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Is Skiing in Australia Worth It?

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Australians have a love/hate relationship with skiing. On the one hand, they love the sport. On the other, it’s a burn-a-hole-in-your-pocket type adventure. Australian ski resorts have faced claims of being overpriced, while overseas resorts involve an expensive and sometimes long journey. While every passionate skier has an opinion on this question, [tweet_dis]we thought we’d investigate the numbers behind skiing in Australia and elsewhere, and ask: Is skiing in Australia worth it?[/tweet_dis] To do this, we focused on specific resorts/regions – 1. Perisher Ski Resort in New South Wales; 2. Queenstown, New Zealand; and 3. Niseko, Japan.

The Costs

Hotels

Unless you have friends and family near a ski resort, booking accommodation is a necessity. In this instance, we found that Niseko offered the best value for a family (or group) of four, though all three resort areas were comparable in price. Perisher was the most expensive, with rooms that slept four typically selling for around $300-500 per night, though it was possible to find deals on rooms starting at $150 per night. Niseko accommodation is priced per person per night, and averaged around $70. However, these listings did have the benefit of being spacious and just minutes from the slopes. A group of friends could stay in a hostel for $45 each per night, which is a steal in any skiing town. Queenstown offered the most variety and the best deals, but this is partly explained by the ski resort’s proximity to the city centre. The major ski resorts are less an hour’s drive away. Mountain accommodation next to the resort averaged around $150 per night, while studio apartments that slept four began at $230.

Who wins? It depends on your proximity to the ski fields. But for on mountain accommodation, Perisher comes last.

Getting There

One major advantage Australia has over international ski resorts is that it doesn’t require a trip overseas. If you fancy a week at Perisher, you can simply load up your car and hit the gas. If you want to ski in Niseko or Queenstown, you’ll have to find a flight. Getting to Niseko in particular can be tricky. There are no direct flights from Australia to Niseko, for instance. You have to fly to Tokyo first, which costs around $700 return, and then Niseko, another $650 return, bringing the total to $1350. Flights to New Zealand are more straightforward, and a comparative snip at around $550.

Who wins? Skiing in Australia, baby – no flights, no transfers, no hassle.

Lift Tickets

Skiing is free at ski resorts – it’s the lift tickets that are expensive. They’re also the biggest gripe Australians have with skiing in their home country. At Perisher, a one-day lift ticket will set you back $112, compared with $90 at Queenstown resorts and $66 in Niseko. Things don’t get prettier for multiple days tickets, either. A 5 day lift ticket in Queenstown will cost $405, while a full week in Niseko is just $400. At Perisher, the cost can be as high as $830 (though prices do drop to $705 if bought online). Some might argue that Perisher lift tickets cost a bomb because it’s expensive to run a ski resort in a climate that doesn’t naturally support skiing than one that does. But consider this fact: the Australian Alps receive more snowfall than Switzerland. Just not at the resort centres obviously.

Who wins? Niseko, by a distance.

Ski Gear Rental

If you don’t already have your own skiing equipment, you’ll have to factor in the cost of rental for each day of your holiday. You can often get a price break if you rent for multiple days, which is the case at Perisher. While the one day rental price of $84-105 might seem excessive, you can get the same gear for just $183-243 for an entire week. In Niseko, rental gear averages $41-62 per day, jumping to $219-300 for a week. In Queenstown, the large number of rental companies means competition is good, and prices stay steady at around $45 per day.

Who wins? For daily rental, Niseko. For weekly, Perisher. And if you’ve already got gear, you won’t have to pay extra to fly your baggage overseas.

Lessons

If you’ve never skied before, then you’ll have to get at least one lesson during your stay. It’s completely worth it; you won’t have fun if you don’t know the basics. In Queenstown, you can get a lesson for $50; in Niseko, it’s around $80; and in Perisher, $60.

Who Wins? This is easy to work out. It goes: 1. Queenstown, 2. Perisher, 3. Niseko

Additional Factors

How much things cost will only get you so far when discussing the subject is skiing. There are so many other factors that should be mentioned.

Atmosphere

Are you after a party atmosphere, or something low key and all about the skiing? In Japan, the ski resorts aren’t modelled on the resorts in Europe and North America, which nearly always feature some nightlife with bars and restaurants. In Japan, you’ll also find them, but don’t expect to be out too late – it’s just not the culture. In New Zealand and Australia, you’ll get the bar scene you’re looking for. The atmosphere also extends to the language. Unless you can speak the language, your interactions in Japan will be more functional than personal. If you can’t help cracking jokes on your holiday, look at staying where English is the primary language.

Snow Conditions

Aside from the ski lift prices, the biggest issue for Australian skiers is that some years, there is so little natural snow. One of the true joys of a skiing trip is waking up to find a few inches of fresh powder over the tracks you skied yesterday. Unfortunately in Australia, that rarely happens. There’ll be snow of course, some manmade, but you might have to do without that morning “ahhh” moment when you step onto the slopes.

The Final Say

It does seem that skiing in Japan offers better value for money than in Australia, but it’s not as obvious as other commentators have made out. For one thing, the initial outlay on flights is a big, immediate expense. In all, it probably depends on what level of skier you are; advanced skiers will enjoy the challenge of Niseko, while beginners will find the comparatively easier slopes of Perisher more than meet their needs.

There’s also the case for sticking up for Australia – Japan and New Zealand have taken a lot of skiers away from Australia in recent years, and the numbers are only rising. While there are some legitimate grievances with skiing in Australia, it’s worth remembering the extra charges go towards ensuring future generations have the option to ski in their own country. In this sense, it shouldn’t solely come down to finances.

 

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