When news of Thredbo’s tobogganing ban broke, there were a few disgruntled sighs here at Outdoria Base Camp. While building snowmen and making snow angels and hurling snowballs and eating (hopefully not yellow) snow has all the makings of a damn good (read: dirt cheap) trip, we can’t help but think: is it really a family snow holiday if you didn’t almost collide with a rogue skier while riding a piece of boat hull you found in the shed?
Hurtling down a bunny hill atop brakeless and frictionless apparatus is enormously good fun for anyone, but is particularly appealing when your kids are yet to reach ski lesson age – some would even suggest tobogganing is a rite of passage for little skiers-to-be. That first adrenalin rush on the white fluffy stuff paves the way for a healthy fixation with snowsports down the track – be it skiing, snowboarding, cross country, whatever – that’ll stay with them till their knees give way (thanks moguls).
But some people think that when the crash zone is shared with a parking lot, giving your toddler (or anyone) over to the mercy of gravity ain’t such a brilliant idea. With that we would have to reluctantly agree. For Thredbo, tobogganing is in no way the be-all and end-all for families. Between its quaint alpine village atmosphere, scenic chairlift rides and a full calendar of events, including a kids-only flare run, fireworks and animal parade on Thursday nights, there are certainly worse places for young snow-goers to see out the white season.
And for all the toboggan diehards out there, we’ve found that most other resorts across NSW, ACT, Vic and Tas still have a place for the humble sled. We’ve picked out the friendliest of the lot. Slide on.
Mount St Gwinear, Vic
Like mud puddles and the cardboard box their trike came in, the littlest kids love the simplest stuff. And there’s nothing simpler than a bit of cold slush. So when all your sprog wants to do is slide a bit and doddle around and put things in their mouth you’d rather they didn’t, there’s no point forking out for ski resort with all the frills.
Cue Mount St Gwinear. Located on the Baw Baw plateau, this kid-friendly snow attraction is just under three hours from Melbourne. Parking and entry is free, and you can hire a sled or bring your own and make use of the two designated toboggan runs for just $4 an hour. There’s no downhill skiing, but it does have a 12km network of cross-country trails, camping and a heated shelter. On weekends and during school holidays there’s a food van, but at any other time you’ll need to bring your own Thermos and lunch.
Mount Buffalo, Vic
With more snow play area than any other hill, fewer crowds and no park entry or sledding fees, Mount Buffalo is a rare gem indeed. Located an easy 40 minute drive from Bright, the park's two managed toboggan zones are family favourites in Victoria, and with good reason. Dingo Dell serves up safe, tot-friendly sliding overlooked by a cosy cafe and has plenty of room leftover for a snowball fight, while Cresta Valley offers more adventurous runs that take in natural scenery and diverse terrain.
Snow play and exploration are front and centre, with designated walking trails available plus cross country skiing routes snaking out into the picturesque Mt Buffalo plateau. When it comes to refueling after all the fun, Dingo Dell's heated cafe and day area allows BYO lunch, or you can fire up your portable BBQ in the parking lot.
Corin Forest, ACT
If you’re Sydney-based and looking for an affordable first snow experience that doesn’t require a week-long stay in Australia’s nosebleed section further south, Corin Forest can help you out. Located less than an hour from Canberra and around 3.5 hours from Sydney, Corin Forest is the only snowfield in the ACT, and with its singular focus being families with tots and first timers, it’s the only ski hill of its kind countrywide.
With a unique session-based booking system, you can customise your day with any combination of tobogganing and snow play, ski and snowboard lessons with a professional instructor (minimum age is four), or a session of skiing and riding on the custom-built hill – a gentle slope specifically designed for newbies to practice their skills. The property sits among towering trees, and if you ask us, roasting marshmallows over the lodge’s fire sounds like a mighty fine way to wind down… and bring your core temperature back up.
Selwyn Snow Resort, NSW
For a slice of Kosciuszko paradise on a smaller, more affordable scale, Mount Selwyn has a similar suite of family perks to neighbouring Perisher and Thredbo – tube park, snow school for kids, etc – with the added bonus of a designated toboggan area and a go-anywhere approach to slow play. Free-ranging may be a source of stress at more sprawling resorts, but at Selwyn there are few places a kid can roam that aren’t a mere coo-ee away.
Located in the northern reaches of NSW’s Snowy Mountains, it’s a solid road trip at six hours from Sydney, and the nearest accommodation is about 20 minutes from the hill.
Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, Vic
Take a two hour drive north-east of Melbourne and you’ll find a winter playground nestled in the upper reaches of the Yarra ranges. With its gentle terrain, Lake Mountain is primarily a beginner hill suited to first-time riders and cross country skiers. But for families with young kids, it’s the Village Toboggan Run – which has guaranteed snow coverage for the entire season – that’ll be the main source of smiles.
For the cost of renting a few pairs of snowshoes, the resort’s winter walking tracks really broaden the playing field. Take a 500m tot-friendly stroll through alpine ash forest dusted in fresh snow, or if your tribe is a little older, the 5km-return summit walk is a gentle grade and rewards with breathtaking valley views.
Mount Baw Baw, Vic
Situated a 2.5 hour drive from Melbourne through the Latrobe Valley, Mount Baw Baw may be perfectly doable as a day trip, but with on-mountain accommodation, we reckon it’s worth staying a few days to learn how to ski or ride. The terrain is largely geared to learners but still has some areas with a bit more pitch that’ll help you level up.
Not ready to learn the fine art of snow ploughing? Mount Baw Baw’s snow play areas aren’t just toboggan friendly. Take your pick from snowshoeing, snowmobile rides or dash through the trees behind your own husky team.
Dinner Plain, Vic
Ten minutes down the road from Mount Hotham – Victoria’s premier resort for advanced skiers and riders – is Dinner Plain, a picturesque alpine village that brings high country charm and gingerbread-house architecture in spades. You can discover your ski-legs with a lesson or two on the bunny hills, or tire out the kidlets with tobogganing, tubing, dog sledding or even a spot of night skiing.
At 4.5 hours from Melbourne, the distance isn’t conducive to a day trip, but what better excuse to hunker down in one of the village’s snow-blanketed chalets? And just in case you like some froth with your frost, Dinner Plain is also home to Australia’s highest brewery. You are welcome.
Falls Creek, Vic
It’ll take you a solid five hours to drive there from Melbourne, but with 60% intermediate terrain, plus two toboggan runs, buckets of snow play fun and even scenic lift rides, Falls Creek has enough going on to keep families busy for the best part of a week. Lock in some ski-in ski-out accommodation and you can enjoy the mountain at your own pace.
It’s worth noting that the junior toboggan slope isn’t open every day – but if luck’s not on your side, there is a steeper toboggan run, as well as tubing, mini snowmobiles, fireworks on Thursday nights in July, and Twilight Tuesdays – activities, games and appearances by Pete the Snow Dragon – to appease the littlies.
Mount Buller, Vic
It’s the largest ski resort in Victoria, it’s only three hours from Melbourne (and you can get a bus there), and yes, it’s still firmly in the pro-toboggan camp. You won’t have too much trouble working out why it’s one of Australia’s favourite ski destinations.
Mount Buller dishes out beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain in almost equal measure, so you can happily drop the kids at ski school or the on-mountain creche and enjoy some time shredding blues and blacks (or pampering yourself at the spa) on your own terms. And with 30 bars and restaurants, the apres scene is solid – hey, parents have needs too!
Mount Stirling, Vic
Sister hill Mount Stirling allows tobogganing only when the conditions are suitable, but entry to the resort is included in the Mount Buller fee, so she’s worth checking out if you’re in the area for a while. With a bit of
bribing encouragement, older kids may be convinced to go snowshoeing around the 4.4km Wombat Drop Loop – with interpretive signage enroute, it’s a chance to slow down the pace, get closer to nature, and learn a thing or two about the mountain’s logging and film history. We can hear their squeals of excitement already.
Ben Lomond, Tas
Snow arrives late in our most southern state, but from mid-July through to the end of September, Tasmanians only have to drive 1.5 hours from Launceston (or 3.5 hours from Hobart) to reach one of Australia’s most relaxed family ski resorts. It may not have all the bells and whistles of its northern counterparts, but apart from good snow cover, a sled, and a cosy cafe to dry your tush in, what more do you really need? Professional ski lessons? Ben Lomond has those too.
What about Perisher?
It’s only the biggest resort in the southern hemisphere; surely it’s got space to accommodate a little toboggan fan base? But alas, it would seem Perisher considers itself a no-toboggan zone – at least on the ski slopes – solidifying it as skier-and-snowboarder-first destination, which if we’re being honest is to be expected from any of the big leagues. But Perisher-bound tobogganers aren’t totally without a bone. There does exist a designated sledding area next to the Perisher Valley car park. It doesn’t always have snow… but at least you don’t have to drag your boat hull too far from the car.
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