- 1 Getting to the Snow
- 2 Travelling the World
Getting to the Snow
Driving to the NSW and Victorian resorts are two different experiences. This reflects the fact that the major access to NSW resorts is from the east, and to Victorian resorts is from the west. The western side of the range is much steeper and more rugged than the eastern side.
Access to NSW resorts is on good roads with relatively gentle curves. The speed limit is 80 km/hr in the National Park and, with good road conditions, there is no reason why you can't do that speed for the majority of the trip. It is rare for it to be necessary to fit chains into Thredbo or to the bottom of the Skitube.
Access to the Victorian resorts is steeper, and via interesting roads with many hairpin bends. Because the Hotham village is at the top of the hill it is often necessary to fit chains. (Remember it is compulsory to carry chains in Victoria whether or not you have a 4WD. Carrying chains in NSW is also compulsory for 2WD vehicles in most parts of the National Park)
In Victoria there are usually a choice of routes, depending on factors like where you are leaving from and whether you are in a hurry or want to admire the scenery. Some of the most popular are covered in Driving from Melbourne
From Sydney there are no real sensible variations now that there is divided road to Canberra, (except for the perennial "how to avoid Canberra - Queanbeyan or the airport" controversy) Drive to Jindabyne, and follow your nose is the only advice you need.
You can fly to an airport 20 km away from Hotham by commercial or charter flight.
Cooma is the nearest airport to the NSW resorts. It is serviced by Rex Airlines with regular flights in and out of the airport each day. A shuttle will meet the flight, and the airport is about an hour+ drive from the resort.
For air travel to Falls Creek you can fly into Albury, but you are still 1.5 hours from the hill. Regular coaches visit the resort from Albury.
A number of coach companies run regular shuttles from Sydney and Canberra to NSW resorts, including Greyhound, Murrays, and Transboarder. They will drop you at Jindabyne, Bullocks Flat (for the ski tube to Perisher), and Thredbo.
Travelling the World
Do it. The snow will be different. The people will be different. The food will be different.
Australians are part of the visa waiver programme for Canada and USA for short (less than 3 months) tourist stays.
When to go?
The Northern Hemisphere season starts in November and, depending on the resort, can go through to April or May or even later for some resorts. Like anywhere, early season is uncertain, but there is generally ample cover by late December in normal seasons. North America generally has a more reliable early season than Europe, but there are always exceptions.
January after New Years holidays is low season and accommodation is significantly cheaper. Airfares can be more expensive, so do your sums. Because January coincides with Australian summer holidays there often seems to be more Australians than locals at some Canadian resorts. The operators love Australians at this time of year. However January is colder and has shorter days. High season starts around February. With high season comes greater crowds.
This site has an exhaustive analysis of North American ski seasons over the past decade or so.
Package Deal or Do It Yourself?
There are two basic options for organising an overseas trip - use a package deal specialist or other travel agent, or do it yourself.
Package deal specialists, such as Travelplan, Hokkaido Travel, Alpine World, SkiOne or Skimax (these are brochures I had lying around and are not recommendations - please add more) will do all the organisation for you. Tell them where you want to go, when you want to go and what sort of accommodation you want and your holiday will be organised from leaving your local airport to arriving back there several weeks later. Package deals are ideal for your first trip as everything is organised for you. One disadvantage of package deals is that they do not go to every resort. Not many of them have packages to Alta for example, although most will get you to Snowbird.
It is possible to organise your trip yourself via the internet with a credit card. Central reservations of the resort of your choice is a good start, and they can help with the minutiae of shuttles from airports and the like. Some condominium owners list their properties separately from central reservations, and if you can find them this is often an even cheaper option. You can arrange airfares through cheap flight specialists. This is a real option, and if you have the time and inclination can be significantly cheaper, depending on the time of travel.
If you are doing it yourself Timeandate.com will ensure you ring at a time when people are likely to be awake and in the office.
Yurrup, North America or Somewhere Else?
This depends on your tolerance for exotica. North America is the least challenging. Then Europe and Japan. Gulmarg is out there.
