You would think sleeping fully dressed in statically charged 1990s ski gear inside a Russian-made 4WD would offer reasonable insulation from a mid-winter’s night in Kosciuszko National Park. They did not.

My first ever night’s accommodation in Thredbo back in the bad-haircut, fluorescent 90s was indeed a sturdy little Lada Niva, strategically (and illegally) parked overnight in pole position: the closest car space to Gunbarrel chairlift which, in my mind, classifies it as ski in ski out – with a few rental-ski sparks.

I only slept about 20 minutes that night, upright in a bucket-seat in a cabin crammed with luggage and thick with beery boy farts, but this OG strategy gifted me and two friends some monumental freshies in one of the best Australian ski seasons since Warren Miller was a boy.

Sublime memories, yes, but also a fascinating juxtaposition with my rather decadent Thredbo ‘homecoming’ weekend this season; the polar opposite of that virgin voyage in every possible way. Except, perhaps, that it also begins in a carpark, as I reverse into a car space reserved just for moi at Thredbo Alpine Hotel, only a brisk clomp across the bridge to Valley Terminal’s lift trinity.

Thredbo’s digital ski-rental experience is positively regal compared with my analogue rent-in-Jindy-BP routine.

A zap of the pre-loaded MyThredbo Card quickly has me booted and shouldering a pair of ‘premium’ (read kick-arse) Atomics, 30 centimetres shorter but with a generation more scientific warlockery than the 200-centrimetre fence palings of old.

By far the most profound change on Thredbo’s piste is the ‘new’ (for me) eight-person Merritts Gondola.

It frees up the Kosciuszko Chairlift for ski-slappingly rapid Supertrail laps in the AM and leaves charming little Snowgums basically lineless for the afternoons, when I get high and stay high, carving up Central Spur, endlessly sliding into the unencumbered t-bar twins of Sponars and Antons. (BTW: I love how lifties hand me my skis getting off the gondola. So VIP!).

While I’m not even the same species of rider as Valentino Guseli and Co, younger me would have lost his freakin’ mind over Thredbo’s terrain parks, which is breeding a generation of more confident skiers, boarders and human beings. Saying that, I would have been/and forever will only be just an open-mouthed eyewitness to those who ‘send it’ off the big booters of the (blue and black) Monster Energy Terrain Park.

But I dabble on the more achievable features (the green ones) of Boost Mobile Terrain Park without troubling ski patrol and am eternally grateful to those wickedly good snowboarders who let me have my turn sliding (halfway) up the walls of the half-pipe without throwing fruit or booing audibly.

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Black Sallees is my favourite on-mountain pit-stop, turning short breaks into long ones with its fine balance of pre-après energy, retro charm and, crucially, wonderful nosh and coffee (the flat white makes 90s coffee seem like medieval swamp juice).

The pork gyoza and steamed prawn-and-ginger dumplings (in chilli oil) from the Japanese-focussed kitchen honestly wouldn’t be out of place in my preferred dumpling strip (in Sydney’s Ashfield). Later on, a couple of early-afternoon Kosciuszkos prime me for Sallees’ alfresco DJs sets out on the terrace, appropriately named ‘Big Deck Energy’ (cue sniggers from younger and older me).

Kareela Hutte comes a close second but for different reasons: for its cosy ‘grown-up’ ambience, expansive vista and an à la carte menu featuring Merimbula oysters and affogato (not recommended simultaneously). I’m already visualising a Kareela Snowcat dinner next season; a couple of lingering G.H. Mumms leading into four courses of matched-wine finery, Thredbo Village twinkling below like alpine glow worms hopping into a bubbling spa.

I’m a massive fan of the Bush School aesthetic of timber-framed Thredbo Alpine Hotel and how it subtly sets the architectural tone for the village. My minimalist room is a postcard of less complicated, arguably more chic times, featuring a cute snowflake pillow and retro wood panelling adorned with a vintage poster reiterating that: “jetsetters are tailing into Thredbo Vacation Wonderland”.

Outside, the Alpine Bar pumps like a French-Alps après arena. DJ Anna Lunoe stokes the Saturday-night willing with her White Claw Weekend set, inciting much bench-top pagan dancing by furry hatted funsters. I woop-woop and gulp-gulp around the firepit until darkness suggests I kick off my ski boots (in the hotel’s convenient heated boot-room).

I settle into the stacked-stone, ski-lodge vibe of the Lounge Bar where mixologists beaver away concocting heart-starters from the ‘Martini Cart’ menu. I pre-entrée on a generously cheesed ‘Alpine Board’, re-dehydrate with a classic negroni and appreciate the acoustic soloist, who conjures up obscure tunes in tune with the room’s party heyday(s).

Time slips away into a snuggly, hazy vortex so it’s lucky that someone has pre-booked a late sitting at one of Thredbo’s urbane dining gems for me. The Max Mexican serves up seriously mad Baja Fish Tacos and chomp-worthy churros in a low-key, relaxed space (based in the House of Ullr). I can also sincerely vouch for Thredbo Burger Bar’s black angus beef ‘Fair Dinkum Burger’, a refined twist on the ‘works burger’, served on a theatrical charcoal brioche bun.

That cold night in Thredbo carpark way back when was the catalyst for me chasing mountains in far-away places, from the Norway to Iran, but I’ve never been in the habit of comparing the Aussie snow scene with the sometimes deeper, steeper and occasionally cheaper mountains OS. Skiing in this atmospheric, endearing place was grand back then and, of course, is much better (and entirely more relaxing) when done in style.

Thredbo still makes me emit strange noises up on the slopes and stay up later than I really should afterwards so it definitely won’t be decades before I ring the ‘2037’ bell atop Karels T-Bar (Australia’s highest lifted point) again.

*Steve Madgwick was hosted by Thredbo Alpine Resort.

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Steve loves adventure (and skiing) and has been writing about it since he picked up a pen. You'll find his byline in Australian Traveller, International Traveller, Adventure.com, New Zealand Herald, Journey Beyond, Delicious and more.