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Now’s the time to get your skis on

Travel

After skiing all over the world, Alison Godfrey was sceptical about how Australia’s own slopes – and après ski offerings – would stack up.

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I love snow sports, whether it’s skiing or snowboarding, that feeling of gliding through powder never gets old.

I have skied in Japan, Canada, Austria, Slovenia, New Zealand and even, bizarrely, Bulgaria.

But one thing I have never done, in my 40 years as an Australian, is ski in Australia.

Why?

My reasons were pretty typical: not enough runs, not enough powder, too unpredictable, it will hurt if I fall, too expensive and not enough après ski culture.

I was wrong.

The day I hit Perisher the sky was a stunning “bluebird”. The sight of the gnarled snow gums dusted with snow is as impressive as any Japanese juhyo (ice trees).

The mountain had a fresh dusting overnight and 25cm had fallen in the week before we arrived, building up the natural depth to 88cm. It’s not 3m of Japanese powder, but it’s fun to ski and the powder does swirl as you turn.

The size of the resort really shocked me. Perisher, Blue Cow and Guthega are all linked. Like most overseas resorts, you can ski all day without taking the same run twice or even being able to tackle every run in the resort.

Perisher is the largest snow resort in the Southern Hemisphere. It has the highest terrain (Mount Perisher 2054m) and the most reliable snow in Australia.

Advanced skiers should head over to Mt Perisher for some daring Black runs. I was too chicken to try them, but they looked impressive.

Happy Valley has fun scenic runs through the trees for intermediates. You can do “rainbows” up the side banks, choose different paths and test your skills on gentle jumps.

Blue Cow is great for intermediates who want a bit more of a challenge. Try the Excelerator to push your speed limits or the RollerCoaster for rolling fun.

Beginners and intermediate riders are well catered for in Centre Valley.

Perisher also has a number of snow parks where you can get some air over jumps, fly over rollers and show off your aerial skills.

Timing your ski trip is crucial. To get the best, most reliable snow, you want to hit the mountain from late July. The problem many Australians have is that they tend to head to Perisher for the school holidays, in late June, early July. If the season is late, the snow can be patchy. But that doesn’t mean that Australian snow is bad – it just means that you need to go at the right time.

Is it expensive? I’m not going to lie, a bottle of water cost $5.50 on the mountain. But then, helpfully, the cashier pointed out the free bubbler and told me that water was free at the pub.

There are ways around the costs. Pack your own lunch, bring your own water, and refill from the bubbler and you won’t have to spend money on anything but an après beer.

We stayed at Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa. The resort has a direct, free shuttle bus to the ski tube (just around the corner) so you don’t have to drive. That means you can indulge in a little après fun.

Of the bars, Blue Cow appeared to be the most packed. A DJ pumped out tunes to the crowd gathered on dozens of picnic tables in the snow. Skiers and snowboarders dined on hot chips, schnapps, coffee and beer.

If you’re after varied terrain, all day skiing and reliable snow, you may want to head to Perisher.

I was wrong. I will be back.

Staying there: Mountain View Studios at Lake Crackenback start at $365 per night with a minimum of a two-night stay in winter.

Playing there: Head to WildBrumby Distillery in Crackenback for post-ski schnapps tasting and hearty winter food. See: wildbrumby.com

* The writer travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.

-AAP

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