Tech blizzard for Aussie skiers

A storm of high-tech innovation is set to hit the Snowy Mountains this winter in time for the 150th anniversary of Australian skiing.

The major resorts in NSW and Victoria are introducing a range of gee-whiz gadgetry including electronic ticketing systems, online purchases, free wi-fi in some areas, a special application for iPhones, radio-frequency ID for car passes, and more snow cameras.

They won't create any more snow, or any more runs to ski on, but they will save time and effort for tech-savvy visitors.

And they tap into modern Australia's obsession with a digital communications revolution which would have been unimaginable when the Kiandra Ski Club, Australia's oldest, started in Perisher Valley, NSW, in 1861.

The big two NSW resorts are both launching online ticketing.

Perisher's MyRide system will allow guests to buy products and arrange rentals and group lessons online before arriving on the mountain. Guests will also be able to log on to Perisher's MyRide Store and recharge their tickets to get direct lift access.

And at the end of the day they can log on to Perisher's website to see which lifts they have ridden and how much vertical descent they have achieved.

Thredbo's system also allows guests to pre-purchase all they need online - tickets, hire, lessons, Thredbo card and season passes.

Once your pass is loaded, stick it in your pocket and pass through specially-designed gates that scan it automatically.

Both resorts are also introducing free wi-fi at their signature hotels, the Perisher Valley Hotel and the Thredbo Alpine Hotel. Charlotte Pass already has wi-fi at its iconic Kosciuszko Chalet.

Mt Selwyn has installed snow cameras to keep guests up to date on conditions, as well as video snow reports, and has a new weather station with automatic updates.

In Victoria, Mt Hotham's iPhone app will provide snow reports, lift status updates, trail maps, live webcams, the latest news and event updates, and a village directory for all businesses and emergency contacts on the mountain.

Victoria's Mt Buller is introducing an Australian first, radio-frequency identification (RFID) for car entry. Visitors will be able to pre-purchase resort entry passes online, collect a tag either from the Mansfield area or the base of Mt Buller, then use a dedicated lane at the entry gates.

The big news at Falls Creek is completion of the final phase of the Slalom Plaza area at the base of Falls Express lift.

Falls has also built aerial walkways allowing pedestrians to take short cuts around the village without using roads. And 10 luxury snowmobiles will be rolled out for hire, complete with hand and thumb warmers.

Technology may be stealing the spotlight but Perisher has invested $1 million to improve automated snowmaking at Blue Cow and built a skating rink at Smiggin Holes.

Mt Buller is also pumping another $1 million into snowmaking, as well as installing heated pathways in its village and buying two new groomers to expand what is already the state's biggest fleet.

Charlotte Pass has a new oversnow vehicle to ferry guests to and from the resort, as well as a new magic carpet for beginners and a dedicated racecourse.

Perisher, Hotham and Falls Creek have joined forces for the third year with their Superpass, which allows access to all three resorts - a mind-boggling 2015 hectares of terrain - for the whole season.

The cost is $1449 for adults and $818 for children.


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