If you have children North America has the advantage that everyone, including your children, speaks English. Some children may be disconcerted by difficulties in communicating in areas that do not have native English speakers. On the other hand, the more different experiences kids have the better. It may be a question of picking the right age. Beyond 14 +/- 2 years, they will enjoy different experiences. Your call. Just a thought (from a Dad who has just wimped, and booked another trip to Canada with a 12 yr old). Next time France.
European resorts are huge compared to North America. Even the big ones, like Whistler Blackcomb and Jackson Hole are tiddlers compared to the European circuses such as Espace Killy, Three Valleys, Verbier, St Anton and many, many more. Europeans also have a more relaxed attitude to out of bounds sliding, and warning people about the cliff you may be about to fall off. In Europe you are a grownup.
New Zealand is close and the flights are cheap. And money goes further once you're there. The season is obviously the same time of year as the Australian season. Culturally very like Australia, geographically quite different. "Resorts" are smaller and less developed than in Australia, and the club fields are basic and uncrowded. The snow is arguably better, but not always reliable, especially early season. Snowmaking is not as common as in Australia. See New Zealand.
I doubt that there is a ski school in any major resort in the world that does not have English speaking instructors, but the potential for language difficulties getting to and from resorts may be a factor worth considering.
Another factor worth considering is luggage allowances. Check with your airline, but allowances across the Pacific are much more generous than to Europe and Japan.
Schlepping the Gear
It is good to have your own gear with you (particularly boots). However, ski and board gear is not much use for anything else, and is bulky and inconvenient. It is really inconvenient if you want to do a bit of travelling before or after sliding. There are some solutions to the problem.
Hire Upside is that you do not have to worry about anything until you arrive. Downside is that you are restricted to what the hire shop has. Most have premium hire. Another soultion is to hire "demo" gear from a ski or board shop. You will pay hire rates but you will have a choice of skis or boards which you can swap on a daily basis. It might be wise to check with local shops first to make sure that they are OK with this.
You can also hire boots. If you want to.
Leave If your pre or post riding travel will start or end in the same spot many hotels will let you leave stuff in a box room, usually at no charge. You will be expected to stay at least a night at each end of your trip. There are also short term storage solutions. There are at least three that service Los Angeles airport. They will collect fropm the airport Lax Luggage Storage or MBI Enterprises (tel:(310) 646 7460), Aer Ex (tel:(310) 670 2834) and LAX International Baggage Service (tel:(310) 646 0222). Vancouver airport has a left luggage facility on the lower level called CDS Baggage Storage (tel: 604 303 4519). This facility was also an agent for Fedex and Greyhound. This makes shipping gear very easy.
Courier Companies such as FedEx will deliver parcels anywhere in the US or Canada. There are depots near all major airports. You can consign your gear to your accommodation and it will be waiting for you when you arrive. Check with your accommodation before you do this. Gear can also be consigne to a depot near the airport to be collected on your way home. You can also send gear by Greyhound. This is a cheaper option, but you have to collect it from the depot. There is no delivery to the door.
The left luggage facility on the lower level of Vancouver airport called CDS Baggage Storage (tel: 604 303 4519)was also an agent for Fedex and Greyhound. This made shipping gear very easy. I am not sure if this facility still exists - it did in 1999 and I cannot see why it would not still work. Ring them and see.
These methods are relatively simple intra country, but can be a bit tricky (and expensive) across borders.
Of course you can go the whole hog and ship everything to and from Australia, at some expense. Jetta Express is a service that will send luggage as unaccompanied baggage at a cheaper rate than excess baggage. You have to collect it within a couple of days of landing. There are other similar services. I have never used them, so cannot offer any recommendation, but they look like a potentially useful service.
Main Article: Gateway Cities
The South Island is primarily accessed from the world via Christchurch, although more recently some carriers have put on direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Queenstown.
When you first land on the West Coast it will be in one of Los Angeles, San Francisco or Vancouver. Many people spend a day or three here shopping, sightseeing and getting over jet lag before moving on to the resorts.
Mapquest is an excellent site for generating maps and directions in North America.
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Pages in category "Travel"
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