Late snow season holiday deals

Whether you're seeking a romantic sojourn, weekend ski break or family holiday, ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand all offer great late snow-season deals and a host of other attractions.
Skii slopes

Romantics: Thredbo, NSW

True romantics hopefully don’t need much more than their own company, but there’s nothing wrong with a home among the snow gums with snow drifts out the window and a warm fire inside. Surrounded by the Snowy Mountains, with a river bubbling through the village, Thredbo is a wonderful place for strolling, eating out and getting cosy in a stylish hotel or a well-appointed apartment. Couples in search of romance and thrills in the snow will love its challenging terrain and cruising its groomed supertrails. Also on offer is a sports and leisure centre, where romantics can peel off their ski gear, slip into their bathers and frolic in a 50-metre pool.

One of the most romantic lodging choices are the ski-in/ski-out Snowbound Chalets. Closest to the slopes, with direct skier access to the Crackenback Supertrail, they also offer open fires. The Thredbo Alpine Hotel is another good choice, with its fine service, facilities and proximity to the lifts. If things get really serious, Thredbo even specialises in weddings.

The Schuss Bar is the place to go straight after skiing, but the Alpine Hotel’s Lounge Bar is an excellent option for a romantic cocktail or vodka martini, while the piano plays in the background.

Bookings: 1800 020 589;

Young professionals: Mount Hotham, Victoria

Once if you’re time-poor, but wanted a quick break in the snow that would impress your colleagues, Hotham was the place for you — 50 minutes flying time from Melbourne Airport, or 85 minutes from Sydney. On arrival at Hotham airport, you would hop into a shuttle and be relaxing in your lodge and be halfway through a bottle of wine before the other snow-goers had escaped the city traffic.

Then Qantas Link suspended its flights (temporarily, we hope) at the start of this season, due to a shortage of pilots, and now you have to charter your own plane or just get behind the wheel and drive.

There are a broad range of lodging choices: apartments and snow chalets at Dinner Plain Village, which is closest to the airport; or at Hotham itself, apartments such as Zirky’s or chalets to share at Hotham Heights, right above the slopes.

The sensationally designed Hotham Heights buildings are in The Basin, right beside Hotham’s main lifts. With their multiple bedrooms, living zones, spas and fireplaces, they work well for groups of young professionals or large families. The Heights also give access to some brilliant skiing and boarding terrain. With the Village Chair just outside the front door and trails below leading to a cruisy collection of runs, such as the Playground and Sun Run, it couldn’t be better situated.

Straight off the slopes, Zirky’s bar is the place to be for tall tales and true about the day’s skiing, plus good food and wine.

Bookings: 1800 354 555;

Teens plus (with or without family): Perisher Blue, NSW

Perisher Blue shines for families, especially those with teenagers. Snowboarding teens will flock to the terrain parks (there are four around the resort to Choose from), all with features such as half-pipes, jumps, fun boxes and rails to fly over and ride along.

These parks are in addition to the 1245 hectares of skiable terrain, 50 lifts and many apr&egrav;s-ski options, making Perisher Blue a seriously big resort by any standard — national or international.

Where to stay? Assuming the teens are still travelling with the family, Perisher has a range of catered lodges, such as The Man From Snowy River or Corroboree, both big enough for young adults to have a little independence, or The Stables, with its excellent self-catering accommodation.

If they’ve left the family behind, then Jindabyne’s The Station Resort is a good option; it’s cheaper and will be full of like-minded young skiers and boarders. There are even under-18 apr&egrav;s-ski options, including night skiing/boarding on Tuesday and Saturday evenings on Perisher’s Front Valley. Over-18s can head straight off the mountain for Jax in the Perisher Centre or find live entertainment at venues around the village, including Perisher Manor, The Man From Snowy River and The Sundeck. The Station Resort also features well-known bands.

Bookings: 1300 655 811;

Young families: Falls Creek, Victoria

There’s something about being entirely surrounded by snow, with no cars in the village and being able to ski or board straight from the lodge’s front door to the lifts. There’s also something about having someone else do the cooking that really improves a family holiday.

Apartments aside, Falls Creek still has a core of family-friendly lodges that make for a welcoming and enjoyable holiday.

They include the luxurious, such as Astra, with its exceptional food and vodka bar, and the well-appointed, but slightly more sedate Attunga. In the mid-range, consider the Falls Creek Hotel, while families on more of a budget could look at lodges such as Cooroona or Ripparoo.

