Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Skiing in NSW, Australia - Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Mt Selwyn.

ThredboUPDATED: July 2016 

'Winter is here!'  Australia may not be the first place people think of when it comes to snow but the last two years' ski seasons were fantastic. This year only needs to be half as good to be stunning.

Lots of Australians head overseas each year to ski in America and Europe giving up a chunk of summer in search of snow, ice and wintery weather. Hey guys, I've got news for you - it snows in Australia too.


For the past three decades, give or take a couple of years, David and I have packed up the family and headed to the New South Wales Snowy Mountains for a week or two each winter, looking for our own dose of teeth chatteringly cold weather. Back in the bad old days, before the invention of snow-making, it was something of a hit and miss affair. Some years were great and some years we packed the bikes and tennis racquets. Snowmaking has changed all that. Now, even in years when mother nature refuses to co-operate, there is always a good blanket of ski-able powder to wake up to in the mornings.

Perisher
A stunning day at Perisher


The NSW ski fields consist of four resorts; Thredbo, Perisher Blue, Charlotte Pass and Mt Selwyn. For anyone contemplating a snow holiday, I've put together a few tips on which to choose. I hope you find them useful.

Thredbo


Thredbo has the highest lifted point and the longest runs in Australia, with 5.9 km of uninterrupted downhill skiing from the top of Karels T-bar to the bottom of Friday Flat. There is no shortage of challenging slopes. Thredbo has the steepest, most difficult terrain of all the resorts and, on the first few runs of the day, that famous Thredbo ice. If you are planning to tackle the harder runs on Crackenback Mountain early in the day, sharpen your edges first.


Beginners and intermediates haven't been forgotten. Friday Flat is a purpose built area for beginners. Once you have your ski legs there is a great set of easy/intermediate trails serviced by the Cruiser chair higher up on the mountain.

The Cruiser Trails are my favourites, easy enough to enjoy and usually with some of the best snow. They get a bit crowded around 10 a.m. when the lesson groups arrive and again in the early afternoon but they're almost deserted at lunch time and late in the afternoon. By 4 p.m it is not unusual to feel like you have the mountain to yourself, especially if you stay to the far right-hand side after getting off the lift. Here the Valley View and Ballroom trails are marked on the maps as blue (intermediate) but they are great runs and not at all difficult.

Do yourself a favour if you are a beginner or early intermediate; don't try to ski back down from Cruiser via High Noon. Either take the traverse to the village or catch the chair down. High Noon can get steep and icy and it attracts crowds of testosterone-fuelled snowboarders who go much too fast.

The Village -


Built in the style of a European alpine village, with its large number of restaurants and bars Thredbo is the place to be if you want to party into the night. The accommodation varies from hotel rooms to apartments and lodges and there is plenty of day and overnight parking. Much of the accommodation is within easy walk of the main lift terminals but for the rest there are several free shuttle bus routes around the village. Plenty of properties offer ski-in/ski out accommodation.

As well as skiing and boarding, Thredbo offers limited night skiing, snow-shoeing and cross-country trails.

Thredbo Village
Looking out from our lodge at Thredbo village.

Lift Prices - 

  • 1 day - $120 (adult) $62 (17 & under)
  • 5 day - $465 (adult ) $261 (17 & under)
There are also combination tickets for lift & lessons and lift & equipment rental as well as discounts for early bird purchases and late start tickets. For the full range of winter prices  -  click here

Season Pass - Thredbo Resort is a member of The Mountain Collective. The Mountain Collective includes AltaSnowbird (UT), Aspen/Snowmass (CO), Jackson Hole (WY), Mammoth (CA), SquawValley/Alpine Meadows (CA) and Whistler Blackcomb (BC). Buy a Thredbo season pass to access limited reciprocal skiing rights at Mountain Collective Resorts.  See here for details and click on Mountain Collective.

Runs - 

  • 16% Beginner
  • 67% Intermediate
  • 17% Advanced
Thredbo has 14 lifts.

Trail Map - click here




Perisher has 47 lifts and a skiable area of more than 12 sq kms. The main ski field is connected to smaller fields at Blue Cow, Guthega and Smiggins Holes, making Perisher Blue the largest skiing and boarding resort in Australia. Lift tickets are valid across the resort. Perisher is great for families and singles alike, with gentle slopes for the kids as well as plenty of advanced runs for adults. Like Thredbo, it offers limited night skiing, cross country and snow shoeing.

