Go off-piste to find six Snowy Mountains experiences that will thrill you. Mountain high guaranteed.
Best time: June to September
Deep in Perisher back country, crooked snow gums twist out of the high snowdrifts, their gnarled limbs reaching for the sky. Though they’re stripped of leaves in winter, the dusting of snow on their branches makes them a sight to behold – one you wouldn’t have time to appreciate if you were whizzing past on skis. Tour company K7 Adventures runs guided snowshoeing trips throughout southern NSW’s Snowy Mountains. Specially designed footwear stops trekkers from sinking into the snow as they cross vast expanses of white powder. Half-day journeys travel through barren alpine country peppered with rock tors, which look like crystal under the snow and ice. On a full-day hike, snowshoers can scale Mount Kosciuszko, where they’re rewarded with clear blue skies and an incredible view. There’s only one trick to it – don’t walk backwards.
Best time: October to December
Australians have long been fascinated by the Snowy Mountains’ “wild bush horses” – no doubt you learned the first stanza of Banjo Paterson’s famous poem at school – and while only some of the residents at Thredbo Valley Horse Riding have brumby blood, all are sure-footed in the tricky terrain. As you weave through the mountains on bush trails atop sweet-natured Mimosa or cheeky Strawberry, you’ll be experiencing country where incredible horsemen and women are made. Rides can be done privately or in groups and range from one hour to half a day. There’s more than 1100 hectares of rugged sub-alpine wilderness to explore, including the heights of Crackenback Ridge, where you can gaze out at the striking peaks and valleys that stretch all the way to the horizon.
Best time: September to December
What better way to get to know the river that gives the region its name than by charging down its rapids on an inflatable red kayak? Alpine River Adventures hosts one- to 10-day whitewater rafting journeys on the rushing waters of the Snowy, Upper Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers. As you skim across the waves in your individual kayak, your guide will offer insights into the traditions and history of the Aboriginal people who call the region home. Temperatures can drop below zero in winter but there’s a greater chance of seeing the animals that nest and feed along the rivers in July and August, including male platypuses, which can be spotted establishing their territory prior to mating season.
Best time: November to January
Cover more ground than you could on two feet by hopping on two wheels to explore the dense bushland that wraps the slopes of the Snowies. More than 25 kilometres of tracks are accessible from Lake Crackenback Resort and you don’t need to be a guest. The trails wind through a rugged 60 hectares, along the Thredbo River and Lake Crackenback. You can tackle the trails solo using your own bicycle but the resort hires out bikes and e-bikes and also offers tours for all levels. For a memorable mountain ride, join a Kosciuszko Sunset Tour where you’ll sip schnapps as you watch the sun dip behind the peaks of the Snowies. But first, you’ll need to put in the pedal power. From Charlotte Pass, you’ll ride an e-bike to Rawson Pass (elevation 2120 metres) then scale Mount Kosciuszko on foot for drinks with a view.
Best time: April to May
After a busy day on the bush trails, your aching muscles will appreciate a warm bath. Instead of secluding yourself in a hotel room, venture out into the chill to have a soak in the thermal pool – naturally heated to 27°C – at Kosciuszko National Park’s Yarrangobilly area. In winter, you might have to brave temperatures as low as -5°C as you trek the 700 metres through fragrant eucalyptus forest to reach the 20-metre pool. But the opportunity to watch the snow sprinkle around you while you’re immersed in the toasty emerald-green pool is worth it. Originally a warm-water creek, it was turned into a proper swimming spot at the tail end of the 19th century. Since then, it’s been further upgraded with the installation of changing rooms, bathrooms and drinking water facilities.
Bet time: June to September
The Lagotto Romagnolo dogs at Macenmist Black Truffles and Wines might look cute but they have a very important job to do. Seven-year-old Fahren and two-year-old Tawdiffu have been through extensive training to learn how to sniff out the nubs of black Périgord truffle that grow on tree roots around the property in Bredbo, 100 kilometres from Jindabyne. The dogs’ noses are so attuned to the fungus, they can even find truffles buried under thick snow. Foraging takes place in the chilly winter months, when the truffles are ripe. Luckily, the Snowy Mountains’ season is longer than most, lasting from the first frosts in June until the September thaw. Join a morning hunt at Macenmist and you’ll see the extensive process each truffle goes through, from discovery to extraction, cleaning and grading. Then you can enjoy the finished product, grated into a soul-warming soup.
Where to stay in the Snowies
Pender Lea Alpine Guest Accommodation
The cabins and cottages at this sprawling Crackenback property have a Swiss-chalet vibe and sleep up to 13 – perfect if you’re travelling with a large crew. Each one has a fully equipped kitchen but if you want the night off, the resort will organise in-room dining.
The 16 two-bedroom cabins at this eco-certified resort have underfloor heating, heated drying racks for ski gear and a self-contained kitchen. Lodgings are scattered over the 16-hectare property, which is located on the Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo.
Thredbo Alpine Hotel
Close to the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift at Thredbo village, this cosy retreat is ideal after a busy day spent exploring the mountains. The wood-panelled rooms are neatly appointed and the hotel has several restaurants, room service, a sauna and an outdoor pool and spa.
Top image: Steve Maxwel