First Snow Holiday: Beginners Guide to Skiing and Snowboarding in the Snowy Mountains

Three Friends at the top of Thredbo Resort
Learn a new skill and explore the mountain at Thredbo Resort

Looking to book your very first ski holiday? Well you have come to the right place! The NSW Snowy Mountains is home to some of Australia’s favourite snow resorts, all catering to the beginner skier and snowboarder. Preparing for your first ski holiday is super exciting, but it can also be a little daunting. There can be a lot to think about – which resort should you visit, what do you need to pack, should you ski or snowboard, should you book a lesson? Don’t worry, we’ll answer all those questions, and more, right here! Here are our top tips for ensuring your first ski holiday is an enjoyable one…

What should I wear when skiing and snowboarding?

Wearing the right clothing and gear is crucial to staying warm, dry, and comfortable all day long, and is the key to ensuring you enjoy your time on the slopes.

Base Layers: It’s all about layers! Start with moisture-wicking base layers made out of synthetic materials or wool. These will keep sweat away from your skin and help regulate body temperature. It’s best to avoid wearing cotton as it retains moisture and can make you feel cold.

Insulating Layer: For extra warmth, add an insulating layer. Opt for a fleece or down jacket over cotton. This layer should be breathable and provide insulation without being too bulky. It’s important to adjust your clothing according to changing weather conditions. If it’s a warm sunny day, remove this layer, but if it’s a cold day, you will be very grateful for this layer. It’s always better to have more layers than less!

Waterproof and Windproof Outerwear: Wearing a high-quality waterproof and windproof jacket and pants that are specifically designed for snow sports is a must. They will keep you dry, warm and comfortable when on the slopes. If you are a beginner, you will likely spend a lot of time sitting on the snow, and you will be very thankful for your waterproof  layers!

Gloves or Mittens: Opt for insulated waterproof gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm and dry. Mittens generally provide more warmth, while gloves offer better dexterity. If you have young kids, mittens are the easiest option to get on their small hands and will help them stay warm throughout the day. 

Helmet: Always wear a helmet for safety. Make sure it fits snugly and comfortably by getting a professional to fit it. Check with individual resorts on their helmet policy for lessons. 

Goggles or Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from snow glare and harmful UV rays with ski goggles or sunglasses with UV protection.

Neck Warmer or Balaclava: A neck warmer or balaclava can provide extra protection against the cold and wind for your neck and face.

Ski/Snowboard Socks: Did you know that there are socks made specifically for skiing and snowboarding? They offer padding where you need it and are also moisture-wicking. Ensure they are pulled up above your boots to prevent blisters and keep your feet warm.

Ski/Snowboard Boots: If choosing to ski or snowboard, you need to ensure you have specific boots. Choose boots that fit snugly and provide adequate ankle and foot support. They should be comfortable and not too tight. Boot fitters within hire shops will ensure you have the right size and fit for your ability.

Should I rent or purchase my snow gear?

If you are embarking on your very first snow adventure, it can be more beneficial to rent gear instead of purchase. Renting offers the advantage of experimenting with various types and styles of gear to help you get a feel of what exactly you need. Many rental shops offer helpful advice and assistance, ensuring you have the right equipment for your skill level and the current weather conditions. Renting is also a great option if you have growing children. However, if you plan to visit the snow frequently and for extended periods, buying might be more cost-effective in the long run. 

All resorts have their own ski hire facilities and there are a few advantages of hiring within the resorts including easy change of equipment if something isn’t quite right or if something breaks. However, they can also be busy at peak times so it can be quicker and cheaper to hire gear in the townships. Rhythm Snow Sports in Cooma is Australia’s largest snow sports store in Australia. They offer a huge range of snow gear to hire or purchase and are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Jindabyne offers a huge range of snow sports stores, some popular outlets include Boss Outdoors, Ski Shed Hire or ESS Board Store for when you need a delicious cup of coffee whilst you get your gear fitted.

Skiing and Snowboarding lessons at Perisher
Image: Perisher Resort

Should I Ski or Snowboard?

It’s the question on every first timers lips! Whichever you choose, it’s all about having fun and enjoying learning a new skill. If you have the time, and the budget, you could consider booking a lesson and trying both to see which sport suits you best. If that doesn’t fit within your budget, here are some basics on skiing and snowboarding to help you decide.

Many will agree that skiing is generally easier to learn compared to snowboarding, and most beginners find themselves gliding down the beginner slopes faster on skis than on a snowboard. Skiing is more intuitive for newcomers as your legs are separated, enabling you to move each leg independently, like you do when walking. You will use straight-on stance with your legs parallel and facing forward, which feels more natural and can give a faster sense of balance and stability at slower speeds, helping you to stay upright on the snow. 

Most people agree that learning to snowboard takes a bit longer than skiing. When snowboarding, you are attached to one board with both legs which can feel a little more restrictive when first starting out. Expect to spend a lot of time sitting in the snow on your first day! But once you do have the basics of balancing, stopping and turning under control, you will find the more advanced control and skills can be acquired faster than with skiing.

Some other things to take into consideration is which sports you’ve tried before and whether that experience will help you. People who have previous skateboarding or surfing experience may find snowboarding more natural than skiing. And sometimes, it just pays to go with the flow. What snow sport have your friends and family chosen? If you choose the same, you might be able to use their experience to help you improve.

What other activities are on offer?

It’s not just the skiers and snowboarders who have all the fun here in the winter time. There are plenty of snow-filled activities to enjoy during your winter holiday, including:

Snowshoeing: Strap on some snowshoes and explore the serene winter landscapes on foot. You can hire snowshoes and set off on your own adventure, but to truly enjoy Australia’s alpine region, we recommend booking a snow shoe tour with a local tour operator. 

