Skiing in Australia on the cheap: how to save money on the slopes

snow

When I was a child of maybe 10 years old I vividly remember having a calamitous stack while skiing at an Australian ski resort and losing my left ski down a mountainside.

The thing that stays with me was having to face my mum and dad back at the ski lodge to explain why I had returned to the lodge with a single ski.

At the time I didn’t even think about the expense it would have incurred if we’d had to pay for a replacement set of skis (it was eventually found), but as an adult I marvel at how my parents ever afforded to take us four boys away to the snow every year on a skiing holiday.

After all, everyone knows skiing in Australia is an expensive pastime – sometimes even considered as elitist sport. Over the years since I’ve continued my ski holidays, but I’ve worked out a few tricks to keep costs down in what is often considered to be one of the most expensive ski destinations in the world. 

Plan ahead and save

The best way to save serious dollars on your ski trip is to come prepared. I’ve found that ski clothes including waterproof jackets, gloves, goggles and scarves are often for sale in op shops in more upmarket suburbs like Toorak in Melbourne or Chatswood in Sydney.

In fact, these stores often also carry skis and boots, so shop around and see what you can find. This will save you the expense of hiring these goods on the mountain where prices are a premium. Recently at secondhand shops in Melbourne, I got a Gore-Tex jacket for $15, gloves for $5, and I’ve seen skis sold for $40. Aldi also has an annual stock of ski gear at low prices.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for secondhand, consider also hiring your gear before you leave for your trip – you’ll find everything is way cheaper off the mountain.

Nathan Fenton, online and marketing officer for Falls Creek resort, says if you plan to visit the snowfields more than once in a season you can also save a lot on lift passes and resort entry by purchasing a season pass during discount periods.

“A Falls Creek Season permit (access to the slopes and carpark) costs just $290 during the early bird sale period, which is around the same price as a six-day pass on the gate. The ‘hero pass’ is also one of the best deals in the country, giving season-long ski lift access to both Falls Creek and Mount Hotham in 2015 for under $750 in its sale period,” he says. 

Scope out the best deals

You don’t need to limit yourself to skiing at premium resorts such as Perisher, Falls Creek or Mount Buller.

Other resorts like Mount Baw Baw and Thredbo offer much cheaper lift tickets and accommodation options and often still provide excellent skiing opportunities, depending on the amount of snow in any given season.

Thredbo, for example, is offering 20% off lift tickets and gear rental if organised seven days in advance. Thredbo is also the only ski resort in Australia with a YHA hostel where rates start at around $60 a night.

Nadia Fadel, who runs the Thredbo YHA, says one of the big advantages of staying in a communal hostel is that you cook your own meals. The YHA is located within the Thredbo Resort and “only a few minutes from the Kosciuszko express chairlift, which means many of our guests choose to wander back to the hostel and make use of the communal facilities for lunch and a break in the middle of their day,” says Fadel.

Sleep off the mountain

While there is nothing quite like the feeling of being able to ski home to your hostel at the end of the day, there’s no doubt that finding alternative accommodation off the mountain is a much more affordable way to go. All-inclusive trips also allow you to plan everything upfront so you can remain within budget.

You can book an all-inclusive self-drive ski weekend at the Jindabyne Sports and Recreation Camp that covers accommodation, ski gear hire, park entry and lift tickets. Prices are $601 for the entire weekend or $252 for meals and accommodation only. These deals are only available on specific weekends and must be booked in advance.

According to Steve Manning, centre manager of the Jindabyne Sports and Recreation Centre, the all-inclusive option such as self-drive ski weekends that include accommodation, meals, ski hire, lift tickets, lessons and park entry is the best value available in the ski fields.

“Skiing in the low season is a less expensive way to visit the snowfields. The ski resorts have also spent quite a bit of money in snow-making so there’s usually excellent snow conditions at both ends of the season,” he says.

You don’t need to ski every day

Lift tickets will be your biggest expense on a ski holiday, and there is no way to avoid being slugged with day-ticket prices of up to $130 a day. But you don’t need to go skiing all day, every day to have a great holiday.

There are plenty of other activities available these days in Australian ski resorts – from cross-country skiing in the Bogong high plains, to tobogganing tracks, to breathtaking walks around the national parks, or even just sitting in front of the fire at the ski lodge with a good book and a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

First published at The Guardian

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