Not every family want the same thing out of a skiing holiday. Some love to snowboard in the terrain park, others like to ski on the slopes. Some need day care, others need a kids party.
Skiing and snowboarding gets the kids off the devices and into the great outdoors. It keeps them mindful and in the moment, and creates a love of skiing they can pass down to their kids.
Here are some of the best places where the kids can cut loose and learn to shred, jib and ride the magic carpet.
Falls Creek Alpine Resort, Victoria
Australia’s ski resorts know that keeping toddlers and preschoolers entertained (while not on skis or snowboards) is important for family harmony. For this reason, Falls Creek Alpine Resort in Victoria is a top spot for a skiing holiday. The pedestrian-only village is a ski-in ski-out kids’ dream. The resort is largely intermediate terrain so fist-timers need not fear. It has a great ski school with an sheltered magic carpet lift and a fun, playful ski run called Wombat’s Ramble.
Each season, the resort partners with Nickelodeon to host a creative program of events. Cartoon-loving kids can hang with Sponge Bob Square Pants, Paw Patrol or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Falls Creek also has its own lively mascot, Pete the Snow Dragon. You’ll find the bright blue dragon hanging around the Snow Club 4 Kids and cruising down Wombat’s Ramble. He also likes to make an appearance at the Twilight Tuesday party in the Village Bowl from 4pm in July and August.
Hotham Alpine Resort, Victoria
Hotham Alpine Resort is neighbouring ski resort that sits atop the mountain peak. The sky-high location means you’ll have to ski down to the lifts in the morning. The views here are magical with rows of mountain ridges that disappear into the horizon. Ten minutes down the road, Dinner Plain Alpine Village offers snowshoe walks in the trees, as well as toboggans down gentle slopes and an outdoor hot tub at Onsen Retreat day spa.
Kids congregate at the Big D, the standalone kids ski school where you’ll find Pete the Dragon from Falls Creek, and his best mate Harry the Snow Dragon.
Short on time? The Mount Hotham FreeSki Academy runs many different winter camps and several all-winter programs for youngsters. It’s a smorgasbord for snow lovers looking to upskill. Choose from weekend , one-day and five-day clinics, plus school holiday camps, all held on the slopes of Hotham Resort.
Thredbo, New South Wales
Heading to Thredbo in New South Wales? Expect an old-school alpine village nestled on the side of a mountain slope facing 480 hectares of skiable terrain. Lucky for families, 65% of it is dedicated to intermediate skiers. The ski runs at Thredbo are lined with snow gums and peppered with ski-in ski-out cafés for hot chocolate breaks when needed.
Kids should head straight to Thredboland, a dedicated ski school for the youngsters and home to Thredbo’s famed furry marsupials. Kids can spot them at the Animal Hideouts on the beginner slopes.
Once the kids have conquered the art of snow play, sign them up for a week-long snow camp. They’ll be hanging out with like-minded kids the same age who love the snow as much as they do.
Ski and snowboard improvement programs are a great way to instil good ski technique and mountain skills for life. Whether your kids love to carve up the slopes, hit the moguls or ride the half pipe, there is a camp for you.
Cardrona Alpine Resort, South Island NZ
Cardrona Alpine Resort in New Zealand’s South Island is where all the cool kids play. Midway between Queenstown and Wanaka, the resort is home to freestyle skiers and snowboarders who love the Olympic-sized super pipe and air bag for jump training.
Sign the kids up for the Four-Day Adventure Program for ages 5 to 14 to give them a solid start. The program offers two group lessons a day, lunch and entertainment. Kids are grouped by skill and ski or snowboard level so they’ll be totally comfortable within their group.
Mount Hutt, South Island NZ
On a clear day you can see as far as the coastline from the ski slopes of Mount Hutt. An hour from Christchurch, Mount Hutt looks out across the Canterbury plains and serves up some big terrain. It even has New Zealand’s highest hot tub, so take your swimmers. During the peak season, Mount Hutt hosts a six-week program on Sundays for kids interested in taking on the bigger slopes.
Mount Buller, Victoria
Victoria’s Mount Buller has produced many an Australian Winter Olympian. It’s biggest names include aerial skier gold medalist, Lydia Lassila and snowboard cross finalist, Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin. Clearly Melbournians’ beloved Buller is a good place to start. Sign the kids up to Snow Squad, a season-long program for kids aged 4 to 17. The 30-day course will get your snow bunnies to a level where they can ride safely anywhere, anytime with confidence.
Australia’s Scotty James is a household name. The X Games gold medalist, Olympic bronze medalist and FIS World Champion snowboarder is helping put snowboarding front and centre for our sports-loving nation. He’s talented, funny and cool and he leads the current charge of kids wanting to hit up the terrain parks.
Luckily for gutsy kids, all the resorts in Australia and New Zealand have terrain park offerings from beginner to advanced. Most even cater to big air and super pipe tricks. Many also offer terrain park lessons in the ski school so you can’t go wrong wherever you choose to shred.
Perisher is Australia’s largest ski resort with over 1,245 hectares of playful terrain. The resort hosts the world’s elite snow athletes who descend upon the terrain parks on Front Valley to train for international competition. Ride the parks here and you could be sharing the slope with Olympic and X Games gold medalists.
The PlayStation Terrain Parks at Perisher offer five parks from small to extra large. There’s a mini pipe and a half pipe so kids can progress as they improve their skill set. You can even take a run down the Yabby Flats Mini Pipe for rolling good times.
Thredbo’s Torah Bright is the queen of kids. The X Games and Olympic half pipe snowboard champion is adored by young kids on the rise. For good reason.
Bright is a Thredbo ambassador and the name behind the Torah Bright Mini Shred. The friendly comp is held at Friday Flat beginner area every July. She brings her Olympian mates along to offer tips and advice to hundreds of aspiring boarders. It’s a fun day out, led mainly by Bright’s upbeat vibe, and one to earn you serious kudos with your kids.
Across the ditch, Cardrona claims the terrain park destination of choice for global athletes and home to a 6.7-metre Olympic super pipe. The Audi Quattro Winter Games is held here every year as part of the FIS World Cup circuit. Expect four terrain parks from beginner to FIS level, an international half pipe plus Olympic super pipe, an almost 26-metre big air jump and a fun gravity-cross freestyle course.
Après for kids
What’s a ski trip without après, right? No need to leave the kids behind when there’s plenty of after ski and snowboard action suited for them.
The fun doesn’t stop when the chairlift does at Falls Creek. Take the kids to Falls Creek Night Show on Thursdays in the Village Bowl from 7.30pm for demo skiing and acrobatics, fireworks and flares.
At Thredbo, the kids’ Flare Run on a Thursday night is a weekly institution for the littlies in ski school as they slide down Friday Flat with LED flares in hand. The conga flare line against the white snow after dark makes for great photos, too.
Hotham has a sing and dance along with Harry the Snow Dragon every Wednesday and Saturday at the Big D Kids Hub. The resort also offers Legoland in the July and September school holidays.
In New Zealand, take the family to the Cardrona Hotel after a day skiing for mulled wine and marshmallow roasting in the beer garden for the kids. Or head to Puzzling World after a day at Treble Cone Ski Resort for a maze of optical illusions.
Our favourite is Patagonia Chocolates’ in Queenstown. Here, you can enjoy a pot of fondue with views of Lake Wakatipu. Dip marshmallows, shortbread and fruits into gooey, melted chocolate and thank us later.
Celebs on the slopes
Serious boasting rights are guaranteed when you ski at Australian and New Zealand snow fields. With so many Olympians and X Games medalists training in both countries during the season, you’re almost guaranteed to get an envy-inducing selfie.
From Torah Bright’s Mini Shred to Perisher’s star-studded terrain parks, you may find yourself sharing the chairlift with a superstar. Did we mention that the Aussie moguls ski team both train and compete at Perisher? Not to mention Scotty James who is a regular at Falls Creek and even offers the chance to ride with him some days.
If you’re in New Zealand during the Audi Quattro Winter Games, you might run into snowboarding legends Shaun White and Chloe Kim at Cardrona. But it’s the understated small-town club fields that hold serious kudos. That’s where the Austrian and US Ski teams go to train. Alpine racing champion Ted Ligety posts on his social media from Kiwi slopes each winter, so you can ski these too. Try Ohau Ski Field for some time in the lift line with the US Ski Team.
Top runs for adventure-lovers
For those that like to mix it up on their skiing holiday, Australia and New Zealand won’t let you down.
Steve Lee is an Australian downhill Olympian and FIS World Cup winner. In other words, he skis like the rockstar he is. You and your family can ski with him too on his backcountry snowmobile-led ski tours at Falls Creek. He’ll take you down cruisy smooth runs on Mount McKay and through snow gums to open bowls.
Dead Horse Gap in Thredbo is a legendary ‘side country’ run that is easily accessible from the top of the Karel’s T Bar via a short traverse or minor hike into the bushland. Take someone who’s been before as a guide as it’s easy to get lost in the snow gums. You’ll ski past wild brumbies to a creek with a cute bridge to cross and then out to a remote car park where your mates can pick you up and take you back to the resort.
For some seriously good fun, try cat skiing at Soho Basin behind Cardrona in New Zealand. Climb into the back of a snow groomer in a purpose-built comfort cabin and ski down behind a guide. The get picked up at the bottom nd do it all again. 2019 is the last year for this offering before the basin area becomes part of Cardrona, creating the largest lift-accessed ski resort in the country. Strong intermediate skiers will love the full day adventure. You’ll even score lunch on a mountain hut deck from the crew at the gourmet Amisfield Winery.
Have a sit skier in the family? Disabled Wintersports Australia trains family members to be adaptive guides at Hotham so that parents and siblings can support their child or sibling and ski with them on the slopes. Check out their website for more disabledwintersport.com.au.
The quiet achievers
Deep in the wilds of Australia and New Zealand, you’ll find a handful of smaller resorts that offer a truly authentic ski and snowboard experience. Think homegrown instructors, hearty meals, and uncrowded slopes.
Selwyn Snow Resort is the perfect introduction for first timers in Australia. The boutique resort is in New South Wales and great for snow play with toboggans and snow tubes plus 45 hectares of gentle terrain to build your confidence.
You can then progress to the coolest ski resort in Australia. One visit to Charlotte Pass Snow Resort and you’ll fall in love. Many families book in for the same week year after year for the club-style feel. The resort is accessible by over-snow vehicle from Perisher and is a cute enclave of ski lodge and chalet accommodation that is ski-in ski-out.
Few know of the delights of New Zealand’s club fields. These fields, Dotted mainly throughout the Canterbury region, these fields are multi-generational club lodges open to the public. They are usually half the price of commercial resorts but they do lack the infrastructure, which is part of the charm.
You’ll be sleeping in bunk beds and need to pitch in with chores after skiing to keep the lodge running. Some have a nutcracker-style lift system which can be challenging at first. The reward is no lift lines, untouched snow for fresh tracks and amazing family holiday memories. Isn’t that what a skiing holiday is all about?