Anyone who has been to the snow understands the difference between Australian dollars and snow dollars (the dollars you lose above the snow line simply by breathing). For every breath, another dollar is spent, or so it seems as the cost of everything at the snows goes up with altitude.
This accounts for why two chocolate-coated coffee beans served up on the side of my latte at Kareela Hutte at Thredbo gave me such joy last weekend. It sure is nice to get something extra when handing over the big bucks.
Barry Iddles, the name behind The Elk restaurant at Falls Creek knows the power of something for nothing. The complimentary marshmallow jar on his restaurant bar is regularly raided for fluffy white and pink puffs of sugar, and gelatine goodness to roast over the centrepiece fire. It is a nice touch from a man who knows how to convert the feel good factor into a dollar-profit.
At the beginning of the season before there was snow - those first three weeks of nail-biting terror - he offered free drinks for an hour every Sunday night at his bar. The trick was to only put on one bar man to serve everyone in that hour.
The promotion was announced on Facebook and brought in the ski patrollers, the lifties and locals and those no dollars turned into serious snow dollars from a hundred meals for those who then chose to stay on for dinner. Good will and value for money can create a loyal following for those who regularly feel ripped off by sub par fodder with a pointy end of the plane price.
I paid $16 for an average hot dog served by a sour-faced seasonaire in a bar that stank of stale sweat and parmesan cheese at Falls Creek recently. Did I go back? No.
Did I return to Elk in the same village? Yes, for two nights running. The lamb shank and mash on a Monday got me in, the marshmallows made me feel loved and the food and service made me stay.
North American resorts know this. Beaver Creek is famous for the hot (and free) fresh made cookies served up at the base of the lifts every afternoon to thigh-burned skiers and boarders. Deer Valley's British Racing Car green-clad ski concierge picks up your skis and carries them for you to the lifts each morning. No tips required.
Aspen has free apple ciders, muesli bars and other treats across the mountain, and the Little Nell at the base of the ski lifts randomly serves up free bar canapes on surprise days. The results are the same, a feeling of being wanted and that the mountain is happy to have you here. Who doesn't want to give back more dollars to those who welcome you?
Some Australian resorts are taking note but you have to know where and when. You can quench your sugar cravings at Charlotte pass every Friday with free fairy floss and every Monday with free snow cones. Nice.
The Thredbo Alpine Hotel offers a free $18 food voucher for the Pub and Bistro with free soft drink all night for designated drivers. A smart move to keep the Jindabyne based crowd happy.
Mount Buller even feeds your kids for free at the Kooroora Hotel between 5pm and 6pm on Thursdays (so long as you are dining with them) and the Mount Buller Chalet offers complimentary platters of bar snacks at Apres during daily happy hour.
But what of skiing and boarding you say? That still costs, but not necessarily as it's all about how you work it.
Get bang for your snow buck after dark. Skiers and boarders at Perisher can night ride for free with a valid lift pass (season pass holders and children's day lift passes) on Tuesday and Saturday nights and those with a three or more day lift pass even get free lift access from midday the day prior so arrive early.
Falls Creek has free first-timer Freestyle Fridays with free terrain park instruction, a bbq and a beginner snowboard given away every Friday. So you could walk away with a new trick, a full belly and a new kit for nothing. Plus mums ski for free if their kids are in a snowsport lesson and they get to join a Coffee Club lesson.
At Hotham skiing is free from 1pm the day before your five or more day lift pass, and if you get up early then you'll get extra runs at first tracks on Wednesday to Friday at 7.30am (free for anyone with a lift pass).
It pays to be a kid across the ditch as Mount Hutt and The Remarkables both offer free skiing for kids who are 10-years and under throughout the season. Treble Cone has free helmet rental for kids when renting skis and boards, and free lift passes for beginners accessing the Home Basin and beginner areas for the first time.
In Queenstown Browns Ski Shop provides free helmet hire for kids and free drop off and pick up of equipment from your hotel, and if you are feeling peckish on a Tuesday night then stock up on free hot chips at the Bobby Bingo Night at the Boiler Room each week.
In the States they call it service, in Australia I'd call it business. A bit of love with free stuff or a smile goes a long way in making those snow dollars worth it.
Where have you felt the most loved at the snow? Which resorts have offered you extra value for your snow dollar?
We are so excited about our #misssnowitall Instagram competition this year and with a trip to Japan up for grabs who wouldn't be? Did your instagram make our gallery this week?
Thanks to the Japan experts at Liquid Snow Tours and Hakuba Hotel Group we have a trip for two to Hakuba in Japan flying direct with Jetstar from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne with seven nights at the conveniently located Hakuba Springs Hotel, daily breakfast, five of nine day multi-resort lift passes for the Hakuba Valley, welcome drinks, transfers, in resort assistance and concierge service. Now that's how you do Hakuba in style.
To enter just tag your winter inspired Instagrams with #misssnowitall.
We will choose five finalists each week for our gallery above, and come September, our guest judge will choose our finalists from the gallery and you get to judge the ultimate winner of this fantastic week in Japan. Click here for full terms and conditions.
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