PERISHER – Who Knew?
My husband and I like to ski all the resorts USA has to offer, so the chance to spend a weekend at Perisher Valley had me hesitating… For about 3 seconds. I hadn’t been down to the NSW ski fields in a while, so I decided to see it with fresh eyes. Packing up gear, husband, car and kids we drove south on the M5 out of Sydney. The trip was smooth and wonderfully uneventful, a six hour opportunity to experience the rugged beauty of the Australian countryside. The sheer breadth of the uncluttered sky can make one feel like anything is possible.
|Smiggins. Raw Australian beauty|
|Something about Snowgums|
Our accommodation destination was Heidi’s Chalet located in Smiggins, just a 2 minute car ride on the road leading up to Perisher Valley. A small purpose-built ski village hemmed in by beginner slopes and multi-hued Snow Gum trees, Smiggins is a hidden gem, relatively unknown to the general population it misses the bulk of the ski crowds while providing much cheaper accommodation. Ski lodges and chalets are so close to the slopes you can clip your skis off and walk home for lunch and a snooze if you’ve had a few too many wines. Oh yes, that sure is a great feature of Smiggins.
Heidi’s Chalet, an ultra-modern building housing renovated and roomy apartments sits 50 metres from the chair lifts that take skiers up and over to Perisher Valley. We were lucky enough to get a front room, close enough to the lift to read what time lifts closed for the day. We found everything we needed right away for renting kids skis, next door at the General Store and Ski Hire. I love that you can hire skis and boots then grab bread, milk and cheese and pick up some postcards for Grandma in the one stop. Now that’s my kind of shopping. In and Out in 2 seconds.
With rumbling tummies, dinner (100metres in front of Heidi’s Chalet) was at The Smiggins Hotel, right next to the chairlifts. Reasonably priced fare and the chance to stay and listen to some local live music it is noisy between 5pm and 8pm. After rush-hour the vibe is local and low-key but too excited for the next day’s skiing to linger, we picked our way across the now bare car park, appetites sated. The valley was eerily quiet with most chalets offering eat-in packages. I’ve always loved the way ski-in ski-out resorts feel after the last vehicles disappear for the day. We tumbled into bed to the sound of grooming machines.
UP AND AT ‘EM
Waking early, the view from our accommodation was spectacular. Blue skies, gleaming cordaroy snow and nobody but staff squelching about. We got kids into their gear, stuffed them with toast and headed for the lifts the minute they opened. Warm coffee never tasted so fine. Up and over the valley we went with the kids, two t-bars rides in total till we hit Perisher front valley, a little adventure before ski school. In no time at all we were checking the kids into their classes and wooping for the big kids lifts.
The best side of Perisher Valley for those who have snow in their blood is Mount Perisher, the southern side of the resort. Slopes accessed by Eyre and International t-bars are fairly reliable for stashes of fresh, powdery snow, Protected from the wind snow tends to remain softer for longer and the smaller skiing population is thinner than front valley because you have to know how to get here (2 lifts from front valley) so you’re not likely to crash into a beginner. It is a multi-ability slope however, those skiing with friends or family members have the opportunity to travel the lifts together and meet at the bottom. A hot bowl of chilli with side roll served from the lunch cabin at the bottom of Eyre is a great casual lunch stop and the lunch crowd tends to be ski-lovers, locals and return skiers rather than school or large tourist groups.
Sun Valley and beyond
For more protected fluffy snow, Sun Valley (accessed from front Valley Quad, hopping off mid-station and skiing left down to Sun-Valley t-bar) is a nice challenging slope for perfecting your turns, a personal favourite with us. It can get a little like a traffic black spot at the bottom, but well worth a few runs on the way to lunch. If the Mt Olympus t-bar if open, wind pending it can be a more challenging black run if you’re up for it.
