Major warning for tourists heading to ski resorts in Victoria and NSW

Adelaide LangNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Holidayers heading to the snow for the opening weekend of the ski season are being urged to prepare properly after thousands of vehicles were forced to turn around last year.

Victoria Police revealed more than 3600 vehicles were turned back at Mount Hotham for attempting the journey without the wheel chains required for driving in snowy conditions.

Eastern Region Superintendent Shane Cashman warned police would be conducting random checks on vehicles and adopting a zero-tolerance policy for unprepared travellers.

“Conditions can change rapidly in the snow, so make sure you’re prepared, even if you’re a seasoned snow-goer,” he said.

“We want travellers to create memories on the slopes, and not on the roadside.”

Motorists fix snow chains to their cars after heavy snow dump left the Thredbo road clogged with traffic.  
New South Wales (NSW / Mountain / Weather
Camera IconMotorists have been urged to be prepared when travelling to the snow. Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Victorian drivers can face fines of $370 for not carrying wheel chains during the snow season and penalties of $970 for not fitting them to the wheels when instructed to do so.

Visitors to ski resorts in Victoria and NSW can expect to encounter a heavy police presence throughout the season, including highway patrols, specialist squads, and liquor licence officers.

On Friday, NSW Police launched Operation Snow Safe to target alcohol-related crime in licensed venues, dangerous and distracted driving, and risky behaviour on the slopes.

Southern Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Joe Cassar APM, said around a million tourists were expected to flock to the alpine region during the 2024 snow season.

“Snowfield conditions can be difficult to navigate so we’d like to remind everyone to prioritise safety on your journey, plan your trip, take regular breaks, check the weather conditions before leaving and fix snow chains to your tyres in slippery conditions,” he said.

“Monaro Police District will be bolstered by uniformed and plain clothes officers ensuring people are staying safe in and around licensed premises, (and) aren’t partaking in risky behaviour by drink or drug driving.”

Police will be out in force throughout the snow season. Supplied
Camera IconPolice will be out in force throughout the snow season. Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Assistant Commissioner Cassar said a new fit-for-purpose police station at Jindabyne would serve as a base for search and rescue operations around the snowfields.

Last year, NSW State Emergency Services responded to 31 incidents across the season.

NSW State Emergency Service Acting Commissioner Debbie Platz urged skiers, snowboarders, and hikers to be prepared and hire a personal locator beacon when heading to remote locations.

“Snowfield conditions can be difficult to navigate,” she said.

“Visitors should expect bad weather and be prepared for it. Hikers – no matter how experienced – should stick to the tracks, as whiteouts and snow clouds can quickly and easily disorientate.”

Victoria Police echoed the warning after responding to 19 search and rescue events during last year’s snow season, including a man who drove off a cliff at Mount Buller ski resort.

The 18-year-old man had a lucky escape when his car was prevented from falling further down the mountain by a number of trees.

He was rescued by emergency services and taken to safety.

The warning comes ahead of a bare start to the season. Supplied / Mt Buller Resort
Camera IconThe warning comes ahead of a bare start to the season. Supplied / Mt Buller Resort Credit: NCA NewsWire

A month later, Victoria Police intercepted the driver of a 22-seater private bus who was driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.

Superintendent Cashman said police would be on the lookout for poor driving behaviour like impaired driving, speeding, distraction and fatigue.

“If you’re driving in poor weather and contending with conditions like rain, ice or snow, please use common sense – slow down, keep a safe braking distance and use your headlights to see and be seen,” he said.

The warnings come as ski resorts across the country prepare for a dire start to the 2024 snow season, with only one chairlift out of 75 set to operate in NSW during the opening weekend.

Originally published as Major warning for tourists heading to ski resorts in Victoria and NSW

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails