Ski resorts have a global reputation as the playground of the wealthy and in Australia our short winter season drives steep prices for on-mountain accommodation, especially if you’re a family of five like us. Moreover the powder can be hit or miss, putting extra pressure on your decision where and when to ski.
One July we had record snowfall at Thredbo, but an August earlier not a single flake and skiing on mud is pretty tricky! Wouldn’t it be great if the average Aussie family could afford to ski the whole season, that way you could pop in and out when all the runs are open?
Down on the farm
Then someone told us about Jindabyne farm stays, just a 25 minute car ride to the NSW ski fields. The gorgeous lakeside town is approximately six hours’ drive from Sydney or Melbourne and boasts accommodation ranging from backpacker motels to plush homesteads.
We chose a modern farmhouse called Bungarra, five minutes from the centre of Jindabyne. It had three bedrooms, a large kitchen, laundry and a drying room. The Jindabyne winter lease (16 weeks) cost us roughly the same as three weeks in quality equivalent accommodation on the mountain.
Bungarra was ultra-family-friendly – even our family pets were welcome – and in between skiing the kids spent hours exploring the stony outcrops on our doorstep with wombat, hare and echidna spotting a family favourite.
Truthfully I was initially nervous about a daily ski field commute with three small kids in tow but we soon had the process perfected. We bought season ski lift passes, which were more economical than weekly ones and gave us other benefits including various resort discounts.
The only catch here is that Perisher and Thredbo are separately run mountains so a season pass only covers one of the resorts. If we chose to meet friends in Perisher we still had to buy daily ski passes for Perisher, on top of our Thredbo season pass.
To save on ski hire we rented skis and helmets in Jindabyne because it was cheaper than on-mountain ski rentals – the downside being that if something goes wrong with your skis it’s a car trip back to Jindabyne instead of a ski run down to the village.
Driving to the snow
The Alpine Way from Jindabyne to Thredbo is clear most of the year, but when big snowfalls hit, chains are required for two-wheel drive cars. For daily road conditions call the RTA roads hotline. Both Thredbo and Perisher are inside Kosciuszko National Park so a park use fee is also payable. It’s $27 for 24 hours or $190 for an annual permit.
If you’re worried about chains and driving in snowy conditions there is another option for Perisher. You can drive to Bullocks Flat Terminal (20 km from Jindabyne) and catch the ski tube to Perisher Valley/Blue Cow. A Skitube pass includes the National Park entry fee and further savings can be made by buying a combined train/mountain pass.
Once that’s sorted you’re clear to hit the slopes. After a hearty farm breakfast we’d put on our ski gear and Après boots for the 25 minute drive to Thredbo. We usually left Jindabyne about 7:30am because the ski traffic can really build up after 8am and snagging a car park close to the lifts is tricky if you arrive with the crowds.
Nothing can ruin the day more than wet ski boots so to make our daily commute easier we bought a cheap rubber doormat and kept it in the car boot. Upon arrival we’d throw it on the snow behind the car so the kids had a warm, dry surface to change out of their Après shoes and into ski boots. We also found a plastic storage container very handy to throw all the wet gear into at the end of the ski day.
On the slopes
In terms of skiing, our three-year-old Charlie loved Thredboland (ski school for kids three to six years/toilet trained) where the highlight is the children’s-only flare run and race day. Our older kids Georgia (10) and Harry (9), are solid skiers so they stayed with us during the mornings. We’d eat lunch together on top of majestic Mt Kosciuszko before they went off to group lessons for the afternoon.
There’s also Thredbo Freeriders for kids seven to 14 years. They can ski, board or even switch mid-week. Our kids also love their snow sports card; the instructors punch a symbol on the card every time your child masters a new ski skill. Thredbo also has a crèche for kids under three.
While on-mountain dining is convenient, it can soon add up for families. Staying in Jindabyne meant we could take advantage of the local supermarket and enjoy meals at the homestead. Like most mums, though, I do like a break from cooking and you couldn’t do better than $6 schnitzel and salad night at the Brumby Bar and Bistro. Across the road at Nuggets Crossing, Sundance Bakery has amazing pies and there’s delicious pizza at Bacco Italian Restaurant (dine in or takeaway).
We thoroughly enjoyed the Jindabyne/Thredbo experience. After skiing all day we’d come home, warm up with hot bath and settle in at sunset to watch our resident mob of kangaroos drop by. It’s truly the best of both worlds!