Winter escapes with Tim the Yowie Man

Bigfoot: Snow shoeing fun at Charlotte Pass.
Bigfoot: Snow shoeing fun at Charlotte Pass. Photo: Charlottes Pass Snow Resort

Just because you don’t ski or snowboard, doesn’t mean but you have to miss out on all the fun in the Snowy Mountains. So whether you’re an adrenalin junkie or just want to throw snowballs with the kids, Tim the Yowie Man’s ‘Top 10 non-ski activities’ has something cool for you to try in the NSW alps this winter.

Segway in the snow

We’ve all seen the fleet of space-age Segways gliding around the smooth, well-tendered paths of the Parliamentary Triangle. Looks like fun, doesn’t it? At Lake Crackenback you can go one step further and traverse rougher and much more adventurous tracks on an all-terrain Segway (the 4WD of the Segway world). It really is easy as it looks — after a short training session with your guide, within minutes you will be exploring the resort’s extensive network of purpose-built tracks, gliding effortlessly over mud, rocks, and yes if the weather is right, even snow. The Segways are eco-friendly with zero emissions and are whisper quiet so you won’t disturb the wombats, kangaroos and other critters which also call this alpine haven home.

Where: Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa, Alpine Way, Thredbo.

Cost: One-hour Segway eco tour - $50 a person. Also $15 for a special Segway experience for the kids. Daily tours. Ph: 02 6451 3000 or see lakecrackenback.com.au

Suitable for: You need to weigh between 35kg and 120kg. Day-trippers welcome.

Tim’s Tip: Unlike skiing, you don’t need an overly good sense of balance.

Snow shoe stroll

The days of tiresomely trudging through snow drifts in tennis racquet-type contraptions strapped onto your boots are well and truly over. The snow shoes of today are articulated and lightweight and allow you to go where no skier can. It’s just like bushwalking but in the snow. K7 Adventures, which operates out of Thredbo and Perisher, offers a range of back country snow shoe adventures from the half-day Ramshead Ramble (where you clamber through a secret cathedral of rocks) to a winter picnic atop the peak of your choice. There’s even an option to summit Mount Kosciuszko, where there’s a good chance you’ll have our highest mountain all to yourself,  unlike in the summer months when you need to jostle for positions at the top. Savour the moment, and the view. Divine.

Fast facts: Half and full-day and tailored snow shoe adventures. From $100 a person in a group of two-to-six. Individual snow shoer $150. All equipment provided, including a flask of hot chocolate or soup.See k7adventures.com/shoeing.htm or Ph: 0421 862 354.

Suitable for: All ages and all levels of fitness. No previous experience necessary.

Tim’s tip: When selecting a tour, don’t over-estimate your level of fitness. Snow-shoeing, especially uphill, in sub-zero temperatures is deceptively energy sapping.

Mountain mounts

This is for all those Man from Snowy River wannabes - feel the wind in your hair as you gallop through wild dramatic landscapes. Thredbo Valley Horseriding has a vast array of options, from one-hour rides to full-day experiences and even overnight camping trips. You can explore as much or as little of the 2800 acres of alpine wilderness on horseback as you like - trot through alpine meadows, across cool alpine streams and canter through mountain ash forest and into hidden valleys.

Fast Facts: Thredbo Valley Horse Riding; Pender Lea Chalets Alpine Way. see thredbovalleyhorseriding.com or Ph: 6456 2142 or 0421 332 126.

Suitable for: All levels, whether you are a beginner or a crack hand with a horse, your guide will pair you up with the perfect horse for your ability. Lincoln the Shetland pony is also available for children’s pony rides.

Tim’s tip: If you stay at Pender Lea Chalets (penderlea.com.au), you can take advantage of exclusive rates and discounted packages on all horse riding excursions.

Coffee with altitude

Perched high above the Thredbo Village and at the very top of Kosciuszko Express Chairlift is the aptly named Eagles Nest. Its striking floor-to-ceiling windows enable you marvel at a spectacular spread of mountain peaks, from Lake Jindabyne in the north to the rugged realms of the Victorian Alps in the south.

Catch the first chair of the day and indulge in a hearty breakfast while the passing parade of skiers and snowboarders carve up the powder beneath you. They’re in a rush. You aren’t, so order another coffee and soak up the atmosphere (and the heat of the pot belly stove).

For the romantics, after the sun goes down, you can travel the 600 metres above Thredbo village to Eagles Nest in Australia’s only alpine gondola (enclosed cabins replace the open chairs on the lift) for a four-course evening feast. Watch mesmerised as the lights of the village twinkle below.

Fast facts: Located at the top of the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift which departs from Thredbo. Open all winter (weather permitting) 9am till 3.30pm and also four-course dinners Thursdays and Saturday $89 a person. See eaglesnest.com.au or Ph: 02 6457 6019.

Suitable for: Anyone who wants to dine at Australia’s highest eatery (1937 metres above sea level).

Tim’s tip: Keep an eye on the weather, if it gets very windy, the chairlift may go on wind hold. You don’t want to be stuck at the top (or maybe you do).

