Pros: Longer, steeper, more varied terrain. A real village with a stupendous apres ski scene. Snowmaking system is first class.
Cons: Expensive. Five and a half hours from Sydney. Lack of any new investment in uplift capacity.
Thredbo is almost exactly five and a half hours from Sydney (certainly not seven) including a short stop for fuel. Mind you it depends where you start from in Sydney; could be more, could be less. I live a couple of miles north of the Bridge and drop straight onto the freeway. With the completion of the highway works currently underway around the Canberra airport the trip should fall by another fifteen or twenty minutes. Not great, but not the end of the world.
Thredbo has some of Australia's longest runs, the highest lifted point in Australia and, with the village in the valley below, Thredbo is a great place for apres ski revelry. At the high point of the season Thredbo Village rocks.
A serious investment in world class, automated snowmaking systems over the past ten years means, once the snow season gets going, the hill is top-to-bottom until the back end of the Spring thaw in late September or early October. Forget the idea of hopping from patch to patch to make the valley. It's been years since we needed to schuss over patches of grass. On the other hand the natural snow level is a third of the way up the hill, so the lower levels can get soft and sugary late in the day - a real thigh burner at the end of a long run.
The beginners area - Friday Flat - can get crowded. For season 2013 they expanded that area by 30% after redirecting the bottom of the High Noon trail. It's still crowded however.
The prime intermediate slopes - the Merritts area - can be accessed by two lifts; one is an old and slow double (20 minutes) and the other a modern, high speed quad. Getting back to the valley floor is another thing. Early intermediates will need to download on one of those same chairs. Skiing down requires a traverse across to the Supertrail and some true, bumped-up, blue terrain. The other option is to ski down High Noon which is an upper intermediate run with a steeper, often bumpy patch in the middle.
For years the locals have been waiting on an investment in more uplift capacity, with a high-speed replacement for the (now decommissioned) Ramshead lift being the natural first choice. Siting the base station for the new lift a little higher up the hill (i.e. the flat area around the Ramshead tower 10) would reduce numbers in the Valley Terminal and shorten queues for the Kosciuszko Express quad lift where the lift line can get just long enough to be tiresome on weekends. Apparently a development application has been lodged this year (Autumn 2014) to get that upgrade underway.
In comparison with the other large NSW resort - Perisher Blue - Thredbo is a skier's hill. Longer, steeper runs and, when snow permits, the upper areas of the mountain provide some great off piste skiing. The Bluff is a delight when it catches new snow, being in the lee of the hill. Funnel Web and Golf Course Bowl are in bounds for the truly adventurous advanced skier. The main range of the Snowy Mountains is available for ski touring. And there are side country runs available on both sides; Stanley's Gorge on one side after a hike and the 5km run to Dead Horse Gap on the other is easily accessed from the Karels T-bar. The weather can change in an instant and you can get yourself in real trouble out of bounds however, so play it smart when you duck the ropes.
For season 2014 the investment in terrain parks, kickers and (rather huge) jumps has increased substantially, so they get higher marks in that space than in seasons past.
I don't have children, so I'm not really qualified to comment on the family friendliness of the place. They opened up a family sliding centre adjacent to the Valley Terminal area for season 2014, and that's been very popular.
The downside to Thredbo is really the high cost of just about everything, including a national park permit that's required to access the area in a car (which is never used again until you drive out). I know people who spend their skiing dollars overseas in January through March, rather than locally, due to this very fact. Early June always, always kicks off a debate about the cost of skiing locally.
Still, we're keen skiers, and we're not going to stay in Sydney and ignore the snow each July and August when everyone else is going skiing. Suck it up princess!