Snow play, horse riding, cosy cabins, bike rides and scenic bushwalks – the Snowy Mountains are an active family’s dream.
The Snowies are the NSW section of the Australian Alpine region. Snow does fall, and stay on the ground, here all year round. To see the snow in summer, though, you’ll need to attempt the walk up to Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko.
A quick bit of history…
Polish explorer Paweł Edmund Strzelecki named Mount Kosciuszko in honour of Polish freedom fighter, General Tadeusz Kościuszko, in 1840. He chose the name because of its perceived resemblance to the Kościuszko Mound in Kraków. The mountain is 2228 metres above sea level. Strzelecki and James Macarthur were shown the region by two Indigenous guides, Charlie Tarra and Jackey.
There is some confusion, however, over whether Strzelecki actually named the current Mount Kosciuszko or the nearby Mount Townsend, Australia’s second highest peak. Mount Townsend has a more craggy peak and is arguably more dominant than Mount Kosciuszko. Eugene von Guerard’s picture Northeast view from the northern top of Mount Kosciusko which hangs in the National Gallery of Australia is actually from Mount Townsend.
Indigenous Australians used the high peaks of the Snowy Mountains as an annual summer meeting point. Many travelled hundreds of kilometres, crossing tribal barriers, for the meetings which involved intertribal corroborees, settling of disputes, trading, marriages and the initiation of young men. The meeting coincided with an influx of Bogong moths. The tribes would smoke the moths out of their hiding spots and cook them in ash, or ground them into a paste – a nutritious food which lasted for months. Most Indigenous names associated with the area refer to these moths – Jagungal, Tackingal, Tar-gan-gil.
More than 280 Indigenous sites have been identified in the Snowy Mountains. At Cloggs Cave in northeastern Victoria, researchers found 8500-year-old stone tools. In Birrigai, near Namadgi National Park, archaeologists uncovered a rock shelter used by Aboriginal people 21,000 years ago. Many of the Indigenous people were killed either by gunshot or disease after Europeans entered the lands. Others were forcibly removed to Government reserves.
Winter in the Snowy Mountains
Hello, skiing and snowboarding! The Snowy Mountains is Australia’s largest alpine region. It contains the ski resorts Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass, Smiggins and Selwyn Snowfields.
Thredbo hosts an interschool ski competition each year and in the school holidays, you can often ski with Olympians. Perisher is the largest ski area and in 2019, they are installing a new quad chairlift to replace the Leichart Tbar. Smiggins is a little smaller – but has direct access to all of Perisher via a T-bar. Selwyn Snowfields really is for beginners only. It’s a great-cheap, family-friendly place to learn. But any kid who has mastered skiing and snowboarding will get bored easily here.
You can rent ski gear at every town and resort in the Snowies, as well as on the mountain. If you are driving in winter, and your car is not a 4WD, you will need snow chains.
On-snow accommodation can be quite pricey, many families choose to stay in nearby Jindabyne and catch the ski-tube up to the slopes to save a few dollars. Jindabyne also has a Woolworths so you can self-cater easily.
If you need a break from skiing, you can also try snow tubing, tobogganing to snowshoeing and disc golf. Threbdo has a heated indoor pool with waterslides and a great toboggan run.
Summer / Spring / Autumn in the Snowies
Mountain bike riding is fast becoming the go-to sport in the Snowy Mountains in winter. Thredbo has the best set up so far. You can hire bikes, or bring your own and you can hook them onto the back of the chairlift. The resort also hosts an annual interschool mountain bike championship.
Active families will love the Snowy Mountains in summer. You can hike all the way to Mount Kosciuszko, a 13.5km round trip, on a fairly gentle slope. The kids will also love horse riding, trout fishing, kayaking and chasing rabbits around the endless paddocks along Lake Jindabyne. At Yarrangobilly area you can explore caves with stalactites dangling dramatically from the roof, take a dip in a thermal pool or spot the incredible native wildlife.
Snowy Mountains with kids 0-4
In winter, Perisher and Thredbo have creches and kids clubs where the babies older than 6 months will be safe and entertained while you hit the slopes. Once kids hit 3, the kids can join in a ski lesson and learn how to balance on skis with professional instruction and tuition.
Perisher takes the little ones on a dedicated ski carousel and plays games tailored to their ability level from age 3. Smiggins also has ski lessons for kids aged 3+. Note that the lessons at Blue Cow start at age 5 so if you plan to ski there, you’ll need to drop off and pick up the kids down the hill in Perisher.
Thredbo has ski groups for kids 3-5 with a maximum group size of four kids. Under 3 and want to ski? Thredbo has private one hour “It’s all about me” ski lessons for kids under 3 every day on Friday Flat. At Thredbo kids aged 4+ can try snowboarding.
Toddlers will like to build a snowman. Just don’t forget to pack a carrot and scarf. And they will love sliding with you on a toboggan in the snow play area.
We’re not going to lie, a trip to the snow with this age group can be hard. Be prepared for “I’m wet” and “I’m cold tantrums”, pack plenty of clothes changes, zero-in on the hot chocolate store and take it slow.
In summer, you can pack the baby in a sling or a backpack and go for a hike. Thredbo has trampolines set up along the Snowy River that are great fun for little ones to jump on. They will also love the indoor heated pool – with waterslides. Pack your swimmers when you go to Yarrangobilly to explore the caves – the thermal pools are gorgeous.
Try fishing on Lake Jindabyne. If you’re lucky you will catch a trout for dinner. If you’re unlucky, perhaps head to Eucumbene Trout Farm.
In any season, little ones will love Wild Brumby Schnapps Distillery. The garden has cubby houses, a raspberry patch, a helicopter, big fields to run around and trees to climb. Plus, the adults can taste the schnapps and gin.
Snowy Mountains with kids 5-8
Age 5-8 is great for learning to ski. Perisher and Thredbo offer group and private lessons for this age group.
Thredbo now offers a 5 day camp for kids aged 5-12. The semi-private lesson has an earlier start time, includes lunch, lift line priority, daily feedback and a night time flare run. You can also book three-hour ski lessons or all day lessons.
Want to snowboard? Lessons at Thredbo the five hour Burton Riglets snowboarding lessons start from age 4. This is a full day program with classes capped at four kids per instructor. It includes lunch for the kids and more than 5 hours of snow time. Kids must have burton Riglets equipment to participate in the Riglets program. If you are renting gear – make sure it is Riglet compatible. From age 7, kids can attempt a three-hour snowboarding lesson at Thredbo.
At Perisher, kids can join the snowboarding lessons from age 5.
In summer, try Disc Golf with the family for a few laughs. Disc Golf is a cross between frisbee and golf where the aim is to get the frisbee in the hole with as few throws as possible. Head over to the Golf Course to give it a try.
Again, you can (and should) try the walk up to Mount Kosciuszko. Kids will also like the 6km Waterfall Walking track loop close to Jindabyne. It should take less than 2.5 hours to complete.
At the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre kids have fun and learn how electricity is made. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme is one of the engineering wonders of the modern world. It has loads of interactive displays including power bikes – the kids can ride them until they generate enough energy to boil the kettle.
Lake Crackenback Resort has canoeing, biking, nine-hole and disc golf, a low ropes course and archery. They also provide Wombat Kids Adventure Packs for littlies complete with a bug catcher, binoculars, compass and nature journal to take on your explorations along the resort’s many trails.
Kids will also love wandering along the shore of Lake Jindabyne and fishing for trout. They will love the Thredbo Leisure centre which has an indoor pool with slides, an inflatable obstacle course and a rock climbing wall.
Several companies offer horseriding tours of the Snowy Mountains. Thredbo Valley Horseriding offers rides for children, from beginners to advanced. Kids under 8 can take a pony ride around the front paddock with an experienced trainer.
The Snowy Mountains with kids 9-12
In winter: Congratulations! If your kids are competent skiers, this is the age when skiing and snowboarding gets really fun. It’s also about the time when they leave you behind on the mountain. Don’t even try to catch up, they will beat you to the bottom every single time.
Group ski holidays with kids aged 9-12 allow the kids to ski together and stay safe in a pack. It also means the adults get time to ski together – which is just so awesome after the hard yards of the younger years. They may even be brave enough to take on the skills park. At the very least, they will be finding rails and kickers around the edges.
Never skied before? You can book lessons at all the resorts for either a few hours or a full day. The kids may also like to try bobsledding, tubing or snowshoeing.
Head to the Leisure Centre at Thredbo if you have any spare time off the slopes. It has an indoor heated pool, waterslide to a blow-up obstacle course and wild trampoline sessions.
The kids are also now old enough to stay away for night skiing or the night flare runs.
If you have a little bit of spare time, check out Wild Brumby Schnapps Distillery. The kids can climb trees, run around in the paddocks and check out the helicopter. You can taste the incredible flavours of Schnapps and Gin on offer. And you can all have a delicious paddock-to-plate meal.
At Lake Jindabyne, you can water ski, kayak, fish, wakeboard or just swim. You’ll also find a mountain bike trail around the perimeter.
When the kids hit age 10, they can try the beginner mountain bike skills clinics at Thredbo. The beginner circuit uses a village skills park and the valley floor trails to get the kids used to the basics of mountain biking – neutral riding position, basic braking techniques, bike control and cornering. The clinics run daily at 10am and 1pm. If your child is already confident mountain biking, they can do the intermediate clinic.
From age 9, kids can attempt a trail ride with Thredbo Valley Horseriding. The one-hour trail ride is nice and easy for beginners and travels through the High Country. Thredbo Valley Horseriding also has a From the Ground Up horse experience where riders can learn about the horse’s personality and get instruction of caring, grooming, saddling and riding through the bush.
The Thredbo Bobsled is guaranteed to make the kids smile. The 700m luge-style track twists and turns through the bush to the base of the village. It’s open every day, weather permitting.
This age group also loves rock climbing and abseiling. The superb granite tors at Thredbo are perfect for rock climbing and abseiling. Qualified instructors can show you the ropes (excuse the pun) and make sure that you are safe. You can book abseiling experiences through K7 Adventures or Snowy Mountains Climbing School. Click here for their details.
Destination for teens
Teens are going to leave you for dead on the slopes. And that’s OK. Skiing and snowboarding gives them the ability to have some freedom, but still connect with their family.
If your teens need a bit of a challenge, you can try backcountry ski. On a backcountry adventure with K7 Adventures, you will find the freshest off-piste powder runs. But be warned, you will earn those turns. You do need to hike back up the hill once you are done. This is obviously only for experienced skiers.
Don’t know how to ski? Both Thredbo and Perisher have lessons for “teen shredders”. The lessons also allow them to connect with other teens in the three hour or all day lessons.
Each July Thredbo also hosts an Interschools race camp. Kids can spend four days learning how to cut time off their race runs in preparation for competition.
Mountain Bike riding has taken off in Thredbo. You can get the kids to work off some energy on gravity trails, skills parks and cross country trails. If you’re just getting into the sport, Thredbo has great lessons from beginner to advanced. Kids aged 7-14 can also try the Junior MTB skills sessions every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Teens will still love the Thredbo Bobsled and the Thredbo Leisure Centre. They can also try abseiling, bouldering and caving with K7.
You can hike up to the top of Mount Kosciuszko or try one of the hikes below – there’s plenty on offer.
Try Golf or Disc Golf at the Thredbo Golf course, Fly fishing on the Snowy River, horse riding through the high country or tennis on one of Thredbo’s two courts.
Teens will also love Alpine River Adventures – a small group day tour to tackle the Snowy River rapids.
Best time to go
The best time to visit the Snowy Mountains depends on what you want out of your holiday. Kids ski free in September and June. But in June, you’ll likely be skiing on man-made snow and the runs will be limited. In the past few years, the snow in September has been outstanding.
July and August are the coolest months, and the snow is usually at its peak, but some years September offers great snow, with cheaper accommodation and fewer crowds on the slopes.
For mountain biking, anytime it’s not snowing is good. December to February, are ideal for hiking and camping with mild temperatures.
- Skiing or Snowboarding
- Abseiling the granite boulders
- Try Schnapps at Wild Brumby (adults-only) while the kids play in the grounds
- Make a snowman
- Try the toboggan ride at Thredbo
- Ride a horse through the mountains like the Man from Snowy River
- Visit the Yarrangobilly Caves and thermal pools
- Try your hand at the huge range of watersports at Lake Jindabyne
- Take the trek to the top of Mount Kosciuszko
- Mountain bike ride the summer trails
Places to eat, food to try
Crunchy apples, luscious berries, moreish truffles, fresh fish, tender beef, and incredible cool-climate wines – the Snowy Mountains are home to some of the NSW’s best produce.
Kids will enjoy picking plump blueberries at Jolly Berries in Tumbarumba during the summer picking season. At Batlow they can pick, and devour fresh apples. You can even catch your own dinner at Lake Eucumbene or Lake Jindabyne during the summer.
Wild Brumby in Crackenback has a delicious paddock to plate food and you can tour the working distillery, tasting the Schnapps, Gin and Vodka. Nearby Crackenback Farm offers sustainable fresh farm food – the pork belly is out of this world.
Bigger towns such as Jindabyne have great cafes and restaurants that cater to families as well as cheaper options such as the Bowling Club (so Australia, you just have to do it). Thredbo Burger Bar is ALWAYS a hit with hungry kids, particularly after a morning of skiing. And you can’t do Thredbo without a hot chocolate at Eagles Nest Cafe at the top of the chairlift.
Fun Free Things
Skiing and snowboarding are infamously expensive pastimes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the snow on the cheap.
It’s free to build a snowman and throw snowballs.
Come summer you can fish, swim and play in and around the region’s lakes and waterways. Go hiking or bring your mountain bikes to take on some of the incredible trails for all levels of experience. If you are feeling particularly energetic you can even trek right to the top of Mount Kosciuszko. You can pay for a lift ticket to get to Eagles Nest – or walk all the way from the bottom for free.
The Snowy Hydro Centre is also free. It’s free to walk around Lake Jindabyne, chasing rabbits, climbing bounders and using your imagination.
February – Cooma Rural Australiana Championships Rodeo
This thrilling rodeo event will have audiences on the edge of their seats.
February – Tumbafest
Enjoy a celebration of music, wine, food and country living during this two-day family festival.
March – Thredbo Cheese festival
Taste some of Australia’s best cheese, enter Australia’s Only Cheese Rolling Competition and enjoy live entertainment during this fun weekend festival.
March – Bombala Show
This traditional country show is jam-packed with family attractions including livestock exhibits and art and craft displays.
April – Man from Snowy River Bush Festival
Enjoy the best bush hospitality that the Snowy Mountains can offer with this celebration of unique bush traditions.
April – Festival of the Falling Leaves
See one the most spectacular displays of seasonal colours anywhere in New South Wales at Tumut’s colourful Autumn festival.
June – Perisher Peak Festival
Celebrate the opening weekend of the ski season at this enormous celebration with more than 120 concerts and entertainment for all the family.
July – Kids Snow Festival
Thredbo celebrates kids at this fun winter event with sausage sizzles, entertainment and plenty of on-snow fun.
September – Lanterns on the Lagoon
Lanterns on the Lagoon will see sculptures illuminated by lanterns in Pioneer Park by the Tumut River, with loads of children’s activities and inspiring musical performances to enhance the displays.
NEED MORE? Try these stories: