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Image credit: Mt Hotham

Oz on snow

What’s new on the Australian slopes this year? Bronwen Gora harvests the ski fields picking her family favourites for 2013.

NEW SOUTH WALES


Thredbo
Thredbo is a six hour drive from Sydney and 30 minutes from Jindabyne on The Alpine Way.


The biggest news in Thredbo this year is the expansion of the popular learner's area Friday Flat, by a third. It now offers another ski run called Giddy Up, an undercover magic carpet called the Wonder Carpet and another first-timer area. There's also a raft of deals to make skiing more accessible: if you've never skied, try Thredbo’s new Learn to Ride weeks, which include lessons and rentals ($494 for adults and $276 for kids, June 17 - 21 and September 16 - 20). Kids ski free on four selected weekends this year, too. There are new passes that allow skiing for five out of seven days and more, instead of requiring you ski five days straight. MyThredbo pass holders are also entitled to new savings, and as if that’s not enough, buying a five-day + multi-day pass now includes access to the Thredbo Leisure Centre.


Perisher
Perisher is a six hour drive from Sydney and best to reach via the Ski Tube a few minutes along The Alpine Way.


If your kids are itching to learn cool tricks and master ‘getting air’, sign them up for the new Kids’ Progression Sessions. It takes intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders aged seven to 12 to exciting places on the mountain and teaches them all the moves they see in ski movies. There’s also now a mini halfpipe near the mid station of the Front Valley quad chairlift so beginners can learn the fundamentals before heading to the Front Valley pipe. A new addition to Perisher’s kids’ adventure zones is the ‘snowflake factory’, an area posted with signs explaining how snow, both natural and man-made, is created. Other adventure areas have been upgraded, including the ski-cology info in the Club House, and more animal cut-outs in the Magic Forest near Happy Valley T-bar.


Charlotte Pass
Charlotte Pass is the closest resort to Mt Kosciusko is reached by taking the Ski Tube (mountain train) on the Alpine Way to Perisher and an 8km snowcat trip to Charlotte Pass.


This pretty little resort has always been a favourite for families: it’s so small and user-friendly that mum and dad can virtually watch the kids play from their lodge’s window. This year, Charlotte Pass has added a half-day $60 option to the $110 all-day Kosi Kids’ Club, a program for three to eight year olds that offers indoor games, activities, hot lunch and two ski lessons. There are snowshoe tours with lunch too, and the family can also take hour-long tours inside a groomer, learning what it takes to groom the runs.


Selwyn Snowfields
Selwyn Snowfields take the turnoff just after Cooma to Adaminaby from where it's 40 minutes to the slopes.


A gentle ski field geared to beginners, Selwyn offers a special family package that works like this: if an adult buys a mid-week lift ticket, or lift and hire package, they receive the same package for one child for free. So if mum and dad buy mid-week deals they receive the same for the offspring. Also, ski lessons in June are free when you buy a valid lift pass. No kidding!

VICTORIA


Falls Creek
Falls Creek is about 4.5 hour drive from Melbourne, a day's drive from Sydney and just under two hours from Albury airport.


The new Junior Workshop Program is a great place to leave your kids for the morning – and have them taken care of for lunch too. They’ll be fed after being tutored and taken all over the mountain in a fun program that teaches them all the skills they need to tackle the entire hill.


Mount Hotham
Mount Hotham is a 2.5 hour drive from Melbourne but just 20 minutes from its very own airport, making it the most accessible ski field in the country.


Hotham has taken the leap and invested in a fully automated ticketing system starting this season. This means you can use Hotham’s online eStore to upload your lift tickets, hire your gear and book lessons on your ipad, computer or phone so that the minute you arrive the whole family can be issued with Snowpasses and hit the slopes without hesitation. Go to hotham.com.au/estore. Another streamlining factor is the new electronic scanners now on four of the resort’s key lifts to make lift lines go faster. What’s more, Hotham is the only place in Australasia where you can go dog sledding, the kids can go snowmobiling, and there is free snowcat skiing.

Mt Buller
Mount Buller is about three hour drive north-east of Melbourne (but closer to Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport than Hotham).


The popular Wombat Chairlift has undergone a $500,000 upgrade, adding radio frequency id gates and a new drive, both of which will boost capacity by 30 per cent. This will make a huge difference to the area which tends to get super crowded particularly on weekends. As far as deals go, a greater range of lodges are offering kids-stay-free in June and September (i.e. early and late season). Children’s pricing for lift tickets is eligible all the way up to students in Year 12, instead of cutting off at 15 years like most other resorts. If your family needs hire gear, Buller rentals has a far quicker system this season, and the old YHA has been knocked down and replaced by Buller Central which offers a café plus mid-range hotel accommodation including affordable family rooms.

More Feature Stories

The buzz on Mt Buller

There’s always something new at Mt Buller and plenty of favourites to bring families back year after year.

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The snow show

Our round up of all the best accomodation in Perisher, Thredbo, Falls Creek and Mt Buller.

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