Welcome to our first of many resort awards articles. If the Wall Street Journal can rate ski resorts for their readership, we can do it for our very different audience.
About the ratings: We’ve analysed the Australian ski resorts and applied weightings to their features for seasonal workers. Here are the following categories:
The Essentials: Affordable housing and good transport options are in this category. Resorts that get the essentials right, are going to rate well.
Great to Have: We rate resort’s terrain, lift system, apres ski scene, employee perks, options for summer work, and non-partying entertainment.
Nice to Have: These are features that just make things pleasant for employees. Resorts with good back country access, end of season staff parties, long term parking options, locals’ cards, reciprocal rights and job opportunities in the Northern Hemisphere can boost their overall rating.
So lets get to the summary.
Thredbo is Australia’s premier all-seasons resort. It has the highest run and the biggest vertical in Australia. It’s won the Best Australia Ski Resort at the World Ski Awards seven years in a row.
The apres scene is vibrant and there’s no shortage of events in winter and summer. Thredbo is an independent ski resort that is on the Ikon Pass. The season pass is more expensive than the neighbouring resorts so it does’t get overrun with huge crowds.
Summers in Thredbo also have great opportunities for seasonal workers. It has Australia’s only lift accessed gravity mountain bike precinct, so no annoying waits for minibus shuttles, and there’s amazing hiking opportunities. Thredbo also hosts premier mountain bike, beer, trail running, and music festivals in Summer.
For back country enthusiasts, the Main Range can be access via the Kosciuszko chairlift, and skiers can also hit the side country in the Dead Horse Gap area.
Employees also get some great perks including free pool and gym use, free golf, cheap movie tickets, and discounts on accommodation in EVT hotels.
Overall Rating: B
Thredbo ticks a lot of boxes, but one of them isn’t good employee housing. Most employees live in Jindabyne where the rent is high and the transport options are poor. Seasonal workers will need a good vehicle, preferably a 4WD or friend with one.
Award: Best resort if you get employee housing.
Final Say: If you can get an affordable bed in Thredbo, it’s like winning the lottery. You can walk to work, walk to the lifts, work through the summer, get heaps of free employee benefits and have a great season. It’s a shame so few people win the lottery.
Image courtesy Blyton Group Charlotte Pass
Charlotte Pass is a small 5 lift resort that requires over-snow transport to access. The great thing about having no roads in, means all employees get ski in / ski out accommodation. They are the only resort in Australia who can make this claim.
Rooms are twin share so employees aren’t crammed in. Since there are no supermarkets, staff get three meals a day provided by their employer.
Sure, Charlotte Pass has less vertical and fewer lifts than neighbouring resorts, but it also has fewer crowds so the powder last longer. There’s also great access to back country skiing and a few secret chutes.
Overall Rating. B+ this is a very employee friendly resort, and an on-snow job will mean plenty of ski time. If you want to party, maybe look elsewhere.
Award: Best resort for beginners and intermediate skiers and best NSW resort.
Final Say: Charlotte Pass is remote and car free. That makes it extremely employee friendly. Just show up with your clothes and skis and have a great season.
Perisher Valley: Let’s start with they great things about Perisher. It is Australia’s biggest resort with the most comprehensive lift system. There’s a wide variety of terrain, easy access to the back country and a fun village for apres activities. If you get a job that includes employee housing in Perisher, you’ll have a great season… but
There’s very little employee housing at Perisher so most seasonal workers live in Jindabyne which has a housing shortage and high rents.
Perisher’s other big problem is transportation. There’s three options for seasonal workers commuting between Jindabyne and Perisher. Driving is the easiest option but the carpark is full very early on busy days. This means very early starts so you don’t get turned around and told you can’t get to work.
Buses are expensive and can get busy on weekends. Both these options can go pear-shaped because Australians are generally hopeless drivers in the snow. It only takes one idiot, and then you’re explaining to your boss why you are three hours late for work.
The third option is to drive to Bullocks flat and take the ski tube, a cable car through the mountain. This was a fabulous way to get to Perisher 40 years ago, but it’s now old, expensive, crowded, and unreliable.
Perisher is a Vail Resorts property so there’s options for an endless winter if you are competent and reliable.
Overall Rating. C+
Final Say: Being the closest resort to Sydney on the Epic Pass has created crowds and significant travel problems and poor housing options. These problems have been years in the making and can’t be solved in the short term. Perisher needs to make significant and expensive changes to improve the experience for seasonal workers and their guests.
Image courtesy Blyton Group Selwyn Resort
Selwyn Resort is a family owned and operated snow resort located in the NSW Snowy Mountains. Selwyn originated from Kiandra, the birthplace of skiing in Australia and the first ski club in the world established in the 1860s
In January 2020, Selwyn was sadly destroyed by the Black Summer Bushfires that swept through the Snowy Mountains. Owners of Selwyn, rebuilt the entire resort and following a three year rebuild, Selwyn re-opened with brand new infrastructure, 7 lifts, and facilities in Winter 2023.
The terrain around the car park area is ideal for beginners and there’s also more advanced runs off the Race Course T Bar.
Selwyn has everything for any ability of skier, snowboarder or snow novice! Meaning it’s the perfect resort to work at for your first snow season or if you bounce between northern and southern hemisphere winters!
Staff that work at Selwyn during Winter live either on resort, or in the nearby town of Adaminaby (just a 30 minute drive away from the resort). Beds onsite are occupied by our management and overnight shift mountain staff (e.g. snowmakers, groomers), whilst the rest of the Selwyn team share housing in Adaminaby.
Selwyn offers an array of benefits to our staff during Winter, including:
- Free Season Pass
- Free Snowsports Lessons
- Staff Food & Beverage Discounts
- Exclusive Staff Events
If you’re looking for a fun season at a family-owned resort in Australia, then Selwyn Snow Resort is the place for you!
