Weekend getaway: Snowy Mountains NSW

Snowy Mountains NSW - Weekend getaway
Snowy Mountains Getaway

Hitting the ski slopes is just one of countless options on a winter escape to the NSW snowfields.

Although Kosciuszko National Park only accounts for around half of Australia’s alpine region, nearly three million tourists visit it every year. Most make the winter pilgrimage and it's easy to see why. When the mountains are covered in white, the sky is an expanse of blue and hot chocolates await at the bottom of the next ski run, life doesn’t get much better. 

But, as it turns out, there’s a whole lot more to do in the snow that doesn’t involve hurtling down a mountain. To prove it, I join Peter, Acacia and Matt from K7 Adventures for a day of snowshoeing and then ice climbing with crampons, ice axes and ropes. Peter is 78 years old (though you’d never guess it) and led one of the first Australian expeditions to the Himalayas.

We ride Thredbo’s Kosciuszko Express Chairlift together to the top before strapping on our snowshoes and heading cross-country. I’m both relieved and disappointed to find modern snowshoes do not resemble tennis racquets; they’re now high-tech platforms that aren't a hindrance to my stride. 

Out away from the groomed ski runs, the snow is pure and beautiful. The only sound is the scrunch of my snowshoes as my breath fogs in front of me. Acacia leads us safely across a creek and finally to our base camp, where we hang out in preparation for our ice climb. Peter and Matt continue climbing unaided up ahead to set up anchors and ropes for us amateurs.

I’ll admit, after watching films like Touching the Void, I’ve always wanted to strap on some crampons and haul my way up an icy crevasse with some ice picks. Maybe this isn’t K2 in the Himalayas or Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, but I’m just as thrilled to summit our short climb. Halfway up, the mountain gets covered in cloud, but I'm so intent on the rhythm of moving an axe and placing a foot, then moving an axe and placing a foot, that I don’t notice it until I turn around to check the view. 

That night, my travel companions and I are exuberant as we tuck into dinner at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa's one-hatted cuisine restaurant. To hear us talk, we all summited Everest barefoot, backwards and in the dark. Not one of us feels guilty about our ensuing gluttony of food and wine. 

In the morning, I join a group learning to fly fish at Lake Crackenback. Our instructor, Matt Tripet, is as passionate about the sport as they come. He teaches us how to flick lures and land them somewhere in the vicinity of where we intend them to go, first on the lawn and then in the actual lake.

Once I get into the motion, I’m not even that fussed we don’t catch anything – there’s just something satisfying about flicking a tiny fly across an alpine lake under a cloudless sky. I’ve always loved fishing, but this is a real eye-opener and one that will probably end up costing me a bundle in new fishing gear.

The Snowy Mountains are ideal for skiing and it would be a travesty not to spend time on the slopes.

Alpine activities aren’t exclusively energetic, though, as a jaunt to the Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery proves. Last time I visited, it was a small operation and not yet famous. Now it’s a warm, welcoming and bustling dining experience that’s a highlight of the region’s food tourism.

We spend the afternoon in its café over a long lunch of German/Austrian inspiration. It's finished off with a round of schnapps tastings and I find it hard to leave without buying up all the different bottles. After much deliberation, the mango flavour gets my vote. 

Call us indulgent, but we head straight from there to Crackenback Farm for dinner. Everything about this place is cosy and homely as we sit around an open fire and drink 11-year-old wine from a vineyard that belongs to the father of chef and owner, Jodie Evans. The food is delicious and I get the feeling if Jodie weren’t so busy, she would sit down for dinner with us. 

Of course, the Snowy Mountains are ideal for skiing and it would be a travesty not to spend time on the slopes of Perisher. There’s nearly a metre of cover across the mountain on our visit. It has been a while between sessions for me, so I join a group for a lesson.

After gauging our skill levels, the instructor spends two hours teaching us how to do jumps and other adrenalin-inducing stunts. Fortunately, the snow is soft and mostly forgiving. 

Gone are the days of lift tickets stuck to zippers. Now the resort uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanners at each lift, recording how often you catch them. It’s a simple system that tells me I ride the lifts 28 times and climb more than 3700 metres that day.

The flight home from Snowy Mountains Airport is a subdued one. Despite spending only one full day skiing, the trip has been jam-packed and I welcome this time for quiet contemplation. I’m more than content just to watch the scenery change beneath us, arriving back in Sydney less than an hour later. 

Where to stay 

  • Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa. Features include chalets, suites and a lake stocked with trout, plus a restaurant, café, spa and wellness centre, and onsite ski and snowboard hire.

More information

Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery

(02) 6457 1447

wildbrumby.com

K7 Adventures

0421 862 354

k7adventures.com

Crackenback Farm Restaurant and Guesthouse

(02) 6456 2601

crackenback.com

Harro’s Snowsports

(02) 6456 1462

harrossnowsports.com.au

 

We flew with Regional Express – the only airline accessing the Snowy Mountains.

This article was originally posted in the Open Road magazine.

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