How did Australia get its name
Skiing in Australia
BY GEORGE F. J. BERGMAN, SYDNEY
With 3 pictures and I card (148-150) /. Development When I wrote to a friend in Europe last year that I had climbed Mount Kosciusko, the highest mountain in Australia, on skis, he replied, very astonished, whether you could ski in Australia? In such heat!
The good man didn't seem to realize that in the southern hemisphere, the closer an area approaches the South Pole, the cooler its climate, and that the southern part of Australia, where the ski resorts are, if not has a northern, yet southern, European climate. And just as you can ski in the Alpes Maritimes, for example, it is also possible in the Australian Alps, which, apart from Tasmania, are the only but very large ski area in Australia. Significantly, the highest group of these Alps has been called the “Snowy Mountains” and the river that rises there, the “Snowy River”.
The main group of the Australian Alps is located in New South Wales and consists of an almost uninterrupted 110 kilometer mountain range crowned by Mount Kosciusko, while the southern, less significant part with Mount Buller, Mount Hotham, Mount Bogong, Mount Buffalo, etc. belongs to Victoria .
The main snowfields in Australia can be found in this crescent-shaped alpine chain that extends parallel to the coast in southeast Australia.
The Australian Alps are a mountain range without glaciers, consisting of weathered primary rock and one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. In the higher elevations they show great similarities with European low mountain ranges such as Jura, Sudeten or Carinthian heights. Long ridges and undulating plateaus drop into densely wooded valleys. Summit peaks are around the 2000 limit, with Mount Kosciusko (2234 m) t as the highest peak.
For summer mountaineers, the Australian Alps offer only beautiful hikes, as they have neither climbing problems nor any other "alpine problems". However, there is plenty of variety for the skier. During the winter months (late June to late September), and sometimes well into spring, there is up to 10 m of snow in the higher elevations, and you could ski there for days and weeks in an area that is almost as large like Switzerland.
One could, I say, because most of the Alps is so far away from the big cities that it is still difficult to access for less well-off skiers, and the accommodation options, apart from a few much-visited areas, are still inadequate.
Skiing today is therefore concentrated in a few more accessible areas.
The construction of new roads associated with the construction of the large Australian hydropower plants (Snowy Mountains Scheme in New South Wales and Kiewa Scheme in Victoria) brings 1 Mount Kosciusko was first climbed by a white man on February 15, 1840. See: Dr.G.F. J.Berg-man, "The life of the explorer Sir Paul Edmunde Strzelecki and his first ascent of Mount Kosciusko in Australia", Der Bergsteiger, Volume 6, page 228 ff., Munich 1953.
but the opening up of new valleys, which has contributed significantly to the spread of skiing in Australia in recent years.
Nevertheless, the percentage of Australians who spend their holidays on the snowfields every year is very low compared to the masses who prefer the sea and "surfing". There are various reasons for this. One of them is certainly the Australian's hard-to-overcome antipathy for everything related to winter and cold, and the fact that most Australians are used to taking their vacation in summer. For the West and South Australian as well as the Queenslander, with few exceptions, winter sports are outside the realm of financial possibilities anyway. However, the main reason for the postponement of skiing is probably the already mentioned difficult accessibility of the ski areas, the great distance from the capitals and the limited accommodation options. Normally, a trip to the Alps from Sydney requires either a night train ride and then a half-day bus ride, possibly even the use of a caterpillar tractor or an airplane followed by a car journey. Until 1960, i.e. until the railway administration became aware of the onset of the "economic situation", Sunday skiing was only possible for the wealthy class who could afford an airplane, or for enthusiasts who accepted an 8-10 hour drive.
In Victoria the conditions are more favorable, as the ski mountains are closer to the state capital Melbourne. This, although skiing came to Victoria much later than New South Wales, resulted in a more rapid introduction of skiing after World War II. Before World War II, skiing in Australia was essentially a "society" affair, and especially for women, the annual ski club ball and the dozen of "cocktail parties" that preceded the winter season were more important than the snow !
The years after the Second World War, however, showed a tendency to allow large sections of the population to participate in skiing and no longer just a "privileged upper class".
2. History of skiing in Australia 1 The ski was brought to the southern continent by Norwegians, who were attracted to Australia by the discovery of gold around the middle of the last century. And that's why skis, strange as it may sound, came to Australia earlier than Switzerland. Around 1860 a Norwegian, allegedly a relative of the famous polar explorer Amundsen, brought his skis to the gold digging village of Kiandra in the foothills of the Australian Alps. On August 6, 1861, the first information on skiing in Australia appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald 2.
