The ultimate guide for the ski season

Atop the ski slope overlooking the snow covered hills of Perisher Ski Resort, New South Wales. Picture: Shutterstock.
Atop the ski slope overlooking the snow covered hills of Perisher Ski Resort, New South Wales. Picture: Shutterstock.

Given the disruptions of the last two years, it's no surprise that there hasn't been much in the way of big-ticket investments, with resort operators opting for low-key returns to the space. But with already intense demand for accommodation it will pay to make your move now for a snow holiday. Here's the best of what Australia and New Zealand have to offer.

New South Wales

In skiing and snowboarding, it often comes down to the turns. In the case of NSW's premier winter playgrounds that means the ones you make on the road as much as those on the slopes. The battle lines for your winter dollar are drawn where the Alpine Way meets Kosciuszko Road at the mountain feeder town of Jindabyne.

Hook a left on the former and you'll be on your way to Thredbo. Supporting less than 500 full-time residents, the ski town transmorphs in winter to a bustling village of more than 4000 people in its neatly laid out centre. It's a natural beauty; the ski runs cut amongst the trees and two bases giving it a more ambient, international feel than any other resort in Australia.

Continue along the Kosciuszko Road and you'll wind your way up to Perisher. The Vail-owned behemoth combines what was once four separate ski areas into the southern hemisphere's biggest resort with 47 lifts accessing more than 1200 hectares of terrain. Available under the Epic Pass, Perisher makes a pretty compelling case for those who want to also ride Hotham or Falls Creek as well as one of the Vail Group's multitude of Northern Hemisphere resorts.

Sneaky tip: After the devastating bushfires of 2019, Selwyn Snowfields is set to re-open in 2022. At the time of writing, Selwyn hadn't released its pricing, but in its previous incarnations, it has always had the edge on its competitors. Best suited to beginners and lower intermediates, Selwyn is a smart option for those new to the sport.

Victoria

From city access to the steeps and a superb family village - the diversity of Victoria's three key alpine resorts has always been a central part of the southern state's appeal for a winter holiday.

Just three hours from Melbourne, Mt Buller ticks the box for day-trippers with extensive facilities, diverse accommodation and dining options in the village and a surprisingly eclectic range of terrain. While certainly slimmer on the white stuff, the resort has expanded its use of Snow Factory technology in 2022, pumping out the powder in key areas in virtually any conditions.

The cute village and ski-in, ski-out vibe of Falls Creek make it a big hit with families who want convenience and a good choice of on-mountain dining. Mt Hotham is a far wilder animal. With most of the facilities set at the top of the hill, it can be an interesting ride in if the weather is bad; but the pay-off comes with some of the best terrain and, when on, conditions in the country.

Sneaky tip: Dinner Plain. 'Feeder towns' to Australian ski resorts offer better value than the on-mountain experience and are fantastic options for those who can't run to the often prohibitive expense of staying on-hill.

New Zealand

After what has effectively been two seasons without access to Kiwi resorts, our cousins across the ditch are expected to be catering for an influx of Aussies this winter. Already regarded as a safe destination after its handling of Covid, the timing for a snow holiday in NZ couldn't be much better.

Much of the action happens around two towns, a little more than an hour apart. Queenstown is the hyperactive kid who struggles to switch off; a partier's playground with nightclubs, pubs and restaurants aplenty. Oh, and it also houses a couple of ski resorts in Coronet Peak and the Remarkables.

Wanaka is a little more laid-back. Also with two ski areas that have wildly different reputations. While Treble Cone is the untamed beast with gnarly powder lines and chutes, Cardrona is the place of a much gentler pace. Its mellower terrain and highly regarded snow sports school make it a fantastic resort to learn skiing or snowboarding and its terrain parks and halfpipes are the best in the southern hemisphere.

Elsewhere, the Canterbury district around Christchurch supports a couple of commercial resorts in Mt Hutt and Porters. Decidedly more chilled than their southern brethren, they both offer excellent riding on their day.

Sneaky tip: For something different try the Kiwi club fields smattered across the South Island. Facilities are rudimentary but offer a soulful return to skiing's roots.