There are so many runs at Perisher it is hard to pick a favourite, but I have a soft spot for the Pretty Valley Run. Between the main Front Valley runs and North Perisher, the gentle Pretty Valley trail meanders through the trees; a great excuse to slow down and admire how lovely Australia can be in winter.

Front Valley Perisher
Looking toward the main terminal at Perisher

The Village - 


Accommodation styles vary from hotel rooms to apartments and lodge style. Located above the snow line, Perisher has a number of ski-in/ski-out properties. Many of the lodges provide their own shuttle buses to the main lift terminal but if your accommodation is not well-located you need to check because there is no village shuttle bus.

The biggest drawback of Perisher is the lack of village transportation. You can find yourself doing a lot of walking. Hans Oversnow provides transport to and from most of the lodges, but it's a slow way to get down to the main village in the mornings. Click here for Hans' contact details.


Hans Oversnow
Hans Oversnow Cat


There is free day parking at the main Perisher terminal as well as Smiggin Holes and Guthega, but overnight parking is strictly limited. Snow conditions can block the roads especially to Guthega. The best way in is to leave your car at Bullock’s Flat and take the Skitube Alpine Railway direct to either Perisher or Blue Cow.

Lift Prices - 


The prices of lift tickets at Perisher vary enormously according to the package you take, when you ski and whether you need a skitube ticket. They are however, generally comparable with the prices at Thredbo. For a full range of tickets and prices - click here

The Epic Pass - 

In 2015 Perisher introduced its Epic Pass giving access to resorts across the U.S. including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Park City. For details click - here

Runs - 

  • 22% Beginner
  • 60% Intermediate
  • 18% Advanced
Perisher has 47 lifts including 12 rope tows, J-Bars and Ski carpets.

Trail Map - click here




Australia's highest resort, Charlotte Pass is small and family friendly - ideal for beginners and families with young children. The kids will love being surrounded by snow, and parents will appreciate the safe environment and gentle slopes. 

Charlotte offers hotel room style accommodation as well as private lodges with views across the ski field. Completely snowbound for most of the season, Charlotte is only accessible by over-snow transport. Leave the car at Bullock’s flat, take the Skitube to Perisher Valley and catch a snowcat from there. Click here for details on oversnow transport.

Lift Prices - 

  • 1 day - $103 (adult) $64 (13 & under) 
  • 5 day - $460 (adult) $286 
Click here for a full price list.

Runs - 

  • 8 Beginner runs 
  • 7 Intermediate runs 
  • 9 Advanced runs
Charlotte has 1 chair lift, 1 T-bar and 2 poma lifts.



A considerable distance from the other Snowy Mountains fields, Mt Selwyn is a day resort only with no overnight accommodation. Skiers can stay at one of several nearby towns.  Mt Selwyn is a small, family-oriented ski field that markets itself as a budget destination. As well as skiing and boarding, it offers cross-country, snow-shoeing and two snow tubing lifts.

Lift Prices - 

  • 1 day - $88 (adult) $48 (15 & under)
  • 5 day - $356 (adult) $137 (15 & under) 
For the full range of prices click - here

Runs - 

  • 40% easiest terrain
  • 48% more difficult terrain
  • 12% most difficult terrain
Charlotte has 10 lifts and 1 snow tube lift.


Staying at Jindabyne


Jindabyne is a small town about half an hour by road from both Thredbo and Perisher. It has lots of ski accommodation which is generally cheaper than staying at the resorts. The road to Thredbo gets cleared fairly quickly after snowfalls making it accessible in all but the worst weather. Perisher can be a bit more tricky but most days it is possible to drive all the way to the resort, provided you have a 4WD or carry chains. Alternatively, drive to Bullock's Flat and take the skitube.

What is the Skitube?


The Skitube is an alpine railway, purpose built for skiers and boarders, which runs from Bullocks Flat, about 20 kms from Jindabyne, to Perisher Valley and Blue Cow Mountain. The trip to Perisher Valley takes about ten minutes and then another seven minutes on to Blue Cow. There is plenty of free day and overnight parking.

