A positive start for ski season

As sub-zero temperatures hit Victoria's high country overnight, the resorts fired up their snow guns to start creating the white stuff ahead of this year's ski season.

Mount Buller fired up its guns for the first time last night, while Hotham and Falls Creek have run their snow makers several times this week.

With predictions for some natural falls next week, the resorts are hoping for a positive start to the season.

The Australian snow season officially starts during the Queen's birthday weekend on June 6-8, but there have already been some promising snowfalls in the southern hemisphere.

Mount Buller opened its lifts at the start of May for some "novelty" skiing, and New Zealand has had such good falls that Mount Hutt was set to open this weekend after being slammed with 170 centimetres of snow in 12 days.

If you believe in wives' tales, then it could be a very good winter indeed. The story goes that we have good seasons of plentiful snow when Lake Eyre fills with water, and guess what? Lake Eyre is full of water, and rising.

Resorts across Australia are offering terrific deals to entice people to the snow during the economic downturn, but the daily lift ticket price has topped $100 for the fi rst time in Australia. Perisher has raised its price by $4 from last winter to $102, but the other major resorts have kept their prices under triple figures despite increases of a few dollars each

Of course, buying single day tickets is the least economical way to go, and there is better value in multi-day tickets. But among all the price rises Mount Baw Baw is the shining light. The resort dropped its day ticket price last season from $71 to $49 because of the economic downturn, and this year has maintained a low price of $59 on weekends and $49 midweek. They must be the best-value tickets in Australia.

SKI '09 MAGAZINE

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There is a lot to love about Australian snow, and in this weekend's Sunday Age our free Ski `09 magazine looks at 50 reasons to get into the white stuff.

Ski `09 again been put together by some of the best snow writers in the country and features everything you need to know about Australia's ski resorts.

Author and ski magazine editor Jim Darby is back with insightful comments on the resorts, food and wine writer David Sly picks the best places to eat and drink, sports journalist Jacquelin Magnay previews the Winter Olympics, pro snowboarder Russell Holt has the word for boarders, and former ski racer Steven Lee chimes in with a story about China, which could be the next big thing in the ski world.

Next week, return to theage.com.au for full coverage of ski season, including the return of the Snow It All blog and live weather details and web cams, plus daily video reports from the mountains.