As a 19-year-old university student from the Gold Coast, the idea of a trip to the snow was something so wildly exotic I could hardly imagine it.
Wild and exotic was exactly how I saw myself as I first headed south on the train from sunny Queensland to the almost mythical Snowy Mountains. Naturally, as a teenager with my head in the snow clouds, I arrived in the mountain town of Jindabyne entirely ill-equipped for the cold weather, let alone the slopes.
Luckily, in those days, you could hire a job lot of ski clothes and equipment on the cheap, and, thus equipped, I headed for my first date with the snow.
When I finally arrived at Perisher, exhausted but excited two full days later, a love affair started the second I put on my second-hand ski boots – a love affair that survives to this day.
In those days, I loved Perisher for its simplicity; 26 years later, it’s that same simplicity that makes it so appealing.
This is a place about accessible skiing for everyone – it’s not for snobs or show-offs.
If you’re a skilled skier, there are great runs. If you’re shocking, or have never done it before, there are wide, forgiving slopes that allow you to learn.
It’s the skiing that makes Perisher special. If the snow is good, you can find dozens of different runs to keep you interested. If the snow isn’t so good, the resort’s snow-making facilities mean the well-worn runs stay ice-free until very late into the afternoon.
As any skier knows, it’s how the sport captivates a hundred per cent of your attention that makes it so enticing. You can’t think about anything else when you’re on the slopes – if you do, you fall over, simple as that. If you don’t, the feeling of exhilaration is unforgettable.
For those of us who work in complex worlds, there can be no greater form of relaxation than concentrating on getting down a slope in one piece.
Perisher is different from international resorts because of its landscape. Snow gums dot the slopes. A trip across to Blue Cow and Guthega skiing areas are joys because of the views across the valley.
It’s rare indeed to be able to ski next to an Australian creek.
And the light – the beautiful light. It’s starkly beautiful and so very Australian. It’s also very friendly. As annual visitors, we are remembered. My sons, Tom, 14, and Will, 12, are greeted like old friends. Bruno from Brunelli’s coffee shop never fails to put their favourite lunchtime paninis aside.
In our first year, we stayed at The Stables, up the hill above the slopes, and struggled as we dragged our bags full of enough food to last us the week. We have since dumped self-catering and moved to the Perisher Valley Hotel at the bottom of the hill, right on the snow. The hotel is ski-in and ski-out and the food is fabulous.
I’ve visited with my boys for the past six years. This is where they conquered the nursery slopes and moved to whatever terrain Perisher could throw at them. Now they know the layout so well they could be tour guides.
The highlight of the year is our skiing pilgrimage – we ski together, eat together and laugh together. I’ve taken the boys skiing to the US, but they say they prefer Perisher. To be honest, so do I. Before I booked next year’s trip, I asked if they wanted to bring a friend. They said no. I reckon that’s the best compliment they could pay the place.