Driving to the NSW Ski Resorts & Victorian Ski Fields

Driving to the NSW Ski Resorts & Victorian Ski Fields

Tenjindaira Backcountry Tours
Wagner Custome Skis

Victorian Ski Resorts

Dinner Plain Falls Creek
Mt Baw Baw
Mt Buller
Mt Hotham

NSW Ski Resorts

Charlotte Pass
Selwyn Snowfields

Travel to the Snow in Australia

Travelling to the ski resorts in Australia is possible via private shuttle or bus or even flying, but most people drive. This page covers tips for driving to the NSW ski fields and the Victorian ski resorts including information on tyre chains and parking your car.

Some of the ski resorts in Australia are easy to get to, whilst others require a bit more effort, time and money for multi-day stays because depending on where you’re staying, you can’t just drive your car up to the door of your accommodation with a multitude of luggage and gear. For example, at Mt Buller you have to park your car and then get an expensive oversnow taxi to your accommodation. Most of the Falls Creek accommodation requires oversnow snowcat transport if you don’t want to walk up a snowy hill carrying heavy bags. At Perisher there’s negligible overnight parking so you need to drive then get a train and then an oversnow to your accommodation, whilst travelling to Charlotte Pass necessitates an oversnow all the way from Perisher Valley to the resort. A potential upside if you need oversnow transport is that you’ll be staying somewhere in a lovely snowy environment.

For more specific information on getting to the Victorian ski resorts and NSW ski fields:

General Tips for Driving in the Snow in Australia

The Australian ski resort roads are not too gnarly compared to some of the New Zealand ski field roads or some of the Chilean ski resorts, but they can be challenging, particularly the Hotham road. If you are inexperienced with driving on mountain roads, it can be very hazardous, particularly if it’s snowed recently, and it may be wise to consider using a bus service instead.

Some of the roads to the ski resorts are well above the snow line, especially the Victorian ski resorts, so take extra care and drive slowly. Here are some other general tips for driving in the snow in Australia:
  • Turn your lights on even during the day.
  • If you’re taking it really slowly and you notice a bank of cars behind you, pull over when it’s safe to do so to let them pass.
  • If someone is driving painfully slowly in front of you don’t tailgate. Keep a safe distance from the car in front, because if you need to brake suddenly, stopping on an icy road takes longer.
  • That being said, try not to brake suddenly. Brake gently and evenly. When coming to a corner, try to brake beforehand rather than during the turn.  
  • Rather than frequently hitting the brake pedal, consider using your gears to slow down.
  • Avoid sharp steering movements.
  • If driving up a steep icy pitch, keep a constant speed and try not to stop.
  • Check the forecast and conditions before you travel, and if there is a blizzard or heavy snow, check if there are any road closures or other alerts on the resort website or relevant road authorities app.
  • Modern coolant fluids in cars have anti-freeze elements in them.
  • If your battery is getting rather tired, get a new one. Batteries don’t fare well in the cold.
  • If you can, try to drive during daylight hours.
  • See below regarding tyre chains.
  • See below regarding diesel fuel.

Are Tyre Chains Necessary?

In addition to the safety considerations to improve grip, there are also legal requirements to carry chains and fit them as required or directed at the Vic and NSW ski resorts. There are often road blocks on the approach to the ski resorts, and if you don’t have tyre chains in the car they may turn you around if you’re lucky, or slap you with a hefty fine.

For the Victorian ski resorts, diamond pattern snow chains are mandatory to be carried in all vehicles (ladder chains, spider chains, and snow socks are not permitted) including 4x4 vehicles at all times during the declared snow season.

For the NSW ski resorts, any 2WD cars entering the Kosciuszko National Park are required to have chains in the car. Whilst it’s recommended that 4WDs also have chains, it’s not a requirement. The NSW ski fields don’t have the same stipulations about the chain type and the rules are generally more relaxed because the drive to the two main ski resorts from the east (ie from Sydney or Canberra) is very easy compared to the Victorian ski resorts.

Some of the locals at the Victorian and NSW ski resorts may have specific snow tyres for winter, which are marvellous for driving in the snow. Unfortunately snow tyres don’t negate the legal obligations to carry or put chains on.

Where to Get Chains?

It’s worth noting that it’s not possible or wise to put chains on all vehicles and tyre combinations due to inadequate clearance between the tyre and wheel arch, and some manufacturers recommend not using snow chains due to potential damage they can cause. Low profile tyres in particular are problematic. Amusingly there have been some car companies that have sponsored certain Australian ski resorts, yet the cars can’t have chains applied. So if it looks like there’s not a lot of space around your tyres, check your car manual first to see if it’s feasible (whilst you’re checking the manual, check whether chains should go on the front or rear wheels). If in doubt, you may be wise hiring your chains from a ski shop or service station near where you live, to check whether it’s even a possibility. Or at least ring a shop with your car model and tyre numbers (205/45/R16) at the ready to ask.

