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What is the cheapest destination for a white Christmas, starting from Sydney?

To narrow this down:

  • we should be reasonably assured of snow on or around Christmas (say 90% chance)
  • it should be in a country that celebrates Christmas (doesn't need to be a fully Christian country, so long as there are some decorations, etc and it feels Christmasy)
  • any costs should be based on usual prices for flights from Sydney
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3  
'reasonably assured of snow'. How do you define that? Does there have to be snowfall exactly on Christmas, or is it okay if it's old snow lying around? – drat Jan 12 at 5:13
    
I don't want to get too bogged down definitions of "snowy", but it wouldn't have to snow on the very day. So some snow lying around or cold enough to snow on the few days either side would be good. – WW. Jan 12 at 5:20
    
Since prices for many travel-related services can vary widely, I'm not sure it's possible to find the cheapest option in a meaningful sense. – fkraiem Jan 12 at 5:50
6  
If the weather is right, you wouldn't have to travel far at all, such as on the 25th December 2006. "One of the most severe December cold outbreaks of the last 50 years affected the southeast over the Christmas period. There was substantial snow (up to 20 centimetres in places) above 800 metres in Tasmania and above 1,000-1,200 metres in Victoria and southern New South Wales. Snow fell (but did not settle) on the morning of the 25th in the Dandenong Ranges, on the outer fringe of Melbourne." – Michael Hampton Jan 12 at 6:01
2  
Are there settlements (or anyway habitable buildings) above the snow line in New Zealand? – Steve Jessop Jan 12 at 20:16
up vote 31 down vote accepted

There are two options, both roughly equidistant and neither an obvious winner:

  • Japan is about 10 hours from Sydney, with direct flights to Tokyo. While snow is rare in Tokyo itself, there is tons of the white stuff anywhere in the Japan Alps (eg. Nagano), on the Japan Sea coast (eg. Kanazawa) and up in Hokkaido, where ski bunny haven Niseko has become a virtual Aussie enclave. Japan is obviously not Christian, but Christmas is celebrated as a consumer holiday along the lines of Valentine's Day, with plenty of Christmas displays in shopping malls, Colonel Sanders decked out as Santa at KFC, etc.

  • Korea is only a smidgen further away, with direct Sydney-Seoul flights also lasting around 10 hours. Snow in Seoul is more likely than in Tokyo, albeit far from guaranteed, and there's lots of it in the mountains, eg. 2018 Winter Olympics host Pyeongchang. What's more, a solid 30% of Korea is Christian and Christmas Day is a public holiday.

Direct flights to both hover around A$1000 return, with cheaper options to both available if you're willing to route through a third country and/or use LCCs. Jetstar offers one-hop flights to Japan via Melbourne, Cairns and the Gold Coast, while Air Asia flies to various destinations in both Japan and Korea via Kuala Lumpur.

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Low-cost airline Jetstar offers inexpensive flights from Australia to Japan, which certainly ticks all your boxes. A northern city such as Sapporo normally has snow around Christmas and will have many Christmas-related festivities and decorations. There are also some Christian churches, if you are so inclined. Citizens of Australia and New Zealand can enter Japan visa-free for 90 days.

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