Category:History

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NSW High Country

The long term locals strolled up to the high country for millennia. They came to eat the bogong moths that estivate in their millions every summer. Bogong moths are very fatty and a wonderful food source. There were many routes up from the plains. The Pallaibo Track, from the park entrance on the Perisher Road up to Sawpit Creek follows one of these routes.

Skiing in Australia began on the Kiandra goldfields in the 19th century. There is a minor dispute about whether the club formed in Kiandra, or one formed in Oslo, is the oldest ski club in the world.

Horse Camp Hut, a typical cattlemen's hut
In the 1860s cattle grazing began in the NSW high country. Graziers from surrounding districts brought their cattle up in summer to graze on the snowgrass plains, and took them back to the low country in winter. The cattlemen were responsible for the construction of most of the alpine huts and for naming many of the geographical features of the area.

Comprehensive article on NSW Huts

The hard hooves of cattle did a lot of damage to sensitive alpine vegetation, and cattle grazing was banned in the Kosciuszko National Park in 1957. It has taken many decades for the environment to recover.

Nothing much happened until about 1909 when the Hotel Kosciouszko and the Kosciusko Chalet at Charlotte Pass were built. The servants quarters of the Hotel are now Sponars Hotel on the Summit Rd to Perisher. Kosciousko Snow Revellers, one of the oldest ski clubs in Australia, was formed at this time.
The Kosciusko Chalet

The construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme opened up the alpine areas, and brought many European migrants with skiing experience to the area. One of these migrants was Tony Sponar, who identified the location of Thredbo, and, with Charles Anton, was one of its founders.

Over the coming years a series of clubs were established along with some high country huts that served as a base for ski trips. These included the Kunama Hutte which was destroyed in an avalanche in 1953 killing some of those inside. Another hut was Albina Hut overlooking Lake Albina. The main range also served as a home for a speed skiing course and a range of other races set up there over the years.

Thredbo, Guthega and Perisher were developed in the late 50s and early 60s and in 1964 a chairlift was opened that ran from Thredbo Valley across to Charlottes pass. Sadly the chair only operated for 2 years.

Perisher Blue was originally four separate resorts - Perisher, Smiggin Holes, Guthega and Blue Cow. Perisher and Smiggins amalgamated quite early. Blue Cow was developed in the 70s, and amalgamated with Guthega about 5 years later. The combined Blue Cow and Guthega were in turn taken over by Perisher to form what we now know as Perisher Blue.

On July 31 1997 a landslide at Thredbo claimed the lives of 18 people as the Bimbadeen and Carinya Lodges collapsed and slid down the hill in the middle of the night after torrential rain.

Victorian High Country

Prior to European settlement, Aborigines inhabited the high plains in spring and summer for many thousands of years. The first European to visit the Bogong High Plains was John Mitchell who climbed from the Kiewa Valley in 1843. In 1851 the plains were traversed from the Buckety Plain spur by Brown and Wells. Settlement of the lowlands areas surrounding the Bogong High Plains inevitably led to the use of alpine land for stock grazing and grazing licenses were first issued in 1851 to Jack Wells and Jim Brown. Most of the Bogong High Plains was pioneered by these cattlemen. Limited numbers of cattle are still permitted to graze the high country.

Before the Second World War, five commercial ski lodges were operational in Victoria The Buffalo Chalet (1910), Hotham Heights (1925), St Bernard Hospice (1863, renovated 1925), Feathertop Bungalow (1925) and the Buller Chalet (1929).

Falls Creek was first called Horseshoe Creek by the early cattlemen. Due to the boggy conditions, horses often lost a shoe in this area. The creek was renamed by the Country Roads Board, while carrying out a road survey for the State Electricity Commission in 1938.

Hotