow holiday is a magical experience and our kids still remembers it years on. It’s a holiday you need to plan well for, but it’s well worth the effort.
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