Finally we decided that it's time to bring our 6 year old to ski. Top of mind ski resorts for most people would be those in Switzerland or Japan. We've done once together in Mount Titlis (Switzerland) before we have kid but because we would like to visit our families in Sydney (Australia), we thought we just go to a ski resort in Australia.
Quite a few friends said: "Do they have one in Australia? I thought Australia only have beaches. Can't imagine skiing there :-)"
Yes, there are a few places to ski in Australia and we chose the one my husband is familiar with, Perisher (Kosciuszko National Park) in New South Wales and we stayed in Sponars Chalet, where my husband has stayed long time ago.
We started from Canberra (stayed two nights in Canberra and explored the city) to maximize our time in the ski resort. We left Canberra early in the morning just before 7 am and drove 200 km to the south to Perisher. I just realized how dry Australia is. I could see dry land and trees everywhere and although I've heard many said about dead kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats at the side of the road (or sometimes in the middle!) as a result of being hit by the cars, to finally seeing them lying down was quite distressing. I kept counting them (just out of curiosity) and saw at least 30 within 30 km or so.
We had to hire snow chains and decided to stop at a rental place in Jindabyn. Having snow chains is one of the requirement driving to the snow resort when your car is not a 4WD. The rental guy taught us how to use it - oh I was so nervous and hoping we didn't have to use it.
Sponars Chalet, where we stayed, is originally Hotel Kosciusko (elevation 1,550m), located about 25km from Jindabyne and built in 1909. A beautiful lake sat right in front like a door mat for guests. In winter the lake would freeze over and turn into a race track for skaters. In April 1951, it caught fire and the only part of the hotel left was the workers' quarters - that now become Sponars Chalet. Sponars Chalet provides basic accommodation and the room rate includes breakfast and dinner. It is a nice little place with friendly and helpful staffs. It is not the most fancy hotel but for me it is very decent for what we pay.
(The black and white old pictures below are taken from Australia Alpine Club website)
We reached Sponars Chalet at around 9.20 am and immediately hire our ski equipment from the hotel. After we got everything, we drove to Smiggin Holes, one of four villages making up the Perisher ski resort, situated 1,680 metres (5,510 ft) above sea level. There is a shuttle provided from the hotel to Smiggin Holes but we missed that and we thought it's more convenient to just drive our car.
We parked our car, put on our pants, jackets, ski boots, gloves, then carried our ski and poles walking on the snow heading towards our lesson (This part is not fun! It was so hard walking in ski boots). We have booked our lessons and ski pass prior to our trip. This way, we got it cheaper. My 6 years old had a 3-hour group lesson from 11 am to 2 pm while I had a 2-hour group lesson from 11 am to 1 pm. My husband ventured out by himself in a more advanced area.
Day 1 ski lesson went quite well for me. Overall, it was a nice and very enjoyable day. The snow was great. There was about 10 adults in the group. It was very tiring and my knees hurt. I finished my 2-hour lesson and went straight to the cafe to drink beer (best part after skiing! :-)). My 6 years old son finished an hour later. I picked him up from his class and then we had lunch together. The weird thing is that the cafe provided lunch only from 11 am to 2 pm. So we always got left-over and couldn't choose what we want.
On Day 2, my husband drove us to Smiggin Holes, where my son and I had our lesson then he continued to drive to a different village called Perisher Valley, where he had his advanced ski lesson. My son and I had fun in the snow and practiced skiing ourselves before went to our lesson at 11 am. On this 2nd day, the coach told all of us - "let's go to the triple chair". I almost fainted (!). I was very nervous because I don't think I can do that. We then skied towards the chairlift that will bring us up and I guess from there we had to ski down the slope (?!). I was somehow left behind and lost my coach while skiing towards the chairlift. I was too slow and they all left me behind. It was not a good day as it rained the night before and there was no more new snow so the surface was a bit icy and very slippery. I decided to get out of the queue, looked for a different coach, and asked him if I could join his class instead as I lost my own coach. What a drama :-) I then joined his group who taught Day 1 lesson. Basically, I repeated first day lesson on the second day. I finished at 1 pm and same as the day before and went straight to the bar and drank beer :-) It was the same routine as the previous day - picked up my son at 2 pm then had lunch (only left-over was available).
Third day was better as I didn't lost my coach this time :-) and we just had lesson in the magic carpet area. In the meantime, my 6 years old already ventured out with his class up the hill by chairlift, J-bar, and T-bar - and skied down the slope. Kids learn really fast!
In Smiggin Holes, we couldn't ride in the chairlift without skiing down. But in Perisher Valley, we could do that in the Quad Chair. We rode in the Quad Chair all the way up to Back Perisher Mountain (elevation 2,014 m). It was so windy and so cold! But the view from the top was just amazing and very scenic. I couldn't take any good picture because I was so afraid to drop my camera off by accident.
On our last day, Day 4, I didn't want to ski anymore so I just relaxed in the cafe and enjoyed the view and the cold weather. My husband and my son went out skiing. It was snowing. It was really nice. I was accompanied by a glass of hot mulled wine. They finished at about 1 pm, we then had our lunch, packed our equipment and returned them to the hotel.
We left the area about 3 pm, drove pass Jindabyn (to return the hired snow chains) then continued to drive to Canberra, where we stayed for another night before heading back to Sydney. We think that's really a good arrangement as we can maximizing having 4 days of skiing with 3 nights stay in the ski resort as it is cheaper to stay in Canberra then in the ski resort.
It was a really nice snow and ski holidays and we really had a great time. Marvellous! My 6 years old declared: "I have just found a new passion besides reading!"
Will we ski again? Absolutely! Will we go to Perisher again? It is NOT a NO :-)
Till next winter and Happy Skiing!