When you tell a non-Aussie that one can ski in Australia, you can almost hear their snorts of derision, or at the very least, receive looks of confusion. It’s certainly not the tourist brand that we portray in the brochures, nor our movies, unlike the endless golden sand beaches or the glamour of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It’s true, our “mountains” may have nothing on the French Alps or Canadian Rockies, but thanks to modern snow-making technology, Australian ski resorts have wooed punters to their overpriced hills, where desperate skiers pay through the nose to get their snow fix.
The Australian ski resort is a fairly interesting business model – lure customers in for what will be sub-standard snow in most years, gouge them up to $115 per day for lift passes, and then once they’re a captive audience, gouge them even more for watery pasta, tasteless hamburgers, soggy hot chips, and service station standard hotdogs. One wonders who in their right mind would pay so damn much to get so damn little?
Well, the reason why we agree to fork out our hard earned cash to the operators is that we take what we can get. We don’t have a great deal of choice when it comes to skiable mountains, and if you’re desperate for a snow fix, driving/flying for a few hours seems to be one of the only few options that you have.
In the past, there was nothing more depressing than having booked an Australian ski holiday months in advance in order to secure reasonable accommodation rates, only to find even before strapping on your snowboard or clipping into your ski bindings that the slope is grassy at the bottom, or that the rain has settled in and destroyed all spectrums of visibility. You’ve inevitably invested a crapload of money in advance payments, so you just suck it up and push through the slush, slide over the ice.
However, with the surge in the Australian dollar over the last couple of years and the abundance of cheap international flights due to increased airline competition, we’ve found a load of far more appealing options. We can now fly to New Zealand and ski for a week in Queenstown, which would cost less than a week in an Australian resort. The incredible dry powder of Japan is also a cheaper and far superior option than the slush of Australia – you are almost guaranteed amazing snow, the lift tickets are half the cost of the Aussie ones, and the food is much more appealing.
If you’re just after your first snow or ski experience, then the Australian resorts are ideal, but it doesn’t represent good value for powder hounds that want a great snow experience. As long as the dollar stays strong, many more snow bunnies will be heading overseas to search for that perfect run. We don’t have to put up with being extorted by the Australian ski resorts when there is better value to be found elsewhere.