A region well worth visiting while on your Australia vacation is the Snowy Mountains. Ideal during both summer and winter months, it is truly an alpine wilderness, and home to Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s five highest peaks and its only glacial lakes. The stark contrasts and unique beauty cover the whole region with its distinct seasons of fresh summer air and powdery winter snow, across an expansive mountain landscape.
Important to the indigenous population of Australia for thousands of years, today, the Snowy Mountains region attracts huge numbers of visitors year round for recreational activities, relaxation, and exploration of the rich history and diverse landscapes. It is the perfect destination for natural adventure or to enjoy a myriad of fun activities from climbing to the top of Australia’s highest peak to horse-riding.
Where are the Snowy Mountains?
The Snowy Mountains are in the south east region of New South Wales and are the highest point in Australia’s Great Dividing Range. Much of the region is incorporated into the Kosciuszko National Park. The northernmost extremity of the Snowy Mountains is only 30 kilometres/18 miles west of Canberra. The southern end of the region is marked by a 1950 metre/6340 feet high peak called South Rams Head which is only 10 kilometres/6 miles from the State of Victoria border. At 2230 metres/7250 feet, Mount Kosciuszko is the highest peak on the Australian mainland. The flat expanse of the Monaro High Plain to the east of the region is sheep country, renowned for the quality of its Merino wool.
The Snowy Mountains are mainland Australia’s only true “alpine” region, thus are a hotspot for winter sports and similar pursuits. As Australia’s ultimate sports playground, the region offers excellent skiing, snowboarding, and tobogganing. The heaviest months for snowfall in the Snowy Mountains are June, July, and the first half of August. The major ski resorts offer all types of accommodation, along with mountain trails right on their doorstep or very close by.
Where to Take Part in Winter Activities
There are 4 major ski resorts in the Snowy Mountains, and they’re all contained in the Kosciuszko National Park.
Charlotte Pass: The resort village of Charlotte Pass is completely snowbound in the winter and is only accessible by Oversnow Bus Transport. Situated in the heart of the Snowy Mountains, it caters to beginner, intermediate, and experienced skiers looking for a true on-snow thrill. It is also particularly good for families and groups. The resort is also very popular with cross-country skiers, as the village provides immediate access to Australia’s highest peaks.
Perisher: There are seven mountain peaks located within the region of Perisher, the highest being Mount Perisher. Perisher not only boasts the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere, but also features Australia’s only Superpipe. With 47 lifts and a wide variety of ski runs of varying difficulty, the Perisher Ski Resort caters to skiers and snowboarders ranging from beginners to advanced. Here you can take a scenic chairlift ride, dine with an alpine view, spend time snowshoeing around the resort, or slide down the slopes at Tube Town. There is a range of lodging options available.
Thredbo: Thredbo was modelled after a typical European skiing town. Contrasting with the primarily lodge-based Perisher, Thredbo is a town with shopping and nightlife. It has the steepest overall terrain of any ski resort in mainland Australia, and provides perfect conditions for snow sports. Within the grounds of the Thredbo resort, you will find one of the longest ski runs in the country and marked routes suited to intermediate and expert skiers, as well as ski slopes dedicated to beginners having their first snow experience.
Selwyn Snowfields: Selwyn Snowfields is a small ski resort in the northern part of the Snowy Mountains, located near the town of Adaminaby and close to Cabramurra, which is the highest town in Australia. There is no public accommodation available at Selwyn Snowfields. Limited accommodation is available at nearby Cabramurra. Selwyn Snowfields is a family owned and run operation. Every aspect of Selwyn is geared towards providing a great family holiday, providing everything from snowboarding, downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and tobogganing.
Summer in the Snowy Mountains is the time to enjoy its spectacular scenery, particularly in and around its pristine lakes and streams. Major events and festivals take place each year, and you can catch a sheep sale, sample food at farm gates, or see a quaint country show. Activities include hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, and an abundance of water activities in the Jindabyne Lake, plus waterskiing, wakeboarding, swimming, and fishing.
Thredbo is a true year round alpine resort and offers a range of activities, including concerts and festivals such as the Thredbo Jazz or Thredbo Blues Festival. You can visit the Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery, situated along the Alpine Way, or take a scenic drive to the micro-brewery at Dalgety. The Thredbo Ski Museum has on display, a comprehensive collection of winter sports memorabilia, together with the history of skiing and snowboarding in Australia.
In the summer months, Perisher offers mountain bike trails scattered throughout the area. The trails vary in difficulty, from easy family-friendly rides to difficult inclines. You can spend a few hours or even a whole day hiking along mountain paths, spotting native wildlife and enjoying fresh alpine air.
Perhaps the most underrated in Australia, the Yarrangobilly Caves, were formed in a belt of limestone around 440 million years ago. Here, there is a thermal pool which retains a constant 27°C/81°F temperature. In the caves, you will discover stalagmites, stalactites, and delicate decorations like shawls and cave corals.
Now for something a little unusual… next to a functioning jail in Cooma is the New South Wales Department of Corrective Services Museum. It features exhibits and artifacts from the convict era through to the present prison system. Inmates conduct tours and sell their arts and crafts.
The Flora and Fauna in the Snowy Mountains
During the summer, colourful wildflowers carpet the region in a tapestry of colours – white, yellow, purple, and orange. Most plants are long lived perennials and these are able to survive under the snow. At higher altitudes above the tree line, the best displays occur in January and February.
In the Snowy Mountains there are wallabies and wombats ambling across the slopes, and possums and platypus in the streams. Most animals in the mountains are elusive, many hibernate for months of the year, but if you walk quietly enough and remain vigilant, you may see a spotted-tailed quoll or pygmy possum, the latter a mouse-sized animal that was believed to be extinct until unexpectedly discovered in 1966.
Whether you decide to visit the Snowy Mountains in winter or summer, be assured, there is always plenty to fill your time here.