The new method of locomotion gained supporters in Kiandra, and around 1878 the first ski club in the southern hemisphere, arguably one of the first ski clubs in the world, was founded in Kiandra. The members of the “Ski Club Kiandra” contented themselves with getting their shopping on skis and sliding around in the area. From some “technology” 1 Compiled from Australian Ski Yearbook 1928-32, Australian and New Zealand Ski Year Book 1933-47, t Australian Ski Yearbook 1948-59; from newspaper articles and interviews with well-known skiers. The author is particularly grateful to Sir Herbert Schlink, the old master and promoter of skiing in Australia, for his valuable information and for reviewing the article.
2 Bill Beatty, The white roof of Australia, Cassell & Co., London 1958.
or even of high mountain tours was out of the question. The simple bond which the Norwegians had brought with them and which, in the absence of any connection with European experience, persisted for decades in the Australian Alps, did not permit any major undertakings. Nobody in the capital cities was interested in this new sport at that time.
It was not until 1896 that some sports-loving men in Sydney founded a ski club, the NSW Alpine Club, under the chairmanship of the photographer and mine owner Charles Kerry, who is now widely hailed as the “father of Australian skiing”. It testifies to the athletic spirit of these pioneers that they immediately started with the biggest "problem", the first winter ascent of Mount Kosciusko. Because in the winter of 1897 Kerry, McAlister and companions undertook the first ski ascent of Mount Kosciusko. Kerry wrote in his report:
«The return journey was easy. We sat down on our skis and skilfully poured down the slopes that we had conquered with hard work that morning. “No wonder that under these circumstances the enthusiasm of Kerry's disciples soon waned and by the turn of the century the club had already ceased to exist.
In 1898 a scientific expedition consisting of H. J. Jensen, C. Wragge, B. Ingleby and B. Newth was sent to the wintry Mount Kosciusko area. She lived there first in polar tents that she had carried with her and later in a small hut. The participants used "the skis used by the Norwegians in Kiandra". The description Newth gave of the binding and ski technique is not without interest:
“We tied the tips of our rubber boots into a kind of binding that consisted of simple crampon straps that just held them loosely. Then we tied the rubber boots to our belts with strong ropes, as we were afraid of losing them in the event of an accident. In our hand we had a brake rod with which we touched the snow on one side and the other to make turns. In order to slow down great speed, we sat on the pole and plowed a furrow with it ... 1 »So they drove around in the high mountains with this more than simple« binding »and a kind of« Zdarsky »technique. But Newth spoke enthusiastically of her "wonderful descents with the snowshoe brake bar".
In 1909 the "Kosciusko Alpine Club", which still exists today, was founded as a downright ski club (not as a mountaineering association). The incentive to found this new ski club was the construction of the Hotel Kosciusko, which was completed in 1909, by the government of New South Wales.
Now that a permanent, albeit far too deep, base had been created in the Kosciusko area, the development of the Australian Alps as a ski area began very soon.
In July 1913, the Austrian mountaineer Franz Malcher came to the area and made a number of first winter climbs. He was also the first to bring news of these newly discovered fields of snow to European skiers 2.
After the First World War, the first women appeared on skis, with street hats and mostly still dressed in long skirts, while in Europe the ski pants had long been noticed by women.
1 The Lone Hand, Australian Monthly, June 1, 1909, pp. 136 ff.
2 Franz Malcher, As a mountaineer and skier in the fifth continent. Journal of the German and Austrian Alpine Association 1933, page 48 ff.
In 1919 the first yearbook of the "Kosciusko Alpine Club" was published and the first Australian ski race was held.
After it soon became apparent that the “Hotel Kosciusko” had been built far too deep, the building of higher-lying accommodation in the wide hollow of the Charlotte Pass, 20 kilometers from the hotel, was demanded as early as 1920. But another ten years should pass before they were created.
A primitive wooden hut, called "Bett's Camp", built by the surveyor's bed, has meanwhile served the developers as a higher-up base.
In 1920 former members of the "Kosciusko Club" formed the "Ski Club of Australia", which (in contrast to the basically still existing tendency to practice skiing as a racing sport) is touring and exploring the higher zones of the Area as a goal. This club built the first small, unmanaged ski hut at the origin of the Finn River, the so-called “Tin Hut”, which was intended to facilitate the planned crossing of the main massif. This “Tin Hut” was later said to be “the best example have delivered where the hut door should not be attached, namely on the weather side ».
One of the most important ski pioneers in Australia was the Sydney doctor Sir Herbert Schlink.
