My favorite thing to do and place to be in winter is snowboarding at Perisher Ski Resort every day. I would if I could, but I acknowledge it’s an expensive hobby and not like going to the beach with just my board shorts. Going to the snow is hard work but very satisfying.
Perisher is the biggest ski resort in Australia. It has a good mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs spread out over 4 areas with over 1200 hectares of riding accessed by 47 lifts. This includes Perisher valley (the main bit), Blue Cow (beautiful, perfect for learning), Guthega (shorter runs but good fun), and Smiggin Holes (hmm, not my favorite).
I’ve been going to Perisher every year for the last 10 years and enjoyed every bit of it. What I love about my ‘local’ mountain is how close it is to Canberra, being only a 2 and a half-hour drive. You can take the lazy option and catch the early morning bus at 5 am from Canberra, but I really enjoy the drive-up. The journey up to this mountain has a magical sense with views of Lake Jindabyne and lots of snow-covered valleys and hilltops – it gets you nicely fired up about the day ahead!
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My Tips For Perisher Snow Resort
Here are 8 easy tips to do a snow trip to Perisher Ski Resort smarter not harder:
1. Get the season pass early if you planning to go often
The EPIC Season Pass is worth considering if you’re planning to go, Perisher more than 4 times. I also recommend getting the ski tube pass access from Bullocks Flay for an extra $50 to get up the mountain without the hassle of carrying chains and avoid park entry fees. The EPIC Season Pass also gives you access to other major ski resorts in Australia, Canada, the US, and Japan to entice you for an overseas snow trip during the hot summer months. Other benefits of getting the EPIC season are discounts on accommodation, rentals, lessons, food, and beverages. Every bit helps as it’s an expensive hobby.
2. Time your snow trip for August
From my experience, June and July are mostly rubbish conditions unless you catch a lucky day, where there is not enough snow, slushy in some parts, or too windy. The best time to book a snow trip to Perisher is mid-August to early September, where there will be regular snow showers, frosty days, and champagne powdery conditions for some cool runnings.
3. Learn to ride at Blue Cow
Blue Cow is where I learned snowboarding and what I consider to be my home mountain. After 10 years of doing this, it still feels like coming back to mum’s place. Blue Cow is stunning, It feels like you’re in the Canadian Rockies with snow-covered mountain tops all around you, and it’s got a spiritual effect on me, especially on a clear day after a massive snowstorm. It’s a perfect place for beginners to learn skiing or to snowboard even if you don’t have a lift ticket (there you go – another snow hack!). You can get off the train (free from Perisher Valley to Blue Cow), go up the stairs past the food court, and practice your skills on the gentle slopes or magic carpet area. Note that it’s only recommended if you’re going up with someone experienced and want to get a feel for what skiing or snowboarding is.
If you’re a beginner rider, I highly recommend taking a lesson with one of the friendly trainers at Blue Cow – it’s a great quiet place to learn, unlike normally crowded and sometimes intimidating Perisher valley. The magic carpet area at Blue Cow is also perfect for newbie families teaching their kids to ride. If you don’t have a lift pass, you can walk up back the mountain without working too much of a sweat.
Once you think you’ve concurred the mountain, you can test your skills in the beginner runs at Blue Cow or take the plunge and head over to Guthega for some exploring.
To get to Blue Cow, you can take the ski train up from Perisher valley or ride up through to a combination of beginner and immediate runs.
4. Plan an early or late lunch
It’s best to avoid taking lunch between 12 pm and 1 pm as it gets crowded in the food courts and restaurants. I recommend timing your lunch break either at 11:30 am or after 1 pm.
Food and beverage at Perisher are costly; for example, a small fries, hamburger, and coffee will set you back around $15, and there’s no escaping this. It’s not like you can take a cut lunch and your coffee up the snow, so they charge for convenience and try to make all their money by working half a year. To avoid constant hunger and thirst, I take a small backpack with a few Gatorade bottles and lots of muesli bars.
At Perisher valley, I highly recommend a pie and a hot chocolate from Sundance Bakehouse. If you’re looking for a great coffee and a wholesome feed any time of the day, you cannot go past the High Ground Coffee Bar.
If you are an intermediate rider and don’t mind catching a t-bar, I recommend swinging into Alpine Eyre at Mount Perisher for awesome burgers, chips, and beers for lunch. It’s the only cash-only place on the mountain, so I recommend have a few dollars in hand just for this excursion.
5. Best beginner and intermediate runs to try
As an intermediate snowboarder, here best runs to try out in my humble opinion:
Snow Rider, Mount Perisher (Blue Intermediate) – This is my favorite run at Perisher. The views are spectacular up the top, and the steep long run down will give your thighs a workout and get your adrenaline flowing. I recommend load up some good beats and fastened your seat belts for this one. The number of times that I’ve stacked on this run… OMG!
Roller Coaster, Blue Cow (Blue Intermediate) – You cannot come to Perisher and not do the Roller Coaster! It’s literally like riding a roller coaster with some steep ascents and a generally bumpy run all the way down – it’s awesome fun! The best way to catch the roller coaster is to access it via a green trail run through the trees from Blue Cow and head towards the Upper Roller Coaster. It’s a shame they don’t have a lift or at least a t-bar to make it easier for people to get back up and keep do this run on repeat.
