As snow enthusiasts get ready for a bumper ski season in Australia and New Zealand, we did the legwork and found the best ski resorts across both countries, for a family-friendly bunny hop or some seriously challenging terrain.
The slopes: Thredbo is the most stylish of all the ski resorts in the Antipodes, with its Tyrolean-modelled ski village set among unmistakably Australian snow gums. It also boasts the longest ski run, steepest terrain in the country and the highest lifted point in Australia. Want to go even higher? Book a back-country ski tour beyond Thredbo’s borders to reach Australia’s tallest peak, Mount Kosciuszko. While there’s enough backcountry and steep terrain at Thredbo to keep advanced riders happy, there’s also an entirely separate beginners’ section of the mountain (Friday Flat) that’s ideal for families.
Where to warm up: Try an alpine cocktail in The Denman Hotel’s elegant Apres Bar. The property’s restaurant, Terrace, serves hearty comfort food (steaks, spaghetti, tiramisu) if you need a feast that sticks to your ribs.
How to get there: Fly direct to Cooma (Snowy Mountains) from Brisbane or Sydney. Thredbo is a one-hour drive from the airport.
Image credit: Perisher/Destination NSW
The slopes: With 1214 hectares of ski area (the most of any resort in Australia), four separate ski resorts and an underground railway to transport snow bunnies around the slopes, Perisher always goes big. There are seven peaks, five terrain parks, a half-pipe and plenty of cross-country trails, most of which are best suited to intermediate skiers, though there are ample runs for beginners and pros, too.
Where to warm up: The aptly-named The Man From Snowy River Hotel has all your bases covered: cocktails by the fire, nourishing mains like lamb rump and indulgent desserts.
How to get there: Fly direct to Cooma (Snowy Mountains) from Brisbane or Sydney. Perisher is a one-hour drive from the airport.
Charlotte Pass, NSW
The slopes: Although it’s close to Perisher, getting to Charlotte Pass is an adventure in itself: the only way in during the winter months is via an incredibly scenic trip on Oversnow Transport. The resort itself is the highest in Australia (1765 metres, in fact) and experiences consistent snowfall, so its 19 runs are generally open all season long.
Where to warm up: Whether you’re in the mood for a hot chocolate or a powerful cocktail, a drink post-snow at Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel will soothe the soul – and it’s right on the mountain if you feel the get-up-and-go for one more run.
How to get there: Fly direct to Cooma (Snowy Mountains) from Brisbane or Sydney. Charlotte Pass is a 1 hour, 10 minute drive from the airport.
Falls Creek, Victoria
The slopes: Falls Creek’s biggest drawcard is its stunning ski-in, ski-out village, meaning you can get from your room to the slopes in a matter of minutes. You’ll find seven separate ski resorts with 90 runs, most suited to intermediate skiers but with some steep black runs if you want to test your skills. On Wednesday and Saturday nights, Wombat’s Ramble – a beginner-friendly run – is illuminated until 9pm so you can push on after the sun sets.
Where to warm up: SomePlace Else has a crackling fire and a cocktail list that’ll put a spring in your step, from the caffeinated classic Espresso Martini to a party-starting Margarita.
How to get there: Fly direct to Albury from Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. Falls Creek is a two-hour drive from the airport.
The slopes: Yes, there is a mountain in Australia with terrain as challenging as that of the Rockies in North America. Hotham is without doubt the best set of slopes for advanced skiers and snowboarders in Australia. WIth 40 per cent of the mountain designated as “advanced”, Hotham’s off piste terrain is the stuff of legend and a free snowmobile service takes riders beyond 320 hectares of groomed terrain and into Australia’s best tree-skiing area. It’s also home to one of the most extensive learn-to-ski programs around (as well as tuition for intermediate and advanced skiers) and a designated beginners’ ski slope at the summit.
Where to warm up: Hotham is the gourmet capital of the Australian ski fields – no surprise considering it’s in north-east Victoria’s renowned food and wine region. For every après-ski bar serving happy hour drink specials, such as Arlberg Bar & Bistro, there’s a restaurant serving great food, such as the gourmet pizzas at Alphutte in nearby Dinner Plain.
How to get there: Fly direct to Albury from Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne, then drive 2.5 hours to Hotham.
Mount Buller, Victoria
The slopes: In addition to more than 80 runs, there’s plenty to do besides ski at Mount Buller: three terrain parks with a variety of jumps and rails; two tobogganing tracks; and a spa for soothing tired muscles. Most of the resort is given over to intermediate and advanced terrain but there are a few gentle green runs if you’re new to the snow; wide Bourke Street is the most popular.
Where to warm up: Black Cockatoo’s menu focuses on classics with a kick: sous vide lamb with baba ghanoush and heirloom carrots, or spinach and ricotta gnocchi with a burnt-butter sauce.
