The Snowy Mountains, nicknamed the Snowies (or Snowys), are a region of New South Wales in Australia in the south east of the state. The highest region in Australia and one of the cooler areas of New South Wales, they are notable for their ski-fields and are the centre of snow sports in New South Wales.
The Snowies are possibly the best you could get in terms of alpine weather in mainland Oceania. While the mountains here are nowhere near as tall as New Guinea's 4500m mountain ranges, those don't receive snowfall. Interestingly, the Australian Alps receive more snowfall than the Swiss alps, which sounds unusual to most.
Flora and fauna
The usual alpine vegetation, as well as kangaroos, dingos, etc.
- 1 Charlotte Pass – village and ski resort, snowbound in winter
- 2 Perisher – ski resort, based at Perisher Valley, but also including Guthega, and ski fields at Smiggins Holes and Mount Blue Cow
- 3 Thredbo – village and ski resort, the best Australia can offer for an alpine village
- 4 Tumut – on the border with the Riverina region, this town is an entry to the Snowy Mountains
- 5 Kosciuszko National Park – home to the highest mountain on the Australian continent
Most people travel to the region by car as this is the most flexible and rewarding way of exploring the mountains. However for visitors traveling from afar, there are regular bus services to Cooma and Tumut from Sydney and Canberra, and many plane connections into Canberra (CBR IATA) with car hire available. Flights also serve Cooma Snowy Mountains Airport (OOM IATA), however, delays are common due to morning fog.
The Snowies are well served by a network of sealed roads with diverse and spectacular scenery. The Alpine Way from Jindabyne to Khancoban, the Snowy Mountains Highway between Tumut and Cooma, the Monaro Highway running south from Canberra and the Elliot Way from Tumbarumba to Cabramurra all pass through stunning landscapes.
If you are just interested in the skiing, Murrays offer a day trip from Canberra to the ski resorts during the ski season, with lift packages, and one-way fares available. Often you can get this bus for little more than the cost of the lift passes and ski hire.
If you are coming from the south via Khancoban, make sure to fill up at the Caltex there since that will be the last stop for Alpine Diesel or even just normal fuel for the mountain drive up north which takes 78km and 2 hours. There are numerous coffee shops nearby as well, so your cup of coffee or hot chocie won't be missed. This is also the only part where you might see snow on the road throughout winter, due to the high altitude of 1600m, but the entire journey's altitude ranges from 250m in Khancoban to about 1600m in Siberia.
During winter snow chains must be carried by 2WD vehicles on the Alpine Way, Kosciuszko Rd and Guthega Road. Some roads may close at short notice, so check conditions on the official New South Wales traffic site.
When in town, it's best to walk rather than take the car. Cars can be freezing in the mornings, and often it's not worth the effort to take it out and park it. When climbing up, gondolas are also available, however, passes are required.
There's no public transport in towns here, and there are also no taxis here. The nearest fully run airport is in Cooma OOM IATA, however to get around, flights wont do the job, so you'll need to know how to drive, and not just urban driving, but also driving on narrow winding roads that vary in altitude.
Australia's high country is home to spectacular peaks, clear mountain streams and a plethora of accessible natural attractions for lovers of the outdoors. Walking and horseriding are two great ways to explore the alpine landscape and take in some of the country's most impressive scenery in the warmer months.
The Snowy Mountains is a significant and untamable high country where many Australian myths and traditions of Australian identity were born. Whether from nature's pure beauty or legends of early settlers, there's a story to be told and history to be learnt - from icons like the heights of Mount Kosciuszko to the famous high country huts, to Snowy Hydro feats of ingenuity, beautiful mountain brumbies and to rivers that flow with legends.
The Snowy Mountains Scheme is one of Australia's largest engineering and construction operations. The ideas behind the scheme is to divert the winter snowmelt waters westward into the Murrumbidgee rivers, irrigating large parts of inland Australia and at the same time generating Hydro-Electricity. There are several large lakes, tunnels, and Hydro power stations that form part of the scheme that you can visit. Tours take visitors a kilometre into the mountainside and offer a vivid insight into the sheer scope of this iconic part of the nation's post-war development.
The mountains are beautiful year round and the region annually attracts some three million visitors seeking nature-based and adventure holidays.
Whether you're after a rugged back-to-nature experience, want to be cosseted in alpine splendor or simply feel like going somewhere beautiful, diverse and interesting with the whole family, the chances are high that you'll find it in the Snowy Mountains. Attractions, outdoor activities, tours and events - the Snowy Mountains has it all.
- Abseiling, rock climbing and caving
- Bushwalking, the top of Australia is only a few hours hiking from Charlotte Pass or Thredbo during summer.
- Cycling/mountain biking and motorcycling
- Horse riding
- White water rafting, kayaking and canoeing
- In winter, alpine skiing and snowboarding. Thredbo, Perisher, Mount Selwyn, or Charlotte Pass all have a large variety of terrain for beginners to advanced. You can ski with gum trees. Snow shoeing and cross country skiing: see also Winter sports in Australia
- A wide variety of Backcountry/off-piste skiing/spit boarding options are available and easily accessible from Guthega and Dead Horse Gap.
- Snowy Mountains Backcountry, ☏ . Guided backcountry skiing/snowboarding/snowshoeing tours, equipment hire and sales.
For supplies, large towns like Cooma or Tumut should have a Woolies (Woolworths) or a Coles. If in a small town, then there are smaller local shops for you to get your supplies from.
To get ski equipment, renting equipment is often cheaper at cities or large towns and in some cases, the equipment may be of better quality. Snow chains are also cheaper to rent here, and some shops are open 24 hours a day. However, if you can't have access to one of these towns, then equipment is available at the ski. However, these can be a little expensive and have a lower quality.
There are many places to eat and drink in the Snowy Mountains. Cafés are scattered all around the towns, including the mountain resorts at Thredbo or Perisher. High quality food is available, but expect to find a fair amount of low quality but expensive food. In particular the cheap foods, like pizza, can be on the expensive side in the mountains with less competition.
Most towns usually have at least one pub. However, don't be surprised to see it fully packed during the snow season, where people are packed together, staying warm.
Unlike most cities, pubs are not violent here, and you wont be hearing a bunch of offensive comments, but rather everyone being quiet here.
There are many places to stay in the Snowies, from romantic chalets with open fires to self-catering accommodation ideal for families, luxury resorts to fun-filled backpackers, hotels, motels and cosy B & Bs.