Impossible Or Just Tricky?

Resort skiing in Australia is in the Australian Alps straddling the border between our most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, with capitals in Sydney and Melbourne.

The season officially opens in early June and closes early October.

Thredbo Supertrail mid-August. Credit: John Harris

NSW’s biggest resorts—Perisher (acquired by Vail Resorts in 2015) and Thredbo (Mountain Collective and Ikon links)—lie in Kosciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountains. They cater mainly to Sydney’s five million people a six hour drive away.

Victoria has three resorts. Mt Hotham and Falls Creek were also recently acquired by Vail Resorts. Mt Buller is the other. They cater to 5.6 million folk, most of whom live in Melbourne.

This year’s opening was delayed for several weeks in NSW. The National Park closed for the long opening weekend amid all the concerns and regulations surrounding the pandemic back then. Tricky!

June saw a rush on sales of backcountry equipment amid fears the resorts wouldn’t open at all. Gear was in short supply with importation restrictions. Tricky!

Perisher’s restrictions. Credit: John Harris

In early July, just when seasoned skiers expect skiing conditions to be okay, a second wave of coronavirus hit Melbourne, and Victoria went to lockdown. Victoria’s ski resorts closed and remained  closed for the season. State borders shut then so snow sports became limited to NSW and Canberra and impossible for residents from all other states. Nearly 17 million Australians had no access to the resorts this year. Impossible for them!

Perisher and Thredbo in New South Wales opened later in June.

Perisher offered Epic Australia season passes but for the first few weeks everyone including pass holders had to prebook days online to ski . One staffie I spoke to only managed to find three days available during this time due to the limited tickets. The website crashed often with the traffic. He checked every morning, hoping more tickets would come online. Thredbo was similar. Tricky!

My favourite lunch spot at Perisher only available to hotel guests in 2020. Credit: John Harris

Skiers who had booked resort accommodation had no guarantee of getting lift tickets. Communication with Perisher was only possible online. Emailed inquiries yielded an automatic reply promising a reply within days. Tricky!

There were no group ski lessons and no assistance by staff getting on chairlifts. Some restaurants were restricted to hotel guests. It was suggested that skiers bring food and drink in case venues were full. Tricky!

Despite the restrictions, the skiers came. Sydney had a few covid cases and locals were worried they’d bring it down. A trace of virus was detected in Perisher’s sewage and face masks became mandatory in the resort, inside and out. They still are. Tricky!

Thredbo is linked to Mountain Collective and Ikon groups and is an all year resort. Its restrictions were similar to Perisher. This year the resort did not offer season passes, saying they usually had a large proportion of skiers with season passes, and it wouldn’t have been workable. 70 years plus day passes were just $A25 but available days hard to find. Masks were not worn outside. Tricky!

Thredbo closed a week after this picture was taken. Credit: John Harris

Thredbo’s Supertrail closed a week after I took the photo above due to snow melt. As runs became fewer, Thredbo credited the accounts of people who had pre-purchased tickets with a proportion of the cost. The resort closed prematurely two weeks ago.(Editor Note: mid-September). Commendable!

Perisher plans to stay open till the end of the school holidays on October 9. Its rules are unchanged. I have been very impressed with how professionally both resorts have handled difficult and changing circumstances and how co-operative the public has been. Hopefully, your North American winter will run smoothly with fewer changes needed and good powder.

 I visited Perisher on Sunday to see how things were going. Here’s what I found.

Demand remains high at Perisher with a full car park. Credit: John Harris

Most patrons were wearing face covering and happy laughter was everywhere.

Masks were everywhere in the Perisher lodge. Credit: John Harris

Okay, this senior’s tally wasn’t too impressive in the pandemic, one day at Perisher so far, one at Thredbo. But what a wonderful sport. Age hardly matters. You get pulled up the hill, and gravity takes you down. People of widely different ages can relate to each other and be friends. And so much laughter.

2020 skiing down under was tricky but for many of us not impossible.


  1. John Moorfoot says:

    Victoria’s ski resorts didn’t all close. Mt Buller remained open until early August for regional Victorians, and mountain residents. The main detractor was a lack of snow. Apart from the opening of the season, there was hardly any natural snowfall, so all skiing was on man made snow. And just as more runs were about to open, there would be a big rain event to close it down.

    There is also a smaller resort in Victoria – Mt Baw Baw which remained partially open for regional residents.

  2. John Harris says:

    Thanks for the info, John. I missed that info. Glad Buller and Baw Baw were able to offer something for regional Victorians. A pretty lame season in NSW for seasoned skiers, though I heard weekend warriors did well, with reduced traffic. The Snowy Hydro Snow Depth Calculator shows graphs where you can compare the season with any other going back to the 50s.

  3. Cansnowplow says:

    Based on the picture of inside the lodge, it appears once a skier sits down the face mask comes off, even if they are not eating. Drinking is a poor excuse to permanently remove one’s mask until the beverage is fully drank. With the continued blooming of the virus in the USA and our numerous adults with a child-like concept of high society entitlements and non-inconveniences, the lodge will become the haunt of pandemic-ville. Bag lunch in the car and and warm up like a homeless person outside, with a face mask on; I suggest Mexican Chiminiya(s) for our entitlement guest and 55 gal drums checkerboarded every 25′ at the base lodge. This would utilize a renewable resource of firewood or charcoal rather than propane or oil and would redefine the term fireman, being the staff member who keeps the fires burning. It’s not a perfect world and it shows truly the large footprint this sport has become since extravagance has taken the lead for the past 2 scores and 7 years ago.

  4. Hello John, Interested to read your article on Australian skiing. Being an Australian resident, I have not recommmded Australia skiing for a long time, as , sadly, our facilities and snow conditions are not up to par with that of Colorado and Canada. I have skied in Steamboat for 25 seasons, but now want to ski Europe and Canad and the States. Interested in this group, as a fit, mature, single advanced skiier.

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