Snow lovers enjoyed the best conditions since 2002 for the ski season’s official opening over the weekend, with May’s late cold snap spreading up to a metre of fresh snow over the Australian Alps.
A series of blizzards helped ensure that all of Australia’s mainland resorts were showing healthy snow cover.
Indeed, it was healthy enough for Perisher and Selwyn Snowfields in NSW and Mount Buller in Victoria to get their lifts running a week early. At Buller, they opened their new Bourke Street Express six-seater chairlift for a day’s free skiing a week early and have had it turning ever since (the free rides are over though). Perisher also had a new lift to open, it’s Leichhardt four-seater chairlift, which it had turning a few days before the official opening.
So a weekend that is normally weak on snowboarding and skiing and strong on entertainment, turned out to be a good one for the riders with all areas having some lifts operational.
Take a look at the 2019 ski season’s opening weekend in the photo gallery above.
“Thredbo saw a record number of visitors enjoying the good early season conditions and sharing the famous village atmosphere” said Stuart Diver, the resort general manager. Thredbo had a mix of terrain open, covering all ability levels, including Friday Flat, Cruiser, High Noon, the Supertrail and a terrain park.
On Saturday night at Thredbo, a huge fireworks display had the village streets and balconies lined and the party kept going, with over 500 guests enjoying the apres vibes in the village with Bag Raiders and Purple Sneakers the headline acts.
Perisher also had a focus on music, with its annual Peak music festival running for four days over the long weekend and beyond. They call it “Australia’s Coolest Music Festival” with over 30 acts playing across 11 venues – some of them local aspiring musicians, some of them well-known acts like Ash Grunwald and True Vibenation and, from the US, Kristy Lee.
Falls Creek had seven lifts open for the weekend as well as its Panorama terrain park fully set, probably a first for any Victorian area in early June. Hotham shared the festivities with neighbouring DInner Plain village and a full menu of food and wine events.
Mt Buller opened five lifts for skiers and boarders over the long weekend. “We started on a high on June 1 opening the new $6m Bourke Street Express chairlift a week early thanks to some good initial snowfalls and great pre-season snowmaking conditions,” Buller Ski Lifts general manager Laurie Blampied said. “It’s wonderful to see people enjoying this much snow for the long weekend.”
Buller Resort Management chief executive Mark Bennetts joined an impressive gathering of winter Olympians for the official kick off to the season in the Mt Buller Village Square, “It’s a wonderful feeling of community on the mountain for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend and it’s great to see so many new and familiar faces on the mountain soaking up the free entertainment, the fireworks and of course just enjoying quality time on the snow together.”
Some of the mountains reported rain on Monday, but even that isn’t necessarily a curse – if that freezes in amongst the snow that has already fallen, then that just goes to make an even firmer base from which to build a season. Heavier rain can be a problem though – welcome to the Australian mountains.
The forecast for the next week isn’t showing a lot of snow, but it is showing cold temperatures that will be good for snowmaking, so operations should still be good for the coming school holidays that start at the end of June.
At the time of writing, Perisher had 6 of 48 lifts running, Thredbo 7/14, Falls Creek 7/14, Hotham 7/13 and Mount Buller 2/22. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the snow cover to run more; it may well be that they aren’t yet fully staffed and will bring their workforce up to speed for the weekends and the school holidays when they roll around.
On that note, if you’re looking for a week when the resorts are fully operational but the crowds have diminished, head to the NSW areas when schools go back on Monday July 22 and the Victorian areas after Monday July 15. Early September is also a great time to visit, when the snow cover is at its most reliable, the crowds fall away and the prices ease slightly also.
WHAT’S NEW IN THE MOUNTAINS FOR 2019
FALLS CREEK, VIC
Not a lot, but it’s the little things that count at Falls. Like the hippest new lounge bar on the Australian ski slopes at local hot-spot Elk at Falls; it’s a mysterious after-dark bar behind an emerald curtain. The big event, every year on the last weekend in August, is the Kangaroo Hoppet, Australia’s biggest cross country ski festival; see hoppet.com.au
Get into Hotham’s famed backcountry with a new range of guided backcountry tours starting this year, and clinics and workshops to help you master it. There’s also a Backcountry Festival on September 7 and 8. Track how much terrain you cover on a brand-new app with instant tracking capabilities.
MOUNT BULLER, VIC
There’s more going on at Mount Buller than almost all the other Australian areas combined: A new $6 million six-seater chairlift replaces the Blue Bullet; the classic Kooroora Hotel has been demolished and stage one of a new development, with a hotel included, will open this season with apartments and more next season. Snowmaking capacity has also been increased.
The new Leichhardt Quad Chair will increase capacity by 75 per cent from what was a T-bar. And check out the events calendar this season because it’s non-stop, with something on every weekend.
Not much, as its village, lifts and snowmaking work well. Thredbo’s sights are set on medium-term projects including an eight-person gondola up to a new upper-mountain base at Merritts and expanded children’s and beginner facilities at Friday Flat.
See also: Your comprehensive guide to the best deals and what’s new this ski season
See also: Ten of the world’s best upmarket ski resorts