What Gear Do I Need?


Equipment and clothing hire is available at all the resorts, as well as at Bullocks Flat Skitube Terminal and nearby towns such as Jindabyne and Cooma. Our own experience is you will get better quality and prices if you hire your gear at Jindabyne rather than if you wait until you arrive at the resort. The downside to this is that if you have a problem you have to drive to Jindabyne to resolve it. We generally hire any gear we need at Jindabyne Sports and we've been pretty happy with it over the years.

Getting Started!


All resorts offer lesson packages for both skiers and boarders ranging from rank beginner to advanced.

When to Go?


The official season runs from Friday 5 June to early October. Try to avoid the first or last couple of weeks when the snow cover can range from unreliable to non-existent. Both Thredbo and Perisher have extensive snow-making capabilities but the resorts can't make snow unless the overnight temperature is cold enough.

Most of the Perisher runs are higher than those in Thredbo, making Perisher a better bet when conditions are poor but bear in mind that many of the lifts, especially at Perisher, can be closed down even before the end of the season if there aren't enough people around.

Location and How Do I Get There?


The Snowy Mountains are accessible by car and coach. All the ski resorts are inside the boundaries of Kosciuszko National Park which has a daily entrance fee of $29 per car in winter. If you plan on visiting for more than a few days it is worth considering a yearly pass.

Chains are not generally required to access Thredbo or Bullocks Flat but if you intend to drive through to Perisher Blue then you will need to hire them unless you are in a 4WD. We always play it safe and have chains in the car even if we are only headed to Thredbo.

The drive from Sydney takes about five and a half hours and from Canberra two and a half. Coach services operate from Sydney, Canberra and Cooma to both Perisher and Thredbo with specialised ski and snowboard packages from Sydney and one-day ski and snowboard tours from Canberra. A shuttle service operates from both Cooma and Adaminaby to the Mt Selwyn fields.

The good news is that Rex Air now flies between Sydney and Cooma. The bad news is that Cooma Airport is an hour by car from Thredbo and Perisher.

Rex Air at Cooma
Rex Air on the ground at the Snowy Mountains Airport, Cooma 

Wildlife Spotting


For an up-close encounter with a kangaroo, head down to Tom Groggin or Geehi on the Alpine Way between Thredbo and Khancoban if the road is open or try your luck in the early evening at Thredbo Diggings. For many years there was a resident wombat which lived near the Village Green in Thredbo but I haven't seen him for a while.

wombat
I took this in Tasmania but, lets face it, all wombats look the same.


If you're lucky you might see emus on the Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo. Look for them near the sign warning of  'emusin the area.

Here's hoping for a bumper season! You will find more ski photos and blog posts at http://thetravellinglindfields.blogspot.com.au/search/label/Skiing. Just scroll through the first one.



kangaroos at Tom Groggin
Kangaroos at Tom Groggin

63 comments:

  1. This is really great. Hubby and I are not skiers but we'd certainly like to take our boy to see the snow one this year.

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    1. There are some great deals early and late in the season if you aren't too fussed about the quality of the snow.

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  2. My sister and her family visit Falls Creek regularly each winter. I would love to take our kids over there one year, but we are all rather accident prone, so I'm not sure it's the safest idea ;)

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    1. We have only ever been to Falls Creek in summer. There is some terrific cycling in that part of Victoria. It looks like it would be a nice winter resort though.

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  3. Well! Color me ignorant! I had know idea of a couple of things. Skiing in Australia. And, what a wombat looks like.

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    1. Haha. I'm glad I have widened your knowledge of the world a little. In turn you have made me laugh. Thanks.

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  4. Lyn, I wish I'd read this post a few years ago. I love skiing but have given it up due to my knee. It is beautiful!

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    1. It is never too late. I have a friend who took up snowboarding in his 50s after a lifetime of skiing because it is easier on the knees. He loves it.

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  5. Living near the Alps, I usually laugh when my husband tells me you can ski in Australia. The runs look cool but oh. so. expensive! Great guide! Thanks for joining Weekend Travel Inspiration!

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    1. Hi Margherita. You often hear that skiing in Australia is expensive and it is but if you live here it is still a lot cheaper than adding an international air fare into the package.