Award: Best resort if you’ve never been on skis before.
Final Say: With free lessons, great beginner terrain, decent housing, and easy access to the resort, Selwyn is a good option for beginners wanting to work a ski season. The resort does have a relatively low elevation so the season can start later and end earlier than other resorts.
Image courtesy Mt Buller
Mount Buller is the closest major resort to Melbourne and it’s got a lot of things going for seasonal ski workers.
The mountain has great variety with north and south facing slopes, terrain parks, and some steep stuff on the south facing from the summit. It’s also a little more protected from the strong winds that buffer our peaks.
A large percentage of seasonal staff working for the lift company stay on the mountain. The major hotels, restaurants, ski shops, etc also provide on-mountain housing for the majority of their staff.
There’s not much privacy in the staff housing, but there are down valley options at Sawmill Settlement and Merrijig that provide more space. Some people commute from Mansfield, but 100km round trips get expensive. There’s staff shuttles but they aren’t cheap.
The resort is very compact and the town square has popular bars for ski workers and visitors. The K Hole stays open pretty late, and the walk back to the ski company employee housing is tough after 10 pints. For the healthier crew, Buller also has a full size sports hall and there’s basketball, trampolines, and indoor soccer available if you don’t want to go to the pub every night.
Mt Buller is steadily increasing its summer activities with a new via Ferrata climb at the summit. There’s also good opportunities to earn some serious bucks working construction on the mountain in summer.
Overall rating: A-.
Award: Best overall resort.
Final say: Party like a rockstar, live like a backpacker, and ski hard. Buller can be exhausting but in a good way. Don’t expect to save much money in Buller, unless you are a tea totaler.
Mt Hotham is known as Australia’s powder capital, and with 40% of the terrain rated advanced, it can claim to be Australia’s steepest and deepest mountain.
The village is also at the top of the mountain so you can hit the powder before riding a lift, and some of the best bowls are under the main Ridgeline and are out of the wind. 35km of cross country skiing and access to amazing back country, makes Mt Hotham Australia’s skiers mountain.
It’s part of the Vail Resorts portfolio and on the Epic pass. If a seasonal worker does a great job at Hotham, they can easily head to another VR mountain in North America or Europe for an endless winter.
Unfortunately there is a severe housing shortage at Mt Hotham which means many workers are housed at Dinner Plain 14km away. Limited transportation between the two centres means apres ski activities are limited. Other towns that house workers include Harrietteville. (30km away), Bright (54km away) and Omeo (55km away). The drive up to Hotham from both directions needs a reliable vehicle preferably a 4WD.
Last season, many businesses didn’t open because they simply couldn’t find staff due to the housing crisis.
There is talk about employee housing being built 20km away at the Hotham airport and requests were made for more information from the developer but replies were not received by deadline.
Overall Rating: B-.
Award: Best resort for powder hounds
Final word: Mt Hotham needs a lot more employee housing, and it needs it now. Small units on the private rental market are ridiculously expensive. Hotham has arguably the best skiing in Australia but it starting to lose experienced ski workers because crowded employee housing gets exhausting. Hotham’s future does look brighter with the Grollo Group purchasing the Hotham Airport and planning an employee housing village. Maybe tow up a few dozen tiny houses this winter to ease the housing problems?
Falls Creek is another Vail Resorts mountain in Victoria which gets plenty of snow. It’s also Victoria’s largest resort with 15 lifts and 450 hectares.
It not as steep as Hotham but it does have an extensive cross country trail network and a lively base area.
In really exciting news, there’s a significant employee housing development 16km north of Falls Creek at the Bogong Village. This village was created for construction workers building the Kiewa Hydroelectric Scheme, and it’s currently getting a facelift to house seasonal workers. With 200 new employee beds, Falls Creek looks like being in a good position to provide a great experience for seasonal workers and guests. It is not known if these employee beds will be ready for 2024. Requests for more information from the developers have been made, but responses haven’t been received before deadline.
We will be keeping an eye on rents seasonal workers will be paying and transport options between the village and Falls Creek.
As with Mt Hotham, if you are a reliable on-mountain worker, you’ll get opportunities to work at Vail Resort mountains in the Northern Hemisphere winter.
Overall Rating: B+ but that could go to A- if the Bogong Village is done well and ready for the 2024 winter.
Mt Baw Baw is the closets ski resort to a major city in Australia, and it’s been the favourite resort for school groups and families experiencing the snow for the first time ever.
Baw Baw faces straight south overlooking the massive Latrobe Valley. It gets significant snowfall when storms barrel in form the south but misses out a bit when the westerly storms roll in.
The resort has five lifts in the long Summit Chair is perfect for beginners while the Hut Run Platter and Maltese Cross T Bar have runs for intermediate and advance skiers.
Baw Baw also has 20km of cross country ski trails and back country access to some truly stunning wilderness areas.
In summer the area is a haven for mountain bikers and hikers. The main road to Mt Baw Baw also has the toughest road cycling climb in the country. If you’d rather ride up 13kms of “wall” rather than drink 13 cocktails in a fancy bar, Baw Baw is the mountain for you!
Overall Rating: B
Final Say: Baw Baw doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. It’s a small resort geared for school camps and budget skiers. It’s not a party mountain. Having said that, Baw Baw does a very good job getting school kids and families out in the great outdoors. There’s something quite pleasant helping people slide down the hill for the first time in their life.
So there it is. There’s plenty of options for people wanting to work an Australian ski season. There’s resorts for all types of people, from absolute beginners to shredders, from party animals to back country enthusiasts, so pick wisely.
If you haven’t created a free employee profile yet, get your name out there because hiring for the 2024 winter has already started.