Tobogganing: Adventure-seekers of all ages can experience the excitement of zooming down the slopes on toboggans. Selwyn Snow Resort offers Australia’s largest tobogganing park including the longest carpet lift in Australia measuring a massive 150- metres. Be aware that tobogganing is prohibited within the resort areas of Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass. 

Join the Après Scene: After a day on the slopes, unwind and socialise at the resort’s bars and restaurants. Many have live music or entertainment available and many of the resorts have a jam packed events calendar to enjoy during winter. Take a look at Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass or Selwyn calendars to find out what’s on offer during your visit.

Book a guided snow shoe tour with K7 Adventures
Tobogganing at Selwyn Resort

Which Snow Resort is best for beginners?

When it comes to finding the right beginner slope to learn to ski or snowboard on, you are spoilt for choice in the Snowy Mountains with four separate resort areas to choose from, with each offering their own unique beginner experiences. 

Thredbo Resort: Perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers, Thredbo boasts a wide range of slopes, excellent ski schools, and a vibrant village atmosphere. When you tire of skiing or snowboarding for the day, you are likely to find a great apres scene to enjoy. 

Perisher Resort: Australia’s largest ski resort, Perisher, offers a variety of terrains suitable for all levels, with extensive beginner areas and advanced runs for seasoned skiers.

Charlotte Pass Snow Resort: This intimate resort is ideal for beginners and families, offering a relaxed atmosphere and uncrowded slopes. The resort is only accessible via oversnow transport, which adds another level of excitement and adventure to your snow holiday experience. 

Selwyn Snow Resort: Geared towards beginners and families, Mount Selwyn provides a welcoming and laid-back environment for learners, and if you decide skiing or snowboarding isn’t for you, you can hire a toboggan from the resort and enjoy Australia’s largest toboggan park. 

Should I take a lesson?

YES! Enrolling in a lesson with a qualified instructor will be the best decision you make on your first snow holiday. A professional will teach you the proper techniques and help you build confidence, making your first experience more enjoyable. Here are five reasons why beginners should take a ski lesson:

  1. Learn Proper Technique: Mastering the right technique from the start is crucial for an enjoyable and safe experience. A ski lesson with a qualified instructor will teach beginners the fundamentals, including proper body positioning, turning, stopping, and more. 
  2. Build Confidence: Learning a new skill can be a bit intimidating for first-timers, especially when facing the slopes for the first time. A ski lesson provides a safe and supportive environment for beginners to build confidence gradually. Instructors can tailor the lesson to each individual’s pace, making learners feel more comfortable and at ease on the snow.
  3. Safety First: Skiing involves plenty of risks and lessons not only teach skiing skills but also cover essential safety guidelines, such as how to use ski lifts, how to navigate various terrains, and what to do in emergency situations. Knowing these safety measures can prevent accidents and ensure a safer skiing experience.
  4. Explore the Resort: Instructors are like local guides on the slopes, they know the ski resort inside out and can take beginners to suitable areas that match their skill level. 
  5. Meet New Friends: Taking a ski lesson is a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow beginners who are just as excited (and nervous) to learn. Group lessons often foster a fun and sociable atmosphere, allowing participants to share experiences, support each other, and have a few laughs together.

Where should I stay?

The Snowy Mountains offer a range of accommodation options allowing you to choose what suits your needs and budget best. You may opt to stay ‘on-snow’ at Thredbo, Perisher Charlotte Pass, who offer many accommodation options within the resort areas. There’s a few perks to staying ‘on-snow’ or within the resorts. Staying on snow not only offers convenience, but also allows you to maximise your time on the slopes. There’s no need to commute from off-site accommodation, which saves precious time (and energy) in the morning. It also makes it easier to take breaks or return to the accommodation if needed, allowing for a flexible and enjoyable ski holiday. This is particularly helpful if holidaying with young kids. Plus, you also get to wake up to breathtaking mountain views, enjoy the charming ski village atmosphere, and have the chance to partake in evening activities and events right at the resort as many of the resorts offer night skiing and fireworks displays. 

Staying within the resorts won’t work for everyone’s budgets. Luckily there are plenty of accommodation options available within the nearby townships. The most popular being Jindabyne and is a convenient location if visiting the resorts of Thredbo, Perisher or Charlotte Pass. Jindabyne offers plenty of cafe’s, restaurants and activities to enjoy for the days you need a break from the hill. If you plan to visit Selwyn Snow Resort, we recommend looking for accommodation options in Cooma or Adaminaby. If you are looking for an extra special snow holiday, take a look at these unique places to stay around the Snowy Mountains.

Lake Crackenback Resort offers a family friendly experience close to the Thredbo and the Ski Tube

What’s the best way to get to and from the slopes?

The most convenient and affordable way to get to the slopes is to use the Snowy Mountains Bus Service which runs daily to Thredbo and Perisher (with access to Charlotte Pass Over Snow Transport terminal), providing easy access from Jindabyne to the ski resorts throughout the entire ski season. The bus service runs hourly during the ski season, with additional services during peak times, ensuring that you have plenty of options to choose from when planning your trip. There are also a number of private transfer companies working within the region including Snowy Mountains Shuttles and Snow Alliance, which is a great option if you aren’t confident driving in alpine conditions. 

If you choose to drive to the resorts, ensure you drive to the conditions by following these snow safe driving tips and remember to pay your entry fees into Kosciuszko National Park.

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