Give me some of those Perisher Blues…

4 Sep

* This post was by T2, a co-author of In The Taratory from 2011-2013. *

While many complain about a lack of things to do and see here in the nation’s capital, one of Canberra’s draw cards is its proximity to the ski fields. Yes, I do realise that I’m writing for a blog aimed at promoting experiences in Canberra – but the famous Snowy Mountains, located in Kosciusko National Park, are close enough. A mere 2.5-hour drive south of the border will put you right on the doorstep of two of Australia’s largest ski resorts: Thredbo and Perisher Blue.

A group of friends and I had previously been to Thredbo with the Oz Snow Adventures crew. We stayed at the Snowy Valley resort in Jindabyne (shot-skis, anyone?). The two-day package definitely represented value for money, including transport (with the affable Rob-Bob and his sidekick, Yoko, as our private tour guides), share accommodation, hot breakfasts, buffet dinner, lift passes, and gear hire all for $469. A couple of introductory snowboarding lessons were also thrown in, ensuring that we were carving down the mountain like pros in no time. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration – but it was definitely an epic weekend, no doubt about it.

So I was keen to go back again this year and try skiing. I knew that I enjoyed boarding, and anticipated that the conversion between the two would be fairly easy.  Famous last words – but more on that later. Unfortunately, the budget wasn’t going to stretch to the full weekender this time around, so two friends and I did some research and signed up for Murrays’ day snow express package. (For those interested, I hear that Transborder Express also runs a similar snow service).

The Perisher Blue package was well-priced; $154 covered the return bus journey, entrance to Kosciusko National Park, tickets on the ski tube, an unrestricted daily lift pass and ski hire. To purchase all of these components separately would have cost well in excess of $200 – not to mention the added hassle of organising transport. Driving up to the mountains in winter doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. The idea of grappling with chains and negotiating potentially slippery roads in my little Toyota Yaris seems much too hard – especially when a good snow trip is usually capped off with a few refreshing ales at the pub!

The  bus left Jolimont Centre at 5.30am sharp and pulled into Perisher just before 8.30am. After organizing gear hire (a very smooth, well-run process – kudos to the Perisher team), we caught the 9.00am ski tube up to the slopes. Fifteen minutes later and there we were, gazing up to the hills of Front Valley with our skis and poles in hand.

I was optimistic about the day: the sun was shining, the skies could not have been any bluer, and there was a generous horde of sprightly boarders and skiers about – but not so many that the fields were unpleasantly crowded. Everyone from the cute little Milo kiddies to the recreational skiers and the hard-core professionals were out, showing that Perisher caters equally for all skill levels.

While Thredbo has the beginner-friendly Friday Flats area for those wanting to start with a relatively flat slope, Perisher’s equivalent appeared much steeper. Not to be daunted, I confidently caught the chairlift up and prepared myself for the downhill journey. And that’s when everything started to go downhill – literally. I’ll save you the detail but, in short, I was bloody awful. For some reason, my snowboarding experience didn’t quite translate to a knack for skiing. I found it exceedingly difficult to coordinate my two feet together.  ‘Do the pizza!’, I kept telling myself (I’d heard a ski instructor advise his five-year-old student to do it earlier, so figured that it must be the way to go). Every time I started gaining a bit of speed, I’d frantically start to do the ‘pizza’ in a bid to slow down – usually, to no avail.

I did slowly improve over the course of the day, but definitely spent a good portion of it on my bum. My poor two friends were both rather experienced skiers, and I don’t think they had expected to be stuck with a complete novice for the day. In hindsight, I wish I’d spared them the pain of having to hold my hand and opted in for some beginner ski lessons.

Apart from my abysmal skiing ability, the day was beautiful. The morning warmed up quickly; indicative of the fact that spring was just around the corner and that peak snow season was winding down. Perisher is home to an impressive 47 lifts (including chairlifts, T-bars, J-bars and ski conveyors, with the capacity to lift 51,305 people per hour – woah). The lines moved quickly, so we never really spent more than ten minutes in a queue (which is great, you’d think – but there was certainly a stage where I was willing the lifts to slow down so I wouldn’t have to subject myself to more embarrassment!).

Lunch was had at the popular Midpoint Café. Great view over the mountains, but the meal was average to say the least. $16.50 for a chewy, flavourless chicken schnitzel and bland hot chips, washed down with a $5.50 hot chocolate from an urn. Expensive – yes, but that’s to be expected a touristy place like this. It was convenient and, more importantly, it filled that gap in our stomachs and provided sustenance for the next three hours on the slopes.

The rest of the afternoon was spent negotiating the intermediate runs, albeit slowly. I quite liked the Yabbies’ Run; the incline didn’t seem as tough as some of the others. While the Blue Cow High Traverse proved a little more difficult, the view from up there was spectacular. The lift ride up to Guthega Peak is worth it just for this – at an elevation of 1,924 meters, you’ll be rewarded with visions of beautiful snow-capped mountains and the valleys below.

We were due back at the ski tube station by 3.50pm and, by then, I was more than ready to call it a day. We didn’t manage to squeeze in that refreshing ale this time, but the alternative was nearly as good: piping hot mini cinnamon donuts from a stall inside the ski tube terminal. A nice little treat after a hard 5.5 hours of skiing, I reckon!

All in all, the Murrays’ day snow package is an ideal option for those who want to have a true winter experience but don’t want to fork out for a weekend trip (hey, not everyone can afford that luxury chalet at the base of the mountain). However, it does make for an extremely long day.  My friends and I were absolutely exhausted by the time the bus pulled into Jolimont at 7pm. And, geez, did every bone in my body ache on Monday. Yowch!

For all those keen beans out there, the 2011 season doesn’t officially end until the Labour Day long weekend in October, so there’s still plenty of time to snap the skis on and get amongst it. There are even night skiing sessions held on Tuesday evenings. But I’d hurry – the weather is getting balmier and that snow is getting sludgier by the day…

Date: Saturday 27 August 2011 (05.30am – 07.30pm)

Attendees: T2 and friends

When:  Saturday 27 August 2011

Cost: $154

Worthwhile factor: Very worthwhile

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3 Responses to “Give me some of those Perisher Blues…”

  1. Christine September 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    I feel your pain!! You really should send this to a tourist bureau in Canberra. It’s absolutely fabulous re letting people know the ins and outs of the ski fields from a novice point of view.!

  2. Ryan January 2, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    Hi there, probably a late response to this posting. However, I am moving to Canberra in June and have always been excited about the 3hour drive to snow. Did the day package include lessons aswell?

    So far enjoying the blogs and getting some great tips and ideas for later in the year


  1. So, what does T2 reckon about Canberra in general? « In The Taratory - September 26, 2011

    […] but I don’t really care because it’s so much bloody fun (read more about my snow adventures here). A rather expensive hobby, yep, but also an awesome excuse to get outdoors when winter beckons […]

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