Build an igloo

Have you ever wondered how to survive in a winter wilderness like a Himalayan adventurer? There are snow survival techniques that will save your life and also keep you cosy and comfortable, from a basic safe snow cave to a carefully crafted igloo where the sides flow in a smooth geometric pattern, the blocks fit together and the capstone completes the roof. Crawl into a sound and safe space at a constant temperature and fire up the stove and boil the billy for a hot mug of tea, soup or hot chocolate. A must-have skill for serious back country skiers, boarders and snow-shoers and for the ever-wishful adventurer with sights set on the Himalayas.

Fast facts: Full day, $190 a person (two-to-four people) or $300 (individual). Includes snow shoes, poles, snow shovels, igloo-making kit, tarpaulin and a jetboil (for hot chocolate or soup) See k7adventures.com/shoeing.htm or Ph: 0421 862 354

Suitable for: A first taste for aspiring mountaineers.

Tim’s Tip: Ensuring good ventilation is critical when building a safe snow cave.

Snow Play Park

For many years families with non-skiing children visiting Thredbo have been disappointed that unlike Selwyn Snowfields (selwynsnow.com.au) and Perisher (perisher.com.au), the resort has been no dedicated area for tobogganing. However, this season, with the opening of the new snow play area near the Thredbo Valley Terminal tennis courts, the kids can now slide on a toboggan, ride a snow tube, build a snowman and just generally play in the snow. New snow guns have been installed to the area so there is always, when possible a fresh supply of the white stuff.

Fast facts: Thredbo Village. Free, but charges apply for toboggan and tube hire.

Suitable for: Young kids.

Tim’s tip: If the weather closes in, take the kids to the Thredbo Leisure centre where they have a slide and knock-out aquatic jumping castle.

Over-snow adventure

Much to the chagrin of many non-skiers, the NSW snowfields are bereft of motorised activities like individual snowmobiles. However, you can still get your fix of motorised over-snow transport with a ride to Charlotte Pass Snow Resort is in their custom-built snow cat. Sure, you’ll have to share the experience with others but once at the resort (Australia’s highest), you can tuck into a hot lunch or head off for a snow shoeing expedition (or both!).

Fast facts: Day tripper tickets which include return over-snow transport from Perisher in the snow cat, return (you’ll need return too, as you aren’t skiing, remember?) chairlift ride on the Kosciuszko Triple Chair and lunch (two-course a La Carte in Arches restaurant) are $99 for adults and $62 for children. Charlotte Pass also offers snow-shoe adventures, so if your friends are skiing, you don’t have to miss out on all the fun. See charlottepass.com.au or Ph: 02 6457 1555.

Suitable for: Anyone, especially big kids at heart.

Tim’s tip: Pick an extra snowy day to get the most out of your over-snow ride. It’s not nearly as much fun if there’s not much of the white stuff on the ground.

Schnappy time

If you are one of the many snow bunnies who race past this Alpine Way landmark, overly eager to hit the slopes, then you are missing out. Surrounded by an enticing sculpture garden, this distillery-cum-cafe is an oasis from the steady flow of traffic rushing to and from the snow resorts. It’s easy to spend a whole afternoon here exploring the manicured garden and sampling fine local produce in cosy distillery. Whatever you do, don’t go past the vanilla ice-cream served with Wildbrumby butterscotch schnapps. It’s to die for.

Fast facts: Wildbrumby schnapps: Thredbo Valley Distillery, corner of Wollondibby Road and the Alpine Way, between Jindabyne and Thredbo. Winter hours: 10am - 6pm. See wildbrumby.com  or Ph: 02 6457 1447.

Suitable for: Breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas, and of course schnapps (at any time of the day!). The kids will love ringing the cow bells of various sizes (and sounds).

Tim’s tip: If you are going to sample one too many schnapps, book ahead at Eco Crackenback Cabins – just a short stumble (or snow-shoe) across the road.

French flair

But for the snow gums glistening in the moonlight outside, as you tuck into some of  Jean-Michel Gerst's fine French fare, you could easily be excused for thinking you were in a secret hideaway French Alps, not on the banks of the Thredbo River. Cooking was in Gerst's blood - his grandfather and mother were both chefs and he started his apprenticeship at the age of 15 at Restaurant Ritter in Dannemarie, France - and it shows.

The menu changes seasonally but you can’t go past the “home-made French country terrine, cornichons, pistou, onion jam and bread” and for dessert (go on, you’ve earned it!) indulge in his Poire belle Helene – poached pear, vanilla ice-cream, chocolate mousse with pear schnapps.

Fast Facts: Knickerbocker, 1 Diggings Terrace, Thredbo. Entrees about $20 and mains $30-$35. See jeanmichelknickerbocker.com.au Bookings essential: 02 6457 6844.

Suitable for: Lunch Sat- Sun and dinner Wed-Sun.

Tim’s tip: Take a pre-or post dinner walk on the golf course just across the river. It’s a hot-spot for spotting wombats trundling through the snow.

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