Sometimes things just fit. Subaru and snow trips to Perisher just fit together perfectly, like Vegemite and toast, Peanut Butter and Honey sandwiches and Simon and Garfunkel.
So when the invite came to spend a few days driving a Subaru around the snow resort of Perisher Valley, I jumped at the chance. Add to this the fact that 2016 Australian Rally Champion, Molly Taylor, was going to be on the trip as well and I was looking forward to our couple of days.
Subaru XV and Outback
After arriving at Canberra Airport on a chilly winter morning (about 3 degrees), there was a choice of three Subarus. A Subaru XV 2.0i-S (which we have previously taken to Port Stephens at Easter) and the Subaru Outback in 2.5i Premium and 3.6R variants.
Choosing the XV, I slid comfortably into the heated leather seats, connected to Apple CarPlay in a matter of seconds, switched the seat heater on and headed off for a pleasurable drive before lunch.
Even though the XV is designed for the adventurous drivers that tend to venture off road, the ride was quiet and smooth on the road to Cooma. This allowed easy conversation with my driving companion. Adaptive cruise control (that can be switched off if chosen) and the EyeSight safety technology ensured a safe and comfortable drive.
A quick stop for a coffee at Cooma and a car swap, we were on our way again. It’s amazing how quickly things can happen that can change the day. As we were pulling out of the car park, there was a car that clearly didn’t see us or didn’t care. Luckily, the rear cross traffic alert activated and let us know to stop, thus avoiding an accident that would have just been a pain in the butt at the beginning of our trip.
This time I was in the Outback 2.5i Premium. Again, the seat warmers went on and the ease of connectivity for my phone was apparent. The Outback has a different feel to the drive obviously. It is larger, more suited for a family or an older couple.
One thing to note is the convenience of the retractable roof racks on the Outback, ideal for the skis and able to be retracted when not in use. This saves on wind noise and assists economy.
Both the XV and Outback have a well-designed boot area that is spacious enough for luggage and ski boots etc. for such a trip.
The other thing to note is the level of inclusions in both Subarus encompasses many luxuries that are non-existent in some more expensive European vehicles or are expensive options. Subaru don’t do options, everything is included as standard depending on the variant with some luxuries, such as pearlescent paint, standard across all models.
Wild Brumby Estate
Our drive along some winding roads into Jindabyne continued until we reached our lunch destination, the Wild Brumby Estate, between Jindabyne and Thredbo. I have driven past the turnoff many times but never visited. This is a lesson to explore locally because we were in for a treat.
The Wild Brumby Estate is a Schnapps and Gin distillery as well as an excellent café. Lunch was an array of entrée plates of fruit, anti-pasta, pâté and cheeses as well as tastes of the seasonal Schnapps.
My main meal was Kassler – which is pan-fried smoked pork with a rustic mash, sauerkraut and beans. Sweets was a delicious ice-cream with Butterscotch Schnapps topping. Very tasty and very filling.
In the past, my experience of Schnapps was a strong, almost bitter white alcohol that took your breath away.
The peach, pear and apple Schnapps we tasted were smooth, flavoursome and definitely not to be enjoyed if I was driving for the afternoon. The chilli Schnapps, aptly named Devils Tongue, had more bite and aftertaste but equally as pleasing.
The still is in the middle of the café and lends a certain authenticity to the experience. The traditional Austrian recipes are seasonal as well as combining something from the bountiful local produce in the food as well as the Schnapps and Gin. They even have a Rubus Patch Gin that features home-grown raspberries.
Overall the Wild Brumby Estate is absolutely worth a visit, great food, friendly staff, excellent Schnapps and a rustic like ambience all contribute to a pleasant afternoon.
Heading to Perisher
It was now time to jump back into the Subaru Outback for the final drive to Perisher Valley Resort. This time I had the luxury of being driven by Molly Taylor, however it was a much more refined drive in the Outback 2.5i Premium than it would have been in her WRX STI rally car.
The afternoon was turning even chillier and the heated seats were quickly becoming a necessity! The superb sound system provided some mellow background music for the final few kilometres.
Driving into the National Park, the signs everywhere for mandatory snow chains reinforced just how appropriate the Subaru Symmetrical AWD system is for such adventures. Unlike many other AWD systems, the Subaru Symmetrical AWD system drives all four wheels at once.
This negates the need for snow chains in NSW (check with your local state/territory for local rules) and enhances safety.
If you have ever had to fit chains, you will know the annoyance they create. Not to mention carrying them somewhere in the vehicle along with all the other ski gear.
Snow driving is different to many other forms of driving, with difficulties caused by snow, ice, black ice and other hazards. Subaru has many snow driving tips for your perusal.
The road into Perisher Valley winds its way through the mountains, giving views of the snow-capped peaks well before you arrive, heightening the anticipation of the resort.
Perisher Ski Resort
Perisher is the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere. Located in the Australian Snowy Mountains, the resort is an amalgamation of four villages (Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Guthega and Blue Cow) and their associated ski fields.
This area covers approximately 12 square kilometres, with the base elevation at 1,720 metres and the summit elevation of 2,054 metres at the top of Mount Perisher. It’s here that boast Australia’s highest chairlift. It also boasts Australia’s only 8 seat chairlift. You need to be cosy though.
Given the nature of Australia’s snowfall, the resort has about 4.4 square kilometres of this area covered by 240 snow guns, which are used to artificially supplement the natural snowfall. We were lucky however with 30cm of snow in the previous two days.
Access to Perisher is by road or Ski Tube, but access to Blue Cow is best by way of the Ski Tube, that deposits skiers directly onto the slopes. If you’re up for a challenge, you can ski across from the main Perisher Mountain.
We stayed at the Perisher Valley Hotel, which is ideally situated in the main part of the village, a short walk from the Ski Tube station and overlooking the slopes. Unlike Thredbo, that is more town based, Perisher has many chalets in the snow, both in the village and up the slopes.
We parked the Subaru’s literally in the snow in the private parking area, as the Perisher car park is cleared overnight, lifted the wipers so they don’t stick and jumped aboard the snow cat for transport to the hotel.
The overland transport is a different experience, it is a paddle steer track based truck with no suspension and ideally suited to the snow. Not the most comfortable on the road though.
The Perisher Valley Hotel is warm and welcoming, the staff friendly and it is conveniently located as mentioned. The rooms are a little older now, but the location and view more than make up for the rooms.
Dinner was in the Snow Gums restaurant. The atmosphere was warm with a central fire area (gas) next to the bar and with a glass of spiced warm apple cider, the evening got off to a great start. Still being full from lunch, dinner was a delicious, reasonable sized plate of crab and lobster ravioli with a few glasses of the warm cider.
Stay tuned for Part Two of Subaru to Perisher Valley Ski Resort soon where we take a trip back down the mountain to Jindabyne and Guthega.