A be­gin­ner's guide to the ski sea­son

Snow re­sorts have their eyes on fam­i­lies and first-timers, writes David Fitzsi­mons

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - david.fitzsi­mons@news.com.au Twit­ter: @FitzAtLarge

Good early falls have had skiers and snow­board­ers grin­ning like snow­men in the lead-up to next week­end’s ski sea­son open­ing. But if you can’t tell your stocks from a snow­plough and think a T-bar sells Earl Grey, don’t be dis­heart­ened.

Re­sorts through­out the Snowy Moun­tains are work­ing to at­tract first-timers, and par­tic­u­larly fam­i­lies, to the roof of Australia for an icy good time.

Best Week­end sought ex­pert ad­vice on how begin­ners can avoid the pit­falls and en­joy a fun fam­ily trip to the snow.

As Snowy Moun­tains Tourism ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Neil Thew says: “A snow hol­i­day for a fam­ily for the first time can be nerve-wrack­ing and a highly in­volved process be­cause there are a lot of un­knowns. But once it is done the first time, it be­comes a lot eas­ier.”

WHERE TO STAY

Thredbo and Per­isher of­fer a va­ri­ety of ac­com­mo­da­tion but first-timers should con­sider stay­ing just off the slopes at Jind­abyne, where prices are lower.

Jind­abyne is 35km from Thredbo and 25km from the Sk­i­tube car park. The Sk­i­tube train takes you straight to Per­isher.

“To stay in Jind­abyne, it boils down to how much they want to spend and their com­fort lev­els,” says Thew.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion starts with the 2.5/3 star Sta­tion Re­sort, which is owned by Per­isher.

“It has ev­ery­thing on site in­clud­ing bars and food. It’s fairly old, it’s been there a while, but it is very val­ue­friendly,” says Thew.

Other town op­tions in­cludes Ry­dges Hori­zon on Lake Jind­abyne, which of­fers apart­ment-style living with a restau­rant and bar on site.

If you have plenty to spend, then Thew says the 4.5 star ac­com­mo­da­tion at Lake Crack­en­back Re­sort on the Alpine Way — with views of the peaks — is hard to beat.

DRIV­ING & CHAINS

The thought of buy­ing chains, fig­ur­ing out how to put them on, and driv­ing on slip­pery moun­tain passes puts a lot of peo­ple off go­ing to the snow.

But Thew says the fears are overblown in NSW.

“I’ve been living in the re­gion for 25 years and I’ve never once put chains on,” he says.

Thew says you only need to have chains in your car when you en­ter the Kosciuszko Na­tional Park, which is above the level of the Per­isher Sk­i­tube sta­tion, and you only have to put them on when di­rected by po­lice or road safety of­fi­cials at des­ig­nated chain bays. And they will give you a hand to put them on.

Thew says tar­mac is graded reg­u­larly to clear snow, and roads are not like the wind­ing moun­tain switch­backs you see at Vic­to­rian re­sorts and in Europe.

“The road is fairly easy to nav­i­gate. This one is rel­a­tively flat; it climbs steadily.”

Fur­ther­more, chains are not needed for 4WD or AWD cars, and they can be hired rather than bought.

If you are go­ing to Sel­wyn, which is sep­a­rate to the other re­sorts, the same rule ap­plies: you need to carry chains in 2WD cars. Th­ese can be hired from ser­vice sta­tions and ski-hire shops in Cooma and Tu­mut.

To en­ter Kosciuszko Na­tional Park costs $27 per car and $11 per mo­tor­cy­cle per day. If you catch a bus, it’s $11.45 for adults and $3 for kids. The fee is built into the Sk­i­tube ticket price.

WHERE TO GO

While there are plenty of epic slopes for the ex­pe­ri­enced, Thew says more space is be­ing al­lo­cated for novices to learn to ski, try snow­board­ing, to­bog­gan, make snow­men and throw snow­balls.

“Each re­sort has be­gin­ner ar­eas. They recog­nise that ev­ery­one has to start from some­where and they try to make it easy.”

At Thredbo, try Fri­day Flat, Thew says. “It’s easy­go­ing and there’s lots of room.”

As for other sites, “Smiggin Holes is fab­u­lous for learn­ing. Blue Cow has a nice easy ski­car­pet you can begin on, and Per­isher Val­ley has a nice begin­ners’ slope.” As does Sel­wyn, which also has a ded­i­cated to­bo­gan­ning slope.

THE RIGHT GEAR

Plan­ning ahead can save time and has­sle when you get to the snow.

“The re­sorts and Des­ti­na­tion NSW are try­ing to make it eas­ier by pro­vid­ing packages for fam­i­lies, with lessons,” Thew says.

He sug­gests get­ting on­line and buy­ing a pack­age that cov­ers equip­ment, lifts and lessons. “They fit you out with the ski boots and poles the right length. They will be mea­sured up to your height and weight,” he says. “You want to max­imise your time on the slopes. You want to hit the ground run­ning.”

He says a les­son or two can make all the dif­fer­ence.

“A les­son is al­ways rec­om­mended for first-timers. It es­tab­lishes the ba­sic skills to get down the slope and stop.

“You get those point­ers from trained ski in­struc­tors. It can be quite tech­ni­cal. It’s like play­ing golf — if you don’t have those tech­niques, you can be all over the place.”

HOW LONG

It may sound like a big com­mit­ment but Thew says you should try to stay a week to get enough ex­pe­ri­ence to build up your skills. “If you don’t, you will be kick­ing your­self say­ing, ‘I should have stayed longer.’ ”

BEST TIME TO GO

Get in early or wait un­til spring to get the best deals. Each of the re­sorts of­fers se­ri­ous dis­counts for off-peak vis­its.

“A great time for fam­i­lies to go is in spring or in June. It’s cheaper. The re­sorts put on ac­tiv­i­ties so there is al­ways lots to do.

“The peak pe­riod is Ju­lyAu­gust. That’s when the se­ri­ous skiers go to rip it up.”

SNOW FORE­CAST

While there has been some good early snow, it’s a fickle busi­ness.

Re­spected snow fore­caster Pete “The Frog” Tay­lor (snowatch.com.au) is fore­cast­ing a wet June, snow­falls in July and early Au­gust but over­all a strug­gling sea­son.

Our ad­vice is check the fore­casts as the weather changes quickly.

“It’s great to see the early snow,” says Thew.

“The re­sorts are get­ting a lot of early in­ter­est and bookings. It’s great for the in­dus­try.

“Last year it was very quiet early. There was very lit­tle snow. It didn’t start snow­ing un­til early June. And then it didn’t stop.”

(Clock­wise from main) Begin­ners’ slopes at Thredbo; Lake

Jind­abyne; Thredbo fam­ily fun; the 4.5 star Lake Crack­en­back Re­sort on the Alpine Way; a snow train for lit­tlies at Thredbo; and (bot­tom and bot­tom left) ski ac­tion

at Per­isher; (be­low inset) a warm­ing bev­er­age apres-ski.

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