Mountainwatch | Reggae Elliss
Thredbo has long been regarded as Australia’s premiere ski resort and for many people, me included, it is the best ski resort in Australia. Ok, I may be biased as I have lived in Thredbo for a long time, but from a skier’s perspective it is hard to beat. Thredbo has the longest groomed runs in the country while the off-piste terrain features a huge variety of trees runs, creek lines and snow-gathering upper bowls. The base of the mountain is 1400 metres while the top of Karels T-bar is Australia’s highest lifted point at 2037 metres, giving Thredbo an impressive vertical drop of 672metres, the longest in Australia.
While these on-mountain facts contributed to Thredbo being awarded the title of Australia’s Best Ski resort at the 2018 World Ski Awards in Austria, the atmosphere and uniqueness of Thredbo Village also played a part. Thredbo doesn’t close when the lifts do and that, combined with plenty of off-snow options, make a snow holiday in Thredbo a complete experience.
Thredbo’s European founders envisaged an alpine village modelled on a European mountain town as the centre of the resort. The result is a true alpine village with that has an ambience and intimacy unmatched by any resort in Australia or New Zealand.
Thredbo has over 4000 beds and when the place is full in winter it is very busy. However, Thredbo Village is also year-round town with a close-knit community of 450 locals, aged from infants to 98-year-old Frank Pehota and the village has all the amenities you’d find in any small regional town. This includes a year-round Early Childhood Centre and a daily school bus to and from Jindabyne that carries kids from kindy to Year 12. The locals love their home town, and that connection is another special thing that differentiates Thredbo from other Australian ski resorts.
With 480 hectares of skiable terrain Thredbo offers a lot of variety and something for all standards, with 16% beginner, 67% intermediate and 17% advanced. The groomed runs range from the gentle slopes of the Friday Flat beginner’s area, to the consistent fall-line f the blue runs at Merritt’s to Australia’s longest run, the 5.9km winding Village Trail from the top of Karels to Friday Flat to the 3.7-kilometre leg-burning falline of the Supertrail – and plenty more in between.
While Thredbo’s long, groomed runs are perfect for setting your edge and carving drawn-out turns, in many ways its strength is the variety of terrain off piste, particularly on a powder day. During a storm Thredbo’s vertical offers protection and visibility in the trees and there are plenty of options even if the Kosi Chair is on wind-hold.
Places like Snowgums trees, the Glades, Michael’s Mistake, Powder Bowl and Cannonball all come into their own. Then there are all the other zones that aren;t on the trail map. To get the insider’s tips on where to head for two score the best snow on a powder day check out Stefan Doyle’s Thredbo rundown in the locals guide to skiing powder.
One of Thredbo’s distinct advantages is its topography and position at the edge of the NSW Main Range. Thredbo faces southeast which not only reduces the amount of direct sunlight on the slope but also in a moderate to strong WNW wind, the prominent wind direction in winter, a lot of snow blows in off the Main Range, filling the top half of the mountain with light, dry windblown powder.
If you’re not scared of a bit of wind, it is hard to beat those days when it is 40-60ks out of the WNW, places like Sponars, the Bluff, Golf Course offering constant re-fills of soft dry powder, with fresh tracks every run. Some of the best days I’ve had in Thredbo have been when the wind is howling, and the ice pellets sting your face at the top of Sponars t-bar and the snow is superlight and dry.
Thredbo’s efficient lift system has a total of 14 lifts, including three high-speed Quads and four T-bars on the upper mountain, perfect for maintaining access to some of Thredbo’s best terrain, even when the wind is howling. It has been a long time since Thredbo installed a new lift which was the Cruiser high speed Quad way back in 1994. However, it has been officially confirmed that an eight-person gondola will replace the old Merritts double chair this upcoming summer and will open for the 2020 winter.
Thredbo has a number of parks, including a beginner’s park at Playground, at the top of the Cruiser chair and the intermediate Merritt’s park where you can take quick laps using the Easy Rider T-bar.
The advanced park at Antons is always impressive, and has attracted a number of overseas riders and film crews over the past few years. When it is fully open, the park runs the length of the t-bar and features a mix of medium jumps, big booters, wall rides, rails, boxes and tubes.
Where to Stay:
Thredbo was founded in 1957 and many of the original Thredbo pioneers were post-WW2 European emigrants who had worked on the Snow Hydro scheme. The village was modelled on a European mountain town with restaurants, bars and shopping all within easy walking distance. The European influence is still apparent in the central village, particularly places like the Black Bear Inn, Candlelight Lodge and Kasees lodge.
Thredbo’s accommodation is located over three areas – the original central village which has a mix of apartments and small B&Bs and hotels, the Woodbridge area, opposite the leisure centre which has larger free-standing chalets and duplexes and Crackenback Ridge, again large chalets including the luxurious Ski In Ski Out chalets towards the bottom of the Supertrail.
Getting around the village is easy with a free shuttle bus service that runs fromm 7.30am each day.
Retail: There are plenty of retail options including the resort owned retail/rental stores at Friday Flat and Valley Terminal at the bottom of the Kosi Chair. The main retail precinct is the Village Square in the centre of town that has a number of stores catering to a variety of tastes and styles. These include long term locally owned and operated snow specialists like Snowports, which carries European skiwear brands and fashion, Gravity Sports, for ski gear, skis, boots and expert boot-fitting and Rip Curl Thredbo which has the full range of Rip Curl’s technical freeride mountainwear. Then there is the unique JK Gallery and Mountain Store, one of the most beautiful stores in the mountains, which carries original art, furniture, homewares and gifts.