How to get there: Fly direct to Albury from Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne, then drive 2.5 hours to Mount Buller
The Remarkables, South Island
The slopes: Imagine a sun-drenched ski resort nestled in one of the world’s most photographed mountain ranges, accessible only by a dirt road on the edge of a kilometre-high drop to the famous ski town of Queenstown. The Remarkables ski field is certainly picturesque, but it also offers both easy slopes and terrain for experts hiking beyond the top of the chairlifts. “The Remarks” (as the locals call it) is known for family-friendly skiing but there’s plenty for advanced skiers, too. As well as having some of the best jumps in Australasia, this is the Southern Hemisphere’s only ski field offering The Stash, a terrain obstacle course of rock walls, cliff drops and log jibs designed by snowboarding company Burton.
Where to warm up: Get lost in the laneways of bars and restaurants in the heart of Queenstown: Barmuda and Bardeaux have roaring fireplaces and cosy lounges to curl up in.
How to get there: Fly direct to Queenstown. The Remarkables are a half-hour drive from town.
Treble Cone, South Island
The slopes: Just getting up Treble Cone is an exercise in Southern Alps adventuring but it’s worth the steep drive, for this is New Zealand’s best and most underrated ski mountain. The South Island’s largest ski area flies under the radar of most Australians as it’s a two-hour drive from Queenstown but base yourself in Wanaka and Treble Cone is just a 35-minute drive through picturesque alpine country. Only 10 per cent of the mountain is designated for beginners but intermediates and experts can carve the best side-country skiing in the Southern Hemisphere. The groomed runs are steeper at Treble Cone than most resorts, though it’s the off-piste terrain that lures powder hounds.
Where to warm up: Bistro Gentil serves up modern French cuisine overlooking the lake, or cosy up inside an old Morris Minor at classic movie house Cinema Paradiso.
How to get there: Fly direct to Queenstown. Treble Cone is around two hours from Queenstown.
Mount Hutt, South Island
The slopes: Mount Hutt is just a 90-minute drive from Christchurch and no ski mountain on the South Island catches more snow. With its treeless bowls and off-piste terrain, it’s one of the best places to be on a powder day. Every level of skier is provided for, from first-timers to experts refining their skills at the Black Diamond clinics. There are five freestyle parks, too, and heli-skiing if you want to go above and beyond.
Where to warm up: The Blue Pub in nearby Methven is a laid-back spot to unwind, with live music and the must-try Blue Pub Bangers – local beef sausages with mash and lashings of onion gravy.
How to get there: Fly direct to Christchurch, then drive two hours to Mount Hutt.
Hanmer Springs, Canterbury, South Island
The slopes: It may not be as flashy as some of its South Island ski area counterparts but Hanmer Springs, about two hours from Christchurch, is known for less-crowded runs, friendly staff and affordable tickets. There are 52 hectares of skiable terrain, more than half of which is best suited for intermediate skiers, and its season usually kicks off in late July.
Where to warm up: The Hanmer Springs Alpine Thermal Resort, in the nearby town of the same name, is ideal for soaking ski-sore limbs. Book a private pool and a revitalising massage in the spa.
How to get there: Fly direct to Christchurch, then drive around an hour and 45 minutes north to Hanmer Springs.
Coronet Peak, South Island
The slopes: Almost every run at Coronet Peak comes with incredible views of nearby Queenstown so just make sure you keep your eyes on the slope ahead of you. The family-friendly fields are only a 20-minute drive from town, which makes it an extremely popular spot but there’s plenty of space and time to spread out, with First Tracks starting at 8am and Night Skiing until 9pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and some Saturdays.
Where to warm up: Head back down to ground level and try to score a table at Little Blackwood on the Lake Wakatipu foreshore. It specialises in varieties of espresso martinis, has a NZ-focused wine list and, during winter, serves a very soothing mulled wine.
How to get there: Fly direct to Queenstown – the slopes are just a 20-minute drive away.
Cardrona, South Island
The slopes: The Crown Range’s friendly slopes are a favourite among first-timers but are well-suited to skilled skiers with half of its 400 hectares classified for advanced riders. It’s nestled between Queenstown and Wanaka so you can base yourself in either spot – or even at the on-mountain accommodation.
Where to warm up: The Cardrona Hotel, one of the oldest in the country, is at the foot of the mountain – stop to refuel with a feast of Cardona lamb rump.
How to get there: Fly direct to Queenstown, then drive an hour to Cardrona.
Mount Ruapehu, North Island
Image credit: Image credit: Dominco Zapata
The slopes: Fancy a truly unique ski experience, like zooming down the side of a dormant volcano? Then head to Mount Ruapehu, in the World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park near Taupo. Its three ski areas (Tuora, Tukino and Whakapapa) offer different thrills; Whakapapa is best known for offering experienced snowboarders and skiers the chance to follow the paths of old lava flows. Plus, you’ll get great views – the mountain is the highest on the North Island.
Where to warm up: Pair your apres-ski drinks with a serious view at the Knoll Ridge Chalet, where slanted floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel like you’re sitting on the mountain itself.
How to get there: Fly direct to Auckland, then make your way south to Mount Ruapehu by car.
Top image credit: Andrew Railton/Mt Buller
This piece was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.