Easy Rider, Pleasant Valley (Green Beginner) – This is long green is picturesque, surrounded by trees with wind-blown snow, and perfect for beginners to practice their turns. Once you get confident in the main area, you can also try going around trees and try doing some friendly jumps. It’s also less crowded than other beginner areas, and the lift is fast.
6. Book your accommodation early
The trick is to plan and book your snow accommodation early.
Where to stay depends on your budget. If you want to splash out luxury accommodation, I recommend Lake Crackenback Resort, where there are various options to choose from, including luxury apartments to private chalets, which can easily accommodate up to 3 families. We were lucky enough to stay in 3 bedroom chalets for 3 nights during peak time, and it was stunning. There’s an indoor heated pool, pool, hiking, bushwalking, and staying at this place is an experience itself, even if you don’t end up going up to the snow.
For budget-conscious and big groups, I recommend locking in an Airbnb option as early as January or February. If you’re the single party type there is the Station resort where you get a cabin which 6 people to sleep comfortably. The station resort will complement your snowboarding or skiing adventure with a ‘place to crash’ after a long and tiring day; it’s warm, snug, and has great entertainment during the weekends. Keep your expectations low and you’ll have a good time at the Station Resort… not point checking Trip Advisor for this one!
If you are loaded and want to experience ‘the works’ with snowfalls, good entertainment, and extra sleep in’s I heard the accommodation at Perisher is awesome. But the word ‘awesome’ doesn’t come cheap sometimes as it usually priced over $500 per night during time team.
7. Hire your equipment from Rhythm Snow Sports
Hiring from Perisher Ski Resort may be worth it if you have a season pass or catching a bus from Canberra or Sydney to Perisher. From my experience, it’s expensive, and the gear is generally limited. If you’re driving with your family or in a group, I recommend planning early hiring all your snow gear from Rhythm Snow Sports at Jindabyne. You can book everything online to keep it easy. You cannot go past Rhythm for quality value-added snow gear and great coffee next to it. I recommend getting here early, around 6:15 to 6:30 am, to avoid the crowds and have time to try on stuff. Check out my full review here.
8. Get chains if you’re driving all the way up
If you’re driving all the way up to the mountain and you’re not in an all-wheel-drive vehicle, you’ll need to carry chains. I’ve learned my lesson by not carrying chains up when I was a snowboarding rookie back in around 2008. I was not fined but asked to turn around by inspectors, which set me back an hour, and I missed my snowboarding lesson. I can also see why you need to carry chains, especially when in turbulent conditions, the road can get icy and dangerous. I have seen a lot of cars on the side of the road, especially after a storm.
Constructive feedback for Vail Resorts
I love Perisher Ski Resort, and I’m proud to call it my local. Having come a lot over the last 10 years, I know this resort intimately and would love to see some improvements to make on par with other world-class ski resorts.
Magic carpet only ticket – A day trip to Perisher for a complete newbie can easily cost approx $300 with the lift ticket ($145), lesson ($60), ski hire ($40), food and beverage ($40), which in my opinion is excessive. It’s not fair to charge a newbie rider, who wants to hang out just at the Magic carpet area, a full lift ticket price. Introducing a Magic carpet-only ticket (for say, $50) will attract more newbies to come and learn skiing or snowboarding. All it requires is some validation on the machines to recognize that it’s the Magic carpet – not rocket science. This is fair and a great incentive that I saw working well at Hakuba.
More value-added healthy food and beverage options – Most of the food court and cafe food options at Perisher are expensive and unhealthy. How on earth can I justify paying $15 for a hot dog, chips, and soft drink, $8 for a ham cheese sandwich, $19 for a so-called Japanese soup at Blue Cow, or $6 for a pie? A sit down wholesome lunch can set you back up to $40. I understand the owners are out to make a lot of money in a short amount of time, but surely there’s a better way to do it. Here are some recommendations to consider:
- Take a leaf out of the Japanese model and introduce vending machines with hot/cold drinks and some quick food options. This will be COVID-19 friendly and help reduce crowds at food courts and cafes so people can grab and go.
- Introduce a fast food healthy option like Subway to keep the other vendors honest (like at Hakuba Goryu resort, Japan) with their pricing.
- Invite more local vendors (like Sundance Bakehouse) to scatter around the resort in a creative and COVID-19 friendly manner, for example, a container cafe with quick Asian dining, French Creperie, or other quick food options that people can ride by.
- Introduce more wholesome food options at food courts at reasonable prices.
Upgrade chairlifts – Most of the chairlifts are old and slow, especially on the Mount Perisher side, Pretty Valley, Interceptor, which connects to Blue Cow, and so on. Improving these chairlifts will attract more people to the resort and reduce the waiting times for catching a lift.
Improve accessibility – There are some awesome runs like Roller Coaster and Copperhead Road/Winter Way, which deserve their own chairlift or at least a t-bar. This will take the pressure off surrounding chairlifts, which gets crowded, especially around lunchtime.
I feel Vail Resorts have done an amazing job since taking over from the Packers. They have been making ongoing improvements, like the introduction of the Freedom quad chairlift at Guthega and the Leichhardt Quad chairlift to better connect Perisher valley to Mount Perisher.
Interested in trying skiing or snowboarding? Check our simple tips here to to it the easy way.