Apres and entertainment has always been a big part of Thredbo’s DNA and it has stepped up in recent years with DJs and bands at the Alpine Bar at the Thredbo Hotel and regular gigs in the village square.
The hotel also has a number of bars including the Lounge Bar, the Schuss bar for live music while the infamous Keller is the villages late night venue. There are also a number of bars dotted throughout the village, including the Après Bar at the Denman which has live music seven days a week during winter. These sessions are led by Thredbo icon Mark Travers whose shows guarantee a good time. Other favourite watering holes include the House of Ullr, the Black Bear, Candlelight and Bernti’s Bar and Brasserie.
Where to Eat:
On Mountain: Plenty of choice with seven on mountain outlets. If you’re into sit-down lunches Eagles Nest and Kareela Hut offer restaurant style food, while Back Sallees is more your bistro fare and a great place for an afternoon beer on the deck. Merritts Mountain House at the bottom of the Cruiser chair has an extensive menu. Frost Bite at the top of High Noon has killer burgers and great coffee, while the Avalanche café and BBQ at the bottom of Kosciuszko Chair has a lot of choice, including pies, burgers and it’s famous double-banger-sanga. Plus the coffee is always good.
The Village: Again, there is no shortage of choice and with 20 bars and restaurants in the village you’d be hard-pressed to try them all in a one-week visit. There is a wide range of cuisines available from modern Australian, to the Brazilian BBQ at Sante’s, Italian at Segretos in the Thredbo Alpine Hotel and excellent Mexican at the House of Ullr. You’ll find some of the best food in the mountains at Central Road in the village square, owner/chef Paul Antone delivering a menu of Asian Fusion for lunch and dinner. The Black Bear Inn is legendary for its hearty European inspired meals and lively atmosphere. The Candlelight Lodge also has a European style menu including its signature fondue while Zack’s Grill at Berntis, has a wide menu including steaks, pasta and fish. For fine dining try the Terrace restaurant at the Denman while the family friendly Burger Bar at Riverside apartments is just a five-minute walk from the Village Square. The T-Bar restaurant has a great choice a la carte meals and gourmet pizza in a classic mountain atmosphere. If you are after something quick and tasty head for the Al Fresco pizzeria, a Thredbo institution for over 30 years. The list goes on. For a quick lunch the bakery has a range of pies, pastries, rolls etc while Kebabz is the place for some takeaway.
Not many ski resorts can claim to have a 50-metre Olympic pool, a waterslide, a sports hall with basketball courts and indoor soccer fields, Olympic-sized trampolines, a climbing wall, gym and squash courts all under the one roof.
First opened in 1996, the Thredbo Leisure centre is a year-round facility, and in winter it is great option on bad weather days or for just unwinding with a few leisurely laps in the pool after a big day on the hill.
Thredbo offers easy access to the backcountry and is a great place to kick off a tour, whether it is a short hike to Signature Hill, a day trip to Kosi or an overnighter to the western faces. The glimpses you get of the Main Range as you near the top of Karels T-bar are enticing and once you get out behind Signature Hill you feel like you’re in another world, the hustle and bustle of the resort left behind as you experience a feeling of isolation in a snowy wilderness.
Last year Thredbo launched guided backcountry tours out of the resort and they proved to be a great success, offering the opportunity to explore the backcountry safely and to learn something in the process.
As mentioned previously, Thredbo is a year-round resort and it is becoming increasingly popular each summer. Mountain biking is growing each year and Thredbo has invested in new tracks over the past few years, catering for different levels of rider . The Thredbo Valley Trail, a 22 km ride from Thredbo to Lake Crackenback is popular with families.
The Kosciuszko Chair is open all year, accessing the walking trail to Mount Kosciusko and Thredbo also has a number of guided walks on the roof of Australia. Then there’s the picturesque nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, the fly fishing and the free activities at the Village Green, including a skate park, BMX pump rack and trampolines.
Thredbo’s 365 Pass gives you year-round access to lifts and leisure centre as well as the golf course, tennis courts and the bob sled in summer.
International Pass Partners
Thredbo is part of The Mountain Collective with access to ski resorts in Japan, Canada, Europe, South America, New Zealand and the U.S. Ski resorts include Niseko, Aspen, Banff, Jackson Hole, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Buller.
Thredbo is also part of the Ikon Pass with access to ski resorts in Japan, Canada, South America, New Zealand and the U.S. Ski resorts include Mammoth, Big Bear, Steamboat, Niseko, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Mt Hutt and Mt Buller.
Elevation top: 2037 metres
Elevation Bottom: 1365 metres
Vertical drop: 672m
Skiable Terrain: 480ha
Longest run: 5.9km
Beginner terrain: 16%
Intermediate Terrain: 67%
Advanced terrain: 17%
Lifts: 14 (3 highspeed quads, 1 Quad, 2 doubles, 5 T-bars, 3 beginner carpets
Thredbo’s 2018 season edit gives you a good idea of why it won the award as Australia’s best ski resort: