Snow play, horse riding, cosy cabins, bike rides and scenic bushwalks – Australia’s 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 of the Snowy Mountains
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.
Read more: Best Gold Coast Indigenous experiences
What to do in 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.
Read more: Where to ski around Australia
If you need a break from skiing, you can also try snow tubing, tobogganing to snowshoeing and disc golf. Thredbo has a heated indoor pool with waterslides and a great toboggan run.
Things to do in the Snowy Mountains in summer
Mountain bike riding is fast becoming the go-to sport in the Snowy Mountains in summer.
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.
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