In the winter of 1921, Dr. H. Schlink and Storaker with a local who pretended to be a «guide», the first attempt to cross the Snowy Mountains in winter from Kiandra to the Kosciusko Hotel. However, since it turned out that the "Führer" did not know the area either, they only got as far as the Gungarten summit (6770 feet) (2064 m) and were then forced to return. It was not until July 1927 that a game consisting of Dr. H. Schlink, Dr. E. Fischer, Dr. J. Laidley, W. Cordon from Sydney and W. Hughes from Kiandra in a three-day tour the first ski crossing of the northern part of the Alps from Kiandra to the Hotel Kosciusko and also the first crossing of the so-called “Main Dividing Range” from Mount Kosciusko to Mount Twynam. The NSW Tourist Bureau then built the uncultivated "Pounds Creek Hut" at the confluence of Pounds Creek and Snowy River.
In 1925 the "Ski Club of Victoria" began in Melbourne and published its first yearbook. Winter ascents in the Victoria Alps took place at the end of the 80s, but without skis. For example, Mount Feathertop was climbed in September 1889 by members of the Bright Alpine Club, which had its main activity in the Mount BufFalo area1. The Bogong High Plains were crossed for the first time in July 1926 by Dr Yof G. Rush and his companions. The participants had to spend the night in alpine huts. After huts were built in the Mount Hotham and Mount Buller areas after World War II, skiing quickly became popular in Victoria.
At the end of the 1920s, two men had a major influence on further developments; the Norwegian George Aalberg, who brought the “Norwegian technique” with him, and the Australian John Collins, who had familiarized himself with modern skiing while studying in Europe. Collins introduced slalom racing and the stopwatch for ski racing in Australia.
The first serious skiing accident occurred in August 1928. Even Hayes and Kaurie Seeman were caught by the snow storm and froze to death while climbing Mount Kosciusko. To 1 G.F. J. Bergman, Mount Buffalo in the Victoria Alps. "The Alps", quarterly issue 2, 1959, page 133 ff.
2 Ski Club of Victoria Yearbook 1926/27.
In her memory, the uncultivated “Seemans Hut” was built by Seeman's family at the scene of the accident.
In 1928 the first step was taken to organize skiing in Australia. The "Kosciusko Alpine Club", the "Ski Club of Australia" and the "Millions Ski Club" and the "Sydney University Ski Club" that have since been established have merged to form the "Ski Council of NSW". This council announced the first Australian ski championship in 1930. This year the first flight to the snow fields of the Alps took place.
The "chalet" on the Charlotte Pass had finally been built by the government of New South Wales and now enabled easier access even to the remote peaks. In 1933 the "Kosciusko Ski School" was opened, and in 1936 Australia sent a representative to the FIS race in Innsbruck for the first time.
In the following years Tom and Elyne Mitchell undertook a thorough development of the so-called "Western Faces", i.e. the wide western flanks of the mountains with their steep descents, which are now possible thanks to improved technology. They recorded their experiences in the beautifully illustrated work «Australias'Alps» l.
The "Chalet" burned down on August 7, 1939, but was soon rebuilt.
In the meantime, the entire Mount Kosciusko area had been declared a nature reserve. This very beneficial measure for the summer, however, had a very unfavorable effect on the development of winter sports, since the government, which also had a practically monopoly on the two existing accommodation facilities, the hotel and the chalet, was not inclined to build To allow private hotels or even from club huts.
An at times very strong drive to touring began after 1938 with the immigration of German and Austrian victims of Nazi persecution, who, as mountaineers and skiers with European experience, quickly made ski tourism more popular. The time after the Second World War saw another onslaught of new “ski immigrants” (Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Swiss, etc.), often called “The unpronounceables” by the locals. The Czech Georg Tacheci, who won the New Zealand cross-country skiing championship in 1949, was called, for example, by his Australian club colleagues "Tuck-a Ski" (wraps the ski!). New ski clubs have been launched in Sydney, Melbourne and the state capital, Canberra.
One of the most important foundations was that of the “Ski Tourers Association”, which, under the leadership of the Austrian Karl W. Anton, began to exert a great influence on the further development of the Alps. First of all, it was important; to run a storm against the ban on building club huts in the national park. A campaign to this end was organized with the help of the press and individual members of parliament.
When the Hotel Kosciusko burned down on April 18, 1951 and the government made no move to rebuild it or to build a replacement building at a higher level, the voices increased, which became noticeable as the migration of winter sports traffic to the unrestrained ski resorts in Victoria made, pushed for the lifting of the smelter construction ban 2.
1 Elyne Mitchell, Australia's Alps. Sydney-London, 1942.
2 Hotel Kosciusko was no longer built. In 1959 the massive staff house of the hotel, which had been spared by the fire, was converted into a "guesthouse", which is managed by the former Czech ski master Toni Sponer.