Otherwise, snow chains can be rented from shops and petrol stations in towns on the approach to the ski resort. Some offer deals if you also rent your ski or snowboard equipment as well.

If you plan to travel to the Australian ski resorts a fair bit, it’s worth considering buying a set of snow chains. Self-tensioning chains are ideal so that you don’t have to drive 50 metres and then get out of the car to manually tighten them.

At the shop the staff should show you how to put them on (it might be worth videoing this) and this is a good way to double check that the tyre chains fit.

Putting Chains On

Whether you use the chains or not will depend on the conditions on the day you travel. You can look at the relevant resort app for updates, and you will be informed along the way by signage or staff advising that chains need to be fitted. Due to higher elevations (and it being the nanny state), it’s more likely that you’ll need to put chains on at the Victorian ski resorts than at the NSW ski fields.

On some mountains there are chain fitting services, but don’t rely on these because they don’t necessarily operate 24/7. You need to know how to apply and remove chains. Here are a few tips regarding snow chains:
  • Know whether to put them on the front or back wheels. Check your car manual, or for AWD vehicles they go on the front.
  • Practise putting them on and off at home or at the shop. There’s nothing worse than trying to figure out how to put chains on when there’s a blizzard.
  • Don’t pack all your cold weather gear in a bag down deep somewhere in the car.
  • Have a torch or headlamp.
  • You might get a bit dirty depending on where you pull up to put chains on. Don’t wear your spiffy white outfit and have a groundsheet, old jacket and old gloves (thin ones that still allow some nimbleness).
  • There are usually chain bays on the side of the road. Pull well off the road to put your chains on or to take them off.
  • If you’re up at the ski resort and the forecast is for a big dump of snow overnight, put your chains on the day before as it’s much easier when snow isn’t piled up around the tyres.
  • Don’t drive fast with chains on unless you want to wreck your car. They don’t make you foolproof and the car steering doesn’t respond normally.
Take your chains off when signage indicates to do so. Don’t drive on dry bitumen. Not only will you look like a wally and frustrate the hell out of the drivers behind you, you’ll potentially also cause damage to the chains, the road and your car.

Diesel Vehicles in the Snow in Australia

Given the extreme conditions at some of the ski resorts in Victoria and NSW, diesel fuels can freeze and your car will not start. If you’re heading to the low elevation Thredbo you might get away with “winter mix” diesel, but ideally you want “alpine diesel” which you’ll find at the service stations in towns close to the ski resort. Ideally arrive at the petrol station with less than half a tank of fuel. If you’re only partially filling your car you should also purchase additive and add it to your fuel. If your car does freeze whilst you’re up at the snow, if it’s parked somewhere sunny, it will likely warm up enough to start later in the day. Otherwise you’ll need to call RACV or NRMA to warm up your car. Long delays can be experienced with this, so it’s best to try to ensure your diesel car does not freeze.

Parking the Car at the Snow

Some of these tips are particularly worthwhile if you’ll be parked at the snow for a while and it snows.
  • If possible, try to reverse into the car park as it will make it easier to get out when it snows.
  • Where possible, park in a flat spot.
  • Don’t put on the park brake.
  • If snow is forecast, you may want to put your chains on the night before. It’s always easier to fit chains when the vehicle is clear of snow. This can save a lot of time digging.
  • Lift the wiper blades up so they don’t freeze to the windscreen. If you forget to do this and they’re stuck, don’t force them off. Just wait for the heater to do its thing.
  • Don’t attempt to drive unless you have clear visibility through all the windows. If your car windows are iced over, don’t put hot water on them. Put the demister and heater on full bore and wait for them to clear or better still, use a scraper. These are available at the shop where you’ve hired your chains. Don’t use a shovel to clear the windows. If your lock or door jams have frozen over, then pee on them!
  • Don’t leave your shovel inside the car if there’s a forecast for lots of snow.
  • If there’s been a good dump of snow, once you’ve dug out your car and removed all snow from the headlights, bonnet and roof, then remove snow and ice from the windows. Snow shedding from your roof can be a major hazard when driving, and the police have been known to book people for having an unsecured load on the roof.
  • Ensure your car is properly dug out before attempting to drive out of the car park. A bogged car can lead to broken wheel chains

Park Fees / Resort Entry Fees

Skiing in Australia is expensive and it’s not just the accommodation, the food and lift tickets that will hit the hip pocket. For the NSW ski resorts, you need to add on the cost of the national park fees, and for the Victorian ski fields there are resort entry fees which are exorbitantly high.

Electric Vehicles at the Snow

  • EVs may drive fewer kilometres in very cold conditions, especially if you use features such as heated seats and heated steering wheel. Electric cars vary as to how much range they lose when driving in the cold, and thankfully technology continues to evolve to minimise this.
  • Charging stations do exist but are not that common at the Aussie ski resorts as yet.
  • Teslas have not had a great rep for being able to fit snow tyres to them due to low profile tyres that are good for lower energy consumption.