How to ski or board all of Perisher’s lifts in one day…

Perisher
Photo credit: Perisher

It’s known as the Perisher Challenge. Legend has it that a bunch of schnapps-riddled ski bums dreamt up the idea during a September blizzard in the 1980s. The crew had suffered through an unseasonal snowstorm while holed up in one of Perisher’s oldest ski-in, ski-out lodges, Dulmison (tragically with no Netflix, Instagram or Snowsbest to keep them occupied).

When the sun finally came back out, they were itching to hit the runs that had been closed. They decided to ski every lift in Perisher, in a single day.

Only a small number of Perisher regulars are known to have completed this fabled Challenge – your faithful Snowsbest scribe is one of them. And I can tell you September is the perfect time to join our exclusive circle.

Long days with plenty of snowpack mean all lifts are open, and the weather is fine enough to hit every lift in an eight-hour mission.

Want to give it a crack? Read on.

What’s required (and is it possible)?

You’ll need discipline, endurance, local knowledge and a fair bit of luck.

The skier or boarder must be fast and confident on any slope from green to black diamond, riding anything from a rope tow to an eight-seater chairlift. Crucially, the weather must be spot on – with little to no wind and enough snow coverage for all lifts, even Perisher’s on-again, off-again Olympic T-bar, to open. Check the Perisher app in the morning to ensure all these variables are going your way.

There is one small disclaimer to go with The Challenge: Perisher technically has 47 lifts, but you really only need to ride 39 to claim completion of the mission.

Firstly, the “Tube Town” rope tow is only open to non-skiing tourists hauling snow tubes so you won’t be able to access it while strapped into skis or a snowboard. There are also seven magic carpets across the resort (four on Front Valley alone). Don’t waste your time on these mind-numbingly slow beginner lifts; waiting in line alone might take you half a day.

Here’s how to do it.

8.25am– the Village 8 Express.

Hit Perisher’s biggest lift first – not only because it looks boss, but because it opens before all the others, at 8.30am. You should line up 10 minutes before that, at 8.20am. You need to be one of the first up the mountain if you are going to succeed in the Perisher Challenge.

8.45am– the Quad Express.

After skiing a hot lap on Front Valley, zip down to the quad lift line. This line builds quickly so we want to get it out of the way sooner rather than later. As you ride, don’t be tempted by the tasty pre-10am hot chocolate deals on display at mid-station. Keep that bar down. You’re going all the way to the top.

9-10am – Front and Centre Valley T-bars.

Rip across Mitchell, Sturt, Wentworth, Blaxland, Lawson and Happy Valley T-bars on Front and Centre Valley and make a beeline for Mt Perisher before the crowds do. In terms of terrain, this will not be your most exciting section – but it is absolutely necessary to complete The Challenge.

10 – 11.30 am – Leichardt Chair, Mt Perisher chairs and T-bars.

At this point you might be getting a little dizzy from zig-zagging up and down the mountain: up and down, up and down you go. Hit Leichhardt Chair, Sun Valley T-bar, Olympic T-bar, Mt Perisher Double Chair, Mt Perisher Triple Chair, International T-bar and Eyre T-bar in that order.

Stop for a quick coffee and a slice of carrot cake as big as your head at the café at the bottom of Eyre T-bar – you’ll need the energy. You have conquered one of the four mountain areas and there are still three to go.

11.30 – 12.30– head to Blue Cow via North Perisher.

From the top of Mt. Perisher, ski down Sun Valley to the bottom of the Leichhardt Quad Chairlift. Avoid getting in line with the cool kids wearing oversized hoodies, reflector goggles and fluoro pants. Coolness is really all about attitude, and you will need it when you by-pass Leichhardt to line up for one of Perisher’s most basic beginner lifts: the Home Rope Tow.

After towing back to Front Valley, you might as well hit the Tom Thumb T-bar in the beginner ski-school area while you’re on a roll with easy lifts. 

Ski down to Telemark t-bar, ride it up then take a right from the top of the T-bar to cut across the mountain, following the lodge access road through to Pretty Valley Chair. If you stay high on this traverse you’ll hit the bottom of “The Chute” run, keeping your speed up to shoot up the small incline to Pretty Valley Chair. After Pretty Valley, ski Interceptor Quad, then North Perisher T-bar.

Here’s where weather and snow coverage is crucial: if the black diamond “Devil’s Playground” run is open, it can save you valuable time by delivering you from North Perisher straight to the base of Mt. Blue Cow in one gnarly, off-piste tree run. If not, you’ll need to traverse back to Interceptor Quad Chair, ride it and follow the long cat trail to Blue Cow from the top.

12.30 – 2.30 – Blue Cow and Guthega.

Time for a lot more zig-zagging. Take the Ridge Quad Chair and Summit Quad Chair before skiing to Guthega via Guthega Way trail run. Hit Freedom Quad, Blue Cow T-bar, Blue Calf T-bar and Car Park Double Chair. Then race back to the Terminal Quad Chair, Brumby T-bar and Early Starter in Blue Cow. Don’t miss the Blue Cow Ski School rope tow.

The Challenge rules allow you to grab a pie and an espresso from Cowpuccino Cafe at Blue Cow Terminal if you’re starving – but keep an eye on the clock. Daylight is dwindling!

2.30 – 4pm – Smiggins, the final push.

Ski back to Perisher via the Pleasant Valley Quad Chair and down to Piper T-Bar. Cross over to Smiggins and hit all the lifts – Link T-bar, Burke and Wills T-bars, Kaaten Triple Chair, Hume T-bar, Piper T-bar. Skip the magic carpets and finish on a couple of fun ones – the only two J-bars in Perisher: Captain Cook and Scott.

You’ve done it!

You’ve completed the Perisher Challenge. Hop back on the Link T-Bar and Telemark T-bar to return to Perisher before the Smiggins lifts close at 4.30pm. Be sure to rehydrate and celebrate with a few hopsy beverages at Jack’s bar back at Perisher. Apres-skiing is perhaps the only mountain tradition held in higher esteem than the Perisher Challenge.

Have you completed the Perisher Challenge?

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Kate Allman is a Sydney-based journalist who writes for a range of ski and travel publications including news.com.au, Escape, Mountainwatch and the Law Society of NSW's LSJ magazine. She has skied around the world in Japan, the US and Canada and calls Perisher resort her home slope (for now). She is also currently accepting donations to her yet-to-be-realised heli-skiing dream trip. Be generous.