A little piece of Europe across the Ditch, Thredbo is the perfect location for your next ski holiday.
Installing a new mountain gondola would be challenging at the best of times, let alone while bushfires raged nearby and a deadly global pandemic was taking hold. Incredibly, these factors only delayed the opening of Australia's first alpine gondola by two weeks.
On June 20, 2020, Thredbo ski resort in the Australian Alps unveiled the 1.3km-long Merritts Gondola. The $15 million system was a game-changer, dramatically increasing throughput, slashing upload times to six minutes and allowing non-skiers to access on-mountain dining venues.
Thredbo has been named Australia's best snow resort five years running, made all the more enticing with improved facilities and a host of new experiences. Considering a winter holiday across the Ditch this year? Here's what you need to know.
Located in Kosciuszko National Park in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains, Thredbo has almost double the vertical drop of any other Aussie resort (672m). It also boasts Australia's longest downhill ski run (the thigh-testing 3.7km Supertrail), Australia's highest lifted point (2037m at the top of Karels T-bar) and Australia's highest restaurant (the 1930m-high Eagles Nest).
There's an impressive variety of terrain, from Friday Flats, a well-equipped beginner area with gentle slopes and easy lifts, through to black runs and off-piste bowls for advanced boarders and skiers. Intermediates are particularly well-catered for with lots of long, tree-lined cruisers that sweep down the mountain.
Aerial addicts can get their fix at the resort's two terrain parks while more intrepid types can sign up for a backcountry tour to hunt out the mountain's hidden bowls and secret stashes.
There are quirky elements too, such as the Thredbo Community Bell at the top of Karels T-bar (ringing it is a rite of passage for first-timers), plus the novelty of skiing through native Australian gum trees.
On average the resort gets nearly two metres of snow a year, but there are extensive snowmaking facilities for the times when nature doesn't co-operate.
In 2021 Thredbo became the first Australian snow resort to achieve the EarthCheck Gold Certification for its environmental initiatives, which include energy conservation, emissions reduction and waste management. It was also the first Aussie snow resort to power all of its major operations with 100 per cent renewable and clean energy; plus it's well on the way to eliminating all front of house single-use plastics.
If there's one thing that differentiates Thredbo from Australia's other winter playgrounds, it's the resort's picturesque European-style village. Ideally located at the base of the mountain, it's a compact huddle of cosy lodges, restaurants and bars, many of which were built by Czech immigrants in the mid-1950s (visit the Thredbo Alpine Museum to learn more about the resort's fascinating history).
You'll find an impressive array of eateries ranging from casual, family-friendly affairs such as T-Bar Restaurant to intimate venues such as Candlelight Lodge, where you can try alpine specialities such as cheese fondue and spatzle washed down with a chest-thumping schnapps (or three).
There's a wide range of accommodation, including chalets, boutique lodges and self-contained apartments, but hands-down the most convenient option is the Thredbo Alpine Hotel, which is steps from the base and has an inviting fireside lounge that serves a mean espresso martini.
Non-skiers are also well-catered for with plenty of warm cafes, a well-equipped leisure centre and self-guided art and ecology walks.
The resort's founders set out to create a mini-St. Anton, and Thredbo certainly feels the most European of Australia's ski resorts. Partly, this is due to the intimate village atmosphere and ubiquitous Alpine architecture, but it's also thanks to the resort's legendary events and apres scene.
If you're lucky enough to score a lunch booking at Kareela Hutte, a cosy, ski-in/ski-out on-mountain restaurant, prepare yourself for an indulgent feast of schnitzel, pork knuckle and goulash.
As the schnapps and champers flows and the music cranks up, things can get pretty lively (singing and dancing is not uncommon), which can make for an interesting ski back down. Merritts Mountain House is another popular apres spot, with the added bonus that it can be reached by non-skiers via the Merritts Gondola.
Once you're back at the base, you're but a mitten toss from the Alpine Bar, where skiers and boarders congregate around outdoor firepits to swap tall tales from the day. Expect even more exuberance on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights thanks to a stellar apres-ski line-up, if past years are anything to go by.
Saturday nights are also traditionally when you might see the resort's famous Flare Run, a 30-year-old institution where a group of expert skiers and snowboarders race down Supertrail with flaming flares before the sky is illuminated with a spectacular fireworks display. A kid-friendly version sees little ones cruising down the gentle Easy Does It run holding flashing LED lights.
Thredbo is roughly six hours' drive from Sydney and Melbourne and 2½ hours' drive from Canberra.
Qantas operates flights from Sydney and Brisbane to the Snowy Mountains Airport in Cooma, which is a one-hour drive from the resort. qantas.com
Conditions permitting, the resort will commence winter operations on June 11 and stay open until October 3. For season prices and more information about this year's events, thredbo.com.au
Please check the latest border restrictions in each state and territory before travelling. For more information visit australia.com