What's new for the 2016 Australia and New Zealand ski season

Australia woke up to new snow Wednesday morning across the New South Wales and Victorian ski fields and New Zealand's Queenstown and Wanaka ski fields did the same today. It's game on people as winter slowly makes her mark ahead of the ski season that starts in just over four weeks with fingers crossed for more snow ahead.

Expect better lift pass deals in 2016 too as Thredbo and NZ Ski hit back at Perisher's Local Epic Pass with a pass of their own. This time last year Thredbo was no doubt reeling at the Vail Resorts purchase of Perisher.

How would they compete with the Epic Australia Pass for $A849? Pass holders get unlimited access to Perisher in the 2016 season and the best of the US – Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood during the 2016/2017 season. How? It's the Epic Australia pass.

Not to be outdone, the team behind the Mountain Collective Pass (that includes Thredbo) then invited Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Hutt to join the fun. Now you can purchase a Mountain Collective pass for just over $A500 and get 30 days of skiing at 15 resorts around the world including Aspen, Jackson Hole, Whistler, Thredbo and the kiwi resorts mentioned. So you can ski both sides of the ditch according to who gets the snow and when.

This year, Thredbo are also introducing Thredbo Resort Charge, the latest in-resort technology that allows skiers and boarders to link a credit card to a MyThredbo pass. So you can now purchase a range of products and services at participating Thredbo outlets with a single swipe of the MyThredbo pass.

But wait, there's always more. Thredbo now offers Direct Lift Access capabilities so you'll never have to wait in a ticket sales line again. Simply walk up to the lift, scan your MyThredbo pass and your linked credit card will be charged the appropriate resort day rate.

To make it even easier to ski or board in New South Wales Regional Express (Rex Airlines) recently launched services between Sydney and the Snowy Mountains Cooma airport from $A149.60 per person one way with extra flight services every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday throughout the ski season so you can "chuck a snowie" and have a long weekend.

Further south in Hotham, Victoria, they've invested $4.4 million in snowmaking expansion for this season, making them more "snow sure" than ever before. The added snowmaking means they can open more beginner and intermediate terrain earlier in the season.

Hot off the tragic heels of too many backcountry deaths in the northern hemisphere season, Mt Buller launches a timely new outdoor safety course this winter. Courses are offered with the support of Ski Patrol. Skiers and boarders who enroll will then cover basic skills including safety and rescue equipment, terrain awareness, companion rescue, snow pack assessment and decision making.


Across the ditch in Queenstown two new properties are set to open in June. The Ramada Hotel & Suites at Remarkables Park is the town's first new hotel in five years. Expect mountain views from all the suites with the hotel only a short drive from Queenstown.

The crew behind Christchurch's leading boutique hotel, The George, are opening the doors on a six-suite hotel in Queenstown in time for the ski season. Hulbert House is a restored Victorian villa and will be a favourite for the style brigade with chandeliers, Chinese willow pattern carpet, French fittings and more. Add personal concierge service, breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapes daily, free Wi-Fi and car parking.

Of course if you prefer the laid back vibe of Wanaka to glitzy Queenstown then get your hands on the new Cardrona and Treble Cone Flexi Pass from $NZ198 this season. You can ski 3 or 6 non-consecutive days so you can enjoy the down days when you want them.

Those who like their skiing and boarding with a side of adrenalin can sign up for Southern Lakes Heli Ski's new Triple Epic Experience. Freefall at 200km/h with Skydive Wanaka, shoot clay pigeons, spin in a jet boat and hit the off-road with the Oxbow Adventure Co. Oh, and go heli skiing of course with a 4 Run Classic Heliski day with Southern Lakes heliski. How much for this privilege? $NZ1490 per person. Book through Southern Lakes Heliski.

The one per cent will love Minaret Station's new multi-day heli skiing package. Bed down in the heli-accessed luxury wilderness lodge on the family farm in one of four chalets all connected to the main lodge by raised walkways. Dine on local cuisine and take to the skies each morning for heli skiing on the private property. If you have to ask the price you can't afford it.

Follow Rachael Oakes-Ash throughout the ski season on Twitter & Instagram @misssnowitall and on facebook.com/misssnowitall