The Ski Tourers Association was the first to break the ban. In 1951 this association built the “Lake Albina Ski Lodge”. Since paid craftsmen would have been too expensive, the members sacrificed their summer vacation and built the ski hut themselves, which was planned according to European principles.
The fire in the hotel turned out to be an advantage in the end. The government was forced to give in all the more since the construction of the Snowy Mountains hydropower plant, which began in 1949, had breached the strict nature conservation decree. The development could no longer be stopped.
The construction companies that had received the concessions to build power stations in the Snowy Mountain area not only laid out entire villages for their workers in the high mountains, but also brought experienced skiers into the country. Norwegians from the major Norwegian tunneling company Selmer not only built the first large ski jump in Australia, where the first major ski jumping was held on August 3, 1952 (King Haakon's birthday), they also built their own hut in their work area at Guthega Dam. The “Snowy Mountains Authority”, a government agency, had to build new roads through the mountains for the plants, which now also serve as tourist roads. With the so-called “Alpine Way” a new connection road was created between New South Wales and Victoria, which opened up the previously inaccessible Thredbo and Geehy valleys in particular.
The government had to keep pace with developments and was now forced to as good as lift the building ban for private entrepreneurs and clubs.
Immediately other associations began to build huts. At the Perisher Gap under the Char-Lotte-Pass, an entire ski village of more than 20 huts was built, which was joined by three ultra-modern ski hotels in 1960.
Almost all ski areas in the Alps have ski lifts.
The danger of avalanches remained unknown in the Australian Alps until the first avalanche accident occurred in July 1956, caused by an unusually strong snow storm. An avalanche that came down from Mount Clarke destroyed the Kunama hut, built in 1952 by the Ski Tourers Association, and claimed the first avalanche death victim. People then began to be more careful when building new huts.
In 1959 the ski lift finally came to Australia. In the Thredbo valley, south-facing steep slopes with guaranteed snow were cut and a ski lift was built by European specialists under the patronage of the “Ski Tourers Association”, from whose mountain station, where this association built its “Kareela Hut”, Mount Kosciusko can be reached in a short hike . A new ski village with more than 40 private huts and restaurants has been grouped around the valley station.
While the “Canberra Alpine Club” of the state capital was developing its ski area on nearby Mount Franklin, a new area was created in Falls Creek for the ski clubs of Northern Victoria, which was also developed thanks to a hydroelectric power station, the “Kiewa Scheme” of Victoria.
The Australian National Ski Federation (ANSF), founded in 1932, is doing everything it can to popularize skiing in Australia. Beginners are officially advised to submit to test rules, which consist of successful descents from certain mountains over standard routes. Incidentally, these tests were introduced at the suggestion of Sir Arnold Lunn at the end of the 1920s. As caring as this measure may be, it shows that the old tendency to put downhill and racing over touring has prevailed again. It testifies to the “sporty spirit” of the Australian, to whom competition generally seems more important than enjoying a nice tour.
In any case, under the influence of increased European immigration and improved access and accommodation options, a development can be observed that seems to be leading to a true national sport. In the winter of 1959 the first "special ski trains" ran and in June 1960 even "weekend ski trains" ran. On a three-day holiday there were almost 5,000 skiers in the Kosciusko and Thredbo areas, many of whom had to sleep in their own cars!
3. Naming The importance that winter sports have for the Australian Alps is characterized by the fact that a number of mountains owe their names to skiing.
The mountains of Australia had native names before they were taken over by the white man, some of which have been preserved. The original wine inhabitants, with their wonderful gift for nature observation, invented poetic names, such as Lake Cootapatamba (where the eagle drinks), Mount Bogong got its name from the Bogong moth, which the natives eat in summer.
The white man was less poetic. Many mountains in the Alps, especially the Snowy Mountains, were named - tellingly - after ski pioneers, such as Mount Clarke and Kerry View, etc. The grim humor with which the first skiers mocked their humble beginnings came in names such as “Varsity Drag "(University Jammer) and" Mary's Slide "(Marie's slide) on Mount Hotham or" Fanny's Finish "(Fannie's end) and" Shakey Knees "(knee snackers) on Mount Buller. There is a “Frying Pan Ski-run” at Falls Creek.
In New South Wales, the experiences of the early skiers seem to have been less amusing, because there is not only a mountain called a "Paralyser", but even a "Perisher" (Verderber)! After all, a “Piain of Heaven” has been named there near the old Hotel Kosciusko and the summit with “Mount Sunrise” and “Pretty Point” (beautiful place).