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  6. I don't usually associate Australia with snow and skiing. I am not a skier but it looks as if you have some good options. And you may be thinking about the coming of winter. Here in Canada, I'm listening to a wicked wind which I hope is the last of nasty weather before summer temperatures.

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    1. Hi Donna, I hope your wicked wind is the last before summer too. D and I fly to Seattle in a couple of weeks from where we take the Alaska Marine Highway up to Haines before driving back south through Canada. We have been to Canada before and loved it but never the west coast. Keep an eye our for my posts.

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  7. Replies
    1. Hi Muza-chan. There is nothing quite like snow to bring out the beauty in a place.

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  8. You're right. Australia is certainly not the first country that springs to mind when I think about skiing. Your post will be very helpful for anyone who wants to try it out this summer/winter (depending on your hemisphere). However, my last dexa-scan score makes me think that now is not the time of life for me to take up skiing. I guess I'll have to sit by the fire and drink hot cocoa----perhaps with a dash of Kaluha. ;-)

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    1. Hi Suzanne, Ha ha - can I join you in that Kaluha. Sounds like a great way to ski.

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  9. Coming from Western Australia, we always had to head east if we wanted to go skiing. We often took our girls to the Melbourne slopes but never made it your way. Thredbo was one place I always wanted to visit but now my skiing days are over, I may have to leave it for a spring or autumn retreat!

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    1. Hi Jenny, Don't tell my fellow New South Welshman but outside of winter I think the Victorian Alps are better than north of the border. We often go there to cycle and the area around Falls Creek is just magical.

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  10. Nice reminder that you can ski in Australia AND the seasons are opposite Northern Hemisphere. Nice photos.

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    1. Hi Charles. I'll admit that Australia isn't the first place northern hemisphere folk would think of to ski.

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  11. Sure don't think of Australia for skiing, but it looks fantastic. Thanks for the info!

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    1. Hi Gypsies. Compared to skiing in the Northern Hemisphere it is probably pretty ordinary but we do have the occasional fantastic year.

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  12. You've made me chilly but long for snow all at once! I've yet to head east for the slopes having only been skiing in Europe, quite a few years ago. Like Jenny, I think my skiing days are over, but I'd love to head over for some mountain walking. Lots of information, and loved your detailed pricing for anyone wanting to know the cost.

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    1. Hi Jo. The walking is good but, like all mountains, fairly strenuous. One of the easiest walks is to the top of Kosciuszko.

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  13. The photos are wonderful, the sky is beautiful!! Awesome post!

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    1. We do get some fantastic days. D and I tend to ski outside the absolute middle of winter so we increase out chances of sunshine.

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  14. Snow,beautiful vistas and cute wildlife! Your Australian ski getaways have it all!!

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    1. Hi Marilyn. I wouldn't come to Australia just to ski but it's pretty good if you live here.

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  15. Wow! That is one of the best ski wrap ups I've read. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Nadie. Thanks. We have had decades of experience getting to know the ski fields one week a year.

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  16. Great shots. I had no idea there was this much snow in Australia - I'd never seen snow in the photos of Australia before. Your country has endless variety. Some day I hope to visit!
    Thanks for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-walk-on-beach.html

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    1. Hi Sue. There is more snow than you might think but you are right, you don't see it in the tourist brochures.

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  17. Fun shots! I've heard reports of occasional snow in Australia, but had no idea there was enough for ski slopes.

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    1. Hi Kate, The Australian Alps get enough snow for a ski season each year. There are ski resorts not just in NSW but also Victoria. Tasmania gets a fair bit of snow as well.

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  18. You're right! Australia is not the first place I think of when it comes to snow. This is a great guide, though, for people who want to ski down under.

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    1. Hi Carole, I wouldn't actually recommend coming to Australia to ski but if you live here anyway its a fun way to spend a holiday.

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  19. I never knew it snowed in Australia! That' awesome! I will definitely have to check these places out when I finally make my way down under!

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    1. Hi Yvonne, Australia is a very large country geographically. Plenty of room for both outback and snow.

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  20. I look at this and I really do wish I loved the cold and knew how to ski. I know my girls would love to see snow though so perhaps I should investigate these a little more.
    Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust

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    1. Hi Malinda, I hate the cold but that is one of the reasons that I love the snow so much. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being warm and cosy inside while a blizzard rages outside.

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  21. Coming from Canada, I ski all the time. However, I never thought Australia would be a place that you could ski. That is awesome that you get to partake in such an amazing winter sport!

    Constance - http://foreignsanctuary.com/

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    1. Hi Constance, I'm pretty sure the skiing would be better in Canad - lol - but on the other hand my boys sometimes ski in t-shirts without parkas. I'll bet you can't do that in Canada.

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  22. The snow season took a big hit a few years back {in Australia} so its good to hear that last year was a great one, the way it started snowing so early this year I reckon they are in for a great lot of snow this year as well.
    We did a day trip to the snow last year, it was so much fun! We got to go up the lifts and then slide down the snowy hill on our bums! We all got so wet, but it was so worth it :)

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    1. Hi Lisa, The snowmaking machines make a big difference. Both Thredbo and Perisher have invested heavily in snowmaking over the last decade or so.

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  23. For some reason, the words kangaroo, wombat and emu don't seem to go together with SNOW! Who knew - Australia really does have it all!

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    1. Hi Anita, Wombats are fine in the snow. They live in burrows which I imagine are nice and cosy. Not sure how the kangaroos and emus stay warm though. I remember once being in Tasmania when it was snowing and there were wallabies at the side of the road just standing there shivering.

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  24. Whilst I actually loath being cold, I really would like to try a ski holiday one day. There appears to be so many fun activities.

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    1. Hi Sally-Ann, Trust me your children would love it. I have never met a child who doesn't love skiing.

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  25. I'm not a skier but I would love the wombat spotting and a taste of "village life." Hope you have a super snow season!

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    1. Hi Sammie. I hope so too although D and I are travelling so much this year I'm not sure we will be able to fit skiing in too. Still you never know.

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  26. I've never taken the kids to the snow and have only been there once before myself as a child. It might be time to change that!

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    1. Hi Kirsty, I don't know where you live but sometimes it is easier to show children the snow than you think. I live in Sydney and a couple of times a year it snows just a couple of hours away in 'The Blue Mountains'. I remember my mother taking us there when we were very little after she heard on the radio it had snowed. I don't think I will ever forget the car turning a corner and then there was snow everywhere.

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  27. Very nice place and lovely photos

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  28. I never would have thought about snow in Australia except for the movie "The Man from Snowy River"... even though there's very little snow in that movie. LOL

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    1. Hi Julie. That's a blast from the past. I remember the movie. Is there any snow at all? Still the name 'Snowy River' does suggest there might be snow at times.

      Did you know that the name of the movie is taken from a classic Australian bush ballad called 'The Man from Snowy River'. The poem is about stockmen trying to recover a valuable horse which had escaped and joined the 'wild bush horses'. I had forgotten about the brumbies - wild horses. You see groups of them occasionally in summer, though I have never seen any in winter. It is a real thrill when you catch sight of them.

      It is a terrific, fast-paced poem and fun to read. If you want to read it there is a copy at - http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/paterson-a-b-banjo/the-man-from-snowy-river-0001004

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  29. What a fantastic guide! The one and only time I've been skiing was at Perisher on a school trip. I'd really love to give it another go.

    btw that must be the cutest photo of a wombat ever taken!

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    1. Hi Bonny. Both my boys did school trips to Perisher when they were in Primary school. They just loved it.

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  30. Props to Thredbo, it's taken out two of my friends and ruined thier ski vacay - lol!

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    1. Haha. Touch wood - our injury tally has been one broken leg, one broken shoulder and one head injury to D which scared the living daylights out of me but which D recovered from. All these were at Thredbo but over a period of many decades. No-one ever said skiing was safe - lol.

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  31. On 17 May 2015 Phoebe said

    "This is such a nostalgic post for me and takes me back to my uni years in Sydney in the late 80s. I used to ski in Perisher and Thredbo, and loved it. The scenery is so different to the Alps with the gorgeous snow gums. Thanks for reminding me of some great times."

    I have had to remove the original comment because it contained a broken link. My apologies to Phoebe

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  32. A very informative post Lyn. The cost is far less than skiing here in Canada. enjoy the skiing this winter!

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    1. The cost might be less but I'll bet your snow is better!

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