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Thredbo: A Great Experience for Kids’ First Ski Trip

ANGELA SAURINE finds the ideal resort at Thredbo to take her four-year-old son skiing for the first time

Angela ringing the bell at Australia's highest lifted point at Thredbo

“Mummy, watch oooouuuuuutttttt!” my four-year-old son cries as he comes snowploughing towards me. There’s the hint of a cheeky grin on his face as he slides down the gentle slope, legs wobbling. I stop videoing on my phone with milliseconds to spare and scoop him up in my outstretched arms. It’s only his second day of lessons at Thredbo and to see him skiing – and how happy it obviously makes him – fills my own heart with joy. As anyone who’s ever taken kids to the snow will tell you, it takes a bit of effort. But it’s moments like this that make it all worthwhile.

Arriving at Thredbo: Finding joy in unexpected moments

The Thredbo sign

I’d driven around 1,000km over three days from our new home in northern NSW, so determined was I to get Oliver on skis at a young age. By the time we arrived, it was late, and I was feeling frazzled. My goal was to get there before dark, but various factors — including a petrol station being out of snow chains — meant that didn’t happen. It was pitch black as I was driving along the winding Alpine Way access road, with another car tailgating me for the last few kilometres. After checking into Thredbo Alpine Hotel, we have to return to the car to place the parking permit on the dashboard. As we are walking back towards reception, Oliver grabs me by the hand and spins me around in the middle of the car park. “Snow dance!” he cries, turning me again. “Snow dance!” he repeats. My stress instantly dissipates as I get caught up in his innocent excitement, and I laugh along with him.

A room at Thredbo Alpine Hotel

When we check into our room, we are greeted by a Friday night dance party in the square outside the window, that is reminiscent of a scene from Ibiza. Oliver sets about his usual routine of getting into everything he possibly can in the new space. He soon finds a fan and plugs it into the wall. “Fan dance!” he beams. I’m keen to get our snow gear ready for his morning lesson, but I drop everything and start to boogie to the beat, “freezing” as instructed when he turns the fan off. These are the special times on holidays — away from the demands of everyday life — that I’ve realised you need to embrace. Fortunately, the party is all over by 7.30pm, and our bathroom stops vibrating in time for a wind down bath.

Australia’s most family-friendly ski resort

Oliver getting his ski boots fitted

While Thredbo is famous for its après scene, it’s also consistently voted Australia’s most family-friendly ski resort, with everything from to fire pits ideal for toasting marshmallows to kids’ flare runs, school holiday festivals and “mini shred” events with Winter Olympians. But we have a fair way to go before we get to that stage. After hiring our skis, boots and poles at the Valley Terminal, a short walk over the bridge from our hotel, we catch the free shuttle bus to the beginners’ area Friday Flat, where the whimsically named Thredboland ski school is located.

Oliver with his instructor at Thredboland

I’m slightly disturbed to discover that, unlike day care, you can’t leave a bag with spare clothes or a drink bottle. My head is swarming with questions. What if he gets thirsty? What if he needs to go to the toilet? What if he has an accident and needs spare clothes? But I soon realise that they have done this many, many times before, and the operation is a well-oiled machine. There are even holes for parents to peek through as kids are getting ready with their instructors. A bright yellow train on skis transports kids from the centre to the magic carpet lift, which is kind of like a conveyor belt that transports children to the top of the small slope to ski down.

Fun for adults too: A well-rounded experience for all ages

After dropping Oliver off, I head off to meet some friends, whose kids have been through the ski school program in previous years and are now flying down intermediate blue runs. We ski to Australia’s highest lifted point, enjoy lunch outside in the sunshine, and ride Australia’s first alpine gondola, which opened at the height of COVID in 2020. When I go to pick Oliver up at 3.30pm, he’s tentatively skiing down the hill behind his instructor with his skis pointed in a V-shape. “Can we go skiing every day?” he asks me. He also wants to ride on the chairlift after one lesson.

Oliver with the events manager who carried him through the dance party crowd

Thredbo is also known for its village vibe, and as we walk amongst the stone and timber buildings, Oliver is clearly impressed. “This is a nice city!” he says. “Look how nice it looks!”. Upon arrival back at the hotel, we discover there’s another dance party in train — the biggest of the season. When the resort’s diligent events manager spots us in the crowd, he offers to help carry our skis and lead us through the throng. He lifts Oliver up in his arms and takes us to the safety of the ski storage area. “I wish I had as many arms as an octopus,” Oliver says.

Enjoying fireworks and fine dining for the a perfect Saturday night

We opt for an easy dinner at Cascades Restaurant, which is located within the hotel, just down the corridor from our room. Oliver happily devours calamari and chips, with ice-cream for dessert, while I enjoy tuna tartare, duck ragu pappardelle and dark chocolate and cherry fondant. As we are eating, Oliver asks me questions about skiing. I use his fries to show how snow ploughing is like a pizza shape, and parallel skiing is like two chips side by side. At 6.30pm, we head out onto the balcony to watch the fireworks show over the mountain. “That was awesome!” Oliver enthuses.

Fireworks show at Thredbo

A successful weekend

By the end of the weekend, Oliver is confidently taking his skis on and off, starting to link turns, and even (somewhat ambitiously) trying to parallel ski. I’m blown away by his achievement – and his enthusiasm. As we are looking out the window at breakfast on our last morning, soft white flakes start to float down from the sky. “I’ve always wanted to see snow falling!” Oliver cries. “Where does it come from?” he asks. “It’s coming faster!” he shouts, as the snow gets heavier. It’s a lovely way to end a wonderful weekend.

Thredbo sparkling after fresh snow

The writer was a guest of Thredbo.

Tips and recommendations

Getting there

Thredbo is located within the Kosciuszko National Park in the NSW Snowy Mountains, around 5.5 hours’ drive from Sydney and Melbourne and 2.5 hours’ from Canberra. All vehicles are required to have a pass to enter the Park. Day and multi-day entry passes can be purchased at the NPWS vehicle entry stations and the Thredbo Visitor Centre, or online here 

Staying there

Located just 200 metres from the resort’s base, close to restaurants and shops, the historic Thredbo Alpine Hotel is a convenient option for families. It has 24-hour reception, a ski storage area, a self-service laundry, an in-house restaurant, and also offers room service.

When to go

The ski season runs from the June long weekend until the October long weekend. The Kids’ Snow Festival is held during the July and September school holidays, with movie nights, character appearances and family fun nights with games such as giant Jenga and Connect Four, music, dancing, animal parades and prize giveaways.

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