Mountain names such as “The Blue Cow”, “The Gray Mare” (the gray mare) and “Ramshead” (ram's head) allude to the summer use of the mountains as pastureland.
4. Overview of the Australian ski areas A. New South Wales: Main Alpine area (Snowy Mountains) (1765-2135 m) Oldest and best skiing and touring area.
a) Kosciusko Area: Accommodation in a chalet at the Charlotte Pass and some private huts such as «Albina» and «Guthega». Access from Cooma to «Smiggins Hole» (with hotel) and the last 11 km by caterpillar tractor.
b) Mount Perisher Area (1768-2042 m): 9.6 km below the Charlotte Pass, large ski village: club huts and 3 hotels.
c) Thredbo Valley Area (1829-2134 m): Ski village with chairlift to the Crackenbackrange. Access from Cooma via the “Alpine Way”. Youth hostel.
Riandrà Area (approx. 1520 m): Gentle slopes, ideal place for beginners, but often little snow. Club huts, youth hostel.
Wilson's Valley (1460 m): Below the old Kosciusko Hotel, on the snow line, a newly built “Automotel” by the government.
B. Australian Capital Territory Mount Franklin (1696 m), Little Gimmi (1778 m) Area: 61 km from Canberra. The Canberra Alpine Club, founded in 1937, built the first “Austrian Style” ski hut on Mount Franklin, while the Australian Officers Academy has created its own ski area on Mount Gimmi.
C. Victoria The state of Victoria has a number of excellent ski areas in the southern part of the Alps, which, under the far-sighted government patronage and due to the fact that some ski mountains are easy to reach from Melbourne on Sunday tours, have developed faster than the less accessible alpine snowfields of New South Wales.
It is typical for these areas that the accommodation houses are mostly on the summit plateaus and that there are few actual “peaks”.
Mount Buller (1805 m): One of the last foothills of the Australian Alps in the south, Melbourne's most popular “Sunday ski area”, 160 km from Melbourne, with generally secure snow from June to October. Cheap Sunday bus rides. Over 50 ski huts and 3 guest houses (one of which is called “Arlberghaus”!), 4 ski lifts and 2 ski schools. An Austrian by the name of Helmuth Kofler has made a special contribution to the development of this area.
Mount Hotham (1860 m): In the center of the Victoria Alps, about 380 km from Melbourne. Often difficult to reach in winter, as the last few kilometers to 2 hotels and around 10 club huts often have to be made on foot. Alpine terrain with numerous descents into short valleys. Some plateau peaks like Mount Loch (1585 m).
Falls Creek (1585 m): Located at the entrance to the Bogong High Plains ski area. The local ski village prides itself on being “currently the only ski resort based on the continental model”! Easy tours. Generally good snow. Access from Albury.
Mount Buffalo (approx. 1675 m): 322 km from Melbourne, easily accessible by train and bus. Victoria Railroad Administration “chalet”. Good for beginners, advanced skiers should soon feel the lack of runs on the plateau. Ski lift.
Mount Bogong (1980 m): The highest mountain in Victoria. Probably has the best ski slopes and longest ski season in Victoria! Unfortunately, the area is still almost inaccessible. The walk to the unmanaged ski hut of the “Ski Club of Victoria” alone takes two days.
In addition to these main areas, there are a few second-tier ski mountains in Victoria, such as the Baw-Baw Plateau (1500 m), Mount Donna Buang (1243 m), Lake Mountain (1463 m), Mount Wills (1755 m), all of which are few or have no huts at all.
D. Tasmania Tasmania was previously the paradise of summer mountaineers and climbers, but there are a number of ski areas on the island that can offer beautiful touring opportunities.
Ben Lomond (1573 m): Popular ski area near Launceston in northern Tasmania. Some ski huts.
Mount Field National Park (1230 m): 87 km from Hobart, the state capital, in the south of the island, with an accommodation house.
Mount Wellington (1256 m): The mountain overlooking Hobart with numerous practice slopes.
Cradle Mountain National Park: In northwest Tasmania. Heavily visited summer area. The "Waldheim" accommodation house was built by the Austrian immigrant naturalist Gustav Weindorfer 1, who was the first to use skis in Tasmania and also the first to manufacture skis in Australia. High alpine ski area that is rarely used in winter. Some open shelters.
In the wild south-west Tasmania are the Hartz, King William and Snowy Mountains, which have hardly been explored in winter and in which there are still some first winter climbs to be made. In 1931 the first ski tours were undertaken in the Hartz Mountains.
1 See G. F. J. Bergman, Gustav Weindorfer, developer of the Tasmanein mountain range. Der Bergsteiger, year 23, issue 2, Munich 1955.
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