Go skiing in Australia without breaking the bank

Ready to hit the slopes and go skiing? Travel editor David McGonigal looks at some great deals for Australian skiers. Are you old enough? You may be able to ski free!

If the cold weather and reports of snow on the mountains has you thinking about heading for the Australian ski fields this is good time for it. Depending on the snow cover the ski season runs from the June long weekend until the October long weekend.

For most skiers, the challenge is to find a way to save on the costs of lift passes and accommodation. Outside school holidays, many places offer deals for mid-week packages. The mountains also offer discounts if you buy online, in advance or buy multi-day passes.

$ saver tips 
1. Season passes are offered off-season at much reduced rates. So if you have time to do a lot of skiing but have yet to turn 65 you might want to check out the offerings this October for next year.

2. There is an advantage to growing older for you or a loved one if you love to hit the slopes. Once you turn 65 the cost of lift passes drops dramatically. Make it to 70 with your skis intact and there’s the opportunity for free skiing – and here you’ll be better served if you ski Victoria.

3. Be aware that costs of lift tickets vary depending on when you’re skiing so researching and planning a trip around this will save you money. And remember, even when the pass is free there may be a small fee for the tag itself.

Here’s an overview of the resorts and their current offers:

Perisher, NSW
Number of lifts        47
Max. vertical           355m
Highest lift altitude  2034 m
Skiable terrain        1245 hectares

Perisher, within Kosciuszko National Park is above the snowline so your accommodation is ski in/ski out. That makes it a very pretty, snowy environment in which to spend a weekend or a week. Parking above the snowline can be a hassle but you can park at Bullocks Flat and take the Ski Tube up to the skifields.

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Be struck by the beauty of Kisciuszko National Park from the ski lift (Image: Facebook/Perisher Resort)

There’s a substantial discount on lift tickets if you’re over 65 ($84 for a day pass – rather than $133 for an adult - or $875 for a season ticket – rather than an adult’s $1589) and it becomes very cheap if you’re over 70 ($159 for a season pass). Since last year Perisher has been owned by Vail Resorts so keen skiers can access deals at a range of resorts in in the US, too.

Thredbo, NSW
Number of lifts       14
Max. vertical          672 m
Highest altitude      2037m
Skiable terrain       480 hectares

Thredbo sits at the base of Australia’s highest mountain and, indeed, the easiest way to walk to Mt Kosciuszko in summer is to take the Kosciuszko Express chairlift then walk the relatively short distance to the summit. So, when there’s snow top to bottom Thredbo offers the longest vertical drop in Australia. The village, nestled deep in the Thredbo Valley is reminiscent of a European alpine village, with a wide range of dining options.

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Hit the snow fields at Thredbo this winter (Image: Facebook/Thredbo Resort)

Thredbo offers some good deals for older skiers. So, for example, while an adult day pass may cost $120, if you’re 65 or over it drops to $69. Its Premium Winter Pass costs $1099 but that drops to $799 for over 65s and $189 for over 70s. And Thredbo is part of the Mountain Collective so you can use it at Coronet Peak and the Remarkables in NZ and gain 50 per cent off at other top ski resorts around the world, including Whistler, Aspen and Chamonix.

Falls Creek, Victoria
Number of lifts        14
Max. vertical           360m
Highest lift altitude  1780m
Skiable terrain         450 hectares

Falls Creek is Victoria’s largest ski resort, with a wide range of runs and facilities scattered over a wide area. There’s a good choice of runs, a nice community feeling and good restaurants and accommodation.

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Enjoy the village feel at Falls Creek (Image: Facebook/Falls Creek) 

If you’re old enough, Falls Creek is a great bargain. If you’re over 70: a season pass costs just $5. If you’re 65-69 it’s $894 and under that age you’re up for $1594. An adult day pass costs $130, over 65s will pay $72.  

Mt Hotham, Victoria
Number of lifts         13
Max. vertical            395m
Highest lift altitude   1845m
Skiable terrain         320 hectares

Mt Hotham has an unusual configuration with the village at the top of a ridge and the ski runs descending from there. This season it has greatly expanded the area of snowmaking to better ensure coverage.

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Are you old enough? Ski free! Over 70s don't pay at Mt Hotham (Image: Facebook/Mt Hotham)

If you are over 70 you ski for free. Those between 65 and 69 pay $859 rather than $1549 for a season pass and that’s valid at Falls Creek, too. A day pass drops in price from $125 for an adult to $70 if you’re 65-69.

Mt Buller, Victoria
Number of lifts        22
Max. vertical           400m
Highest lift altitude  1780m
Skiable terrain        300+ hectares

Mt Buller is only about 200 km from Melbourne and that makes it the most accessible ski resort in Australia. That can make it very tempting to spontaneously pack the skis and take the three-hour dive when the snow is good. As a result, it has the largest lift system and the most on-snow beds of any resort in Victoria.

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 Mt Buller is only a three hour drive from Melbourne (Image: Facebook/Mt Buller)

A season pass to Mt Buller costs $1549 but only $779 if you’re 65-69. If you turned 70 before 1st June 2016 the season pass is free but there’s a $50 administration fee. While adults may pay $120 for a day pass, over 65s pay $67 and over 70s ski free.

Do you love to ski? Let us know your best skiing tips in the comments section below.