LUNCH FOR ALL APPETITES AND BUDGETS
If you’re not a chilli-fan, a great little stop for lunch is the Sundeck Hotel, offering on-slope accommodation, university campus-style nightlife and cheap but filling meals. Choose your meal and take your ticket to the counter to be served up. Sit inside on chilly days in casual dining room style or take drinks and meals outside on the deck for the closest Perisher has to European ski resort sunning . Great for large appetites and the view. To access the lower lifts on the front valley it is always amusing to oneself to ski the half-pipe directly under the Sundeck, especially after a refreshing beer with lunch. Down in the plaza there are hearty turkey and cranberry sandwiches if your budget extends to lunch $10 or less.
The Apres scene is not bouncy and upbeat like Europe tends to be, but actually I prefer it this way. In the Perisher Centre (where the food outlets are) the vibe in Jax is thirsty, young and either ready to kick on with a pub-crawl or those ready to turn in for the night. The music errs on the grungy side and is background music to the trade of ski stories among mates and the beer flows on. This is a great place to while away the afternoon if reading a book and waiting for your husband is more your thing as the deckchairs outside provide front row seats to the entertainment that is learn-to-ski, particularly when it involves packs of day-trippers wearing jeans and over-long skis from the early 1980s.
If you’re looking to end your ski day with the finer things in life The Perisher Valley Hotel is a warm civilised haven when waiting for the kids to finish ski school. If they’re beginner skiers you can watch their progress while being warmed by the fire and sipping a chilled wine, if you’re budget allows for it and your legs are burn- out from the day the lunch menu is well worth a look and runs into the late afternoon.
For live music you can’t beat The Smiggins Hotel for live local bands and it being a little out of the way for skiers staying in Jindabyne and beyond translates into less crowds for patrons and that’s a good thing. This venue attracts local young people on their night off, who are working through the ski season in various bars and chalets, providing great local knowledge if you decide to have a chat. The White Spider has low-key fireside après drinks in the late afternoon catering to a slighter older, more sensible crowd than the youthful drinkers at Jax and the Elbow Bar at either end of the Perisher Centre where the ski school and snack and coffee shops are.
SHUTTLE ME HOME
If your legs are kaput or the kids are too worn out to be skiIed home the free Smiggins shuttle bus is a lifesaver and the quickest way out of the valley. It’s nice to hop off the bus and only trudge a few steps to our accommodation. After all, what child ever carries their own skis home? We had never felt more ready for a warm bath and a welcoming bed.
BEST FOOT FORWARD
Perisher Blue’s highest lifted point, the Mt Perisher double chair is 2.034m/ 6,673ft. Modest by international ski standards its charm lies in its ability to be a wholistic holiday, whether you need kid-friendly features or you’re on a bachelor weekend. It is four resorts in one and it allows for variability and choice. Sometimes in the cutest picture-perfect European resort variability and choice are lacking if you get a blizzard. Your new ski pants mean nothing hanging in the closet. Perisher- Blue was amalgamated in 1995 to form one larger resort with two train stations (Perisher and Blue Cow). If it is windy on one side, you can try another. If you’re with snowboarders, beginners, families or experts you can find the terrain you need. If you’re tired and want to cruise, like we did, you can meet up with friends and trip over to Guthega Pub for a cosy, civilised fireside lunch. Slopes interspersed with broad Snow Gum trees make a diverse landscape, a far cry from Poderosa Pines found in the States and a feature in itself than sets it apart from ski trips where one landscape blends into another.
We left Perisher Blue, well-fed with steak, fine wine and vegetables, rather than the ubiquitous chips as ski-fare, happy for the weekend diversion and grateful that in just 6 hours drive we were back in jeans and long-sleeved t-shirts, walking on the beach dreaming of our next sojourn.
Snowy mountains Backpackers, Jindabyne
$90-$130 per room per night for doubles.
$30-$45 per bed per night (dorm beds)
Phone 1800 333 468
Snowy Gums Chalet, Smiggins
$488 2 nights (2-3 person share)
1300 568 203
Heidi’s Chalet. $1200 per apartment for 2 days. High Season. Self-contained. Onsite parking.
ph: 02- 9743 0911
$105 age 15 – adult ($13 discount on 2 consecutive days)
$58 age 6-14 ($7 discount on 2 consecutive days)