As well as the convenience of being catered for, ski lodges offer something of the traditional, hosted alpine holiday and many of Falls Creek’s hosts really know their business. The village also has the best range of restaurants in any of the Victorian snowfields.

Falls Creek has reliable snow cover, well-built terrain parks with half-pipes/super-pipes and a good mix of cruising, challenging and expert runs around the mountain. It also has an excellent snow sports school for younger skiers.

Bookings: 1800 232 557;

Escape artists: Mount Buller, Victoria

It may be less than four hours from Melbourne — even less from Melbourne Airport — but Mount Buller feels like it’s a world away from the big city. Some call it Melbourne’s mountain, as it carries some of the city’s features, such as a Bourke Street, named after the state capital’s main drag. Yet Buller is every bit a mountain, with a giant ridge leading to its peak. The skiing and boarding terrain running off that ridge are sensational.

Its shape means there’s shelter in virtually any weather. The way it’s set up offers access to day trippers, who can park their car on the road to the village, then hop on a lift and be riding the mountain’s higher slopes within 10 minutes. People on a longer break have terrific choices of accommodation, with lodges such as the Austrian-style Pension Grimus or the Mount Buller Chalet Hotel on the top shelf. For the same warm mountain hospitality at more of a budget price, the Duck Inn or Ajax are good choices.

Nightlife is also strong at venues such as the Arlberg or the Kooroora. You know the night has ended at Kooroora when they play their signature sign-off song, That’s Amore, but it sometimes doesn’t get played until 3am.

Bookings: 1800 039 049;

Jetsetters: Queenstown, New Zealand

Just thinking about Queenstown can make you breathless. Fly in direct from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane during winter and you’re quickly immersed in the nightlife, the snow sports and extreme pursuits such as bungy jumping, para-sailing, abseiling and any other adrenalin-pumping activity you care to think of. Joe’s Garage is Queenstown all over: a restored mechanic’s garage in the centre of town that just happens to make such good coffee, breakfasts and snacks that it lures people, such as actor Sam Neill, from the local film set.

As the day wears on, dark and mysterious bars such as Bardeaux change their tone from easy-going apr&egrav;s-ski cosiness by the fire to buzzing in-crowd pizzazz as the night grows longer. And there’s choice to match in the mountains. Coronet Peak is the closest ski field — an easy drive along a sealed road to a well-appointed base area, from which the lifts leap up the mountain. It has some groomed terrain, encouraging runs for beginners and challenging pitches for the experts.

The other local area, The Remarkables, is a vast alpine area, where the skiing and the boarding are as good as the views across Lake Wakatipu and back to Queenstown.

Cardrona, also within easy reach halfway along the Crown Range Road between Queenstown and Wanaka, is ideal terrain for families who like to ski together.


Beauty seekers: Wanaka, New Zealand

If you’ve seen Queenstown and find the pace a bit frenetic, then Wanaka is the mountain town for you. Its spectacular alpine beauty and lovely lake is only matched by the comfort offered by this pretty little town.

The beauty didn’t escape country music superstar Shania Twain — she paid around $20million for a 24,731-hectare sheep holding in the high country near Wanaka in 2005 and that, as much as anything, reflects the town’s evolution. Wanaka now has a broad range of accommodation, some terrific cafes, such as Kai Whakapai, and bars, such as Barluga, and two major ski fields within easy reach. There’s Treble Cone, an excellent option for accomplished skiers and boarders, and Cardrona, with reliable snow cover and abundant cruising terrain for intermediates.

There are two unique venues across the valley from Cardrona — Waiorau Snow Farm, with its groomed cross country trails, and Snow Park, a skateboard heaven in the snow for younger skiers and boarders.


Young adventurers: Methven, New Zealand

Here’s a little country backwater that turned itself into a ski town, driven largely by nearby Mount Hutt and its invigorating terrain.

Proximity is one of Methven’s main virtues. It is little more than an hour’s drive from Christchurch airport. Cafes, bars and restaurants are modest in choice, but generally good quality. There’s a range of lodgings that includes top-shelf bed and breakfasts, such as Beluga Lodge, or budget beds at Abisko Lodge. Young travellers are drawn here by the low-cost accommodation and the apr&egrav;s-ski atmosphere at venues such as the Blue Pub, where it all starts on the veranda on a sunny afternoon, then moves inside by the fire as the day wears on.

A 45-minute drive from Methven, Mount Hutt has some gentle beginner’s terrain, easy-riding runs for intermediates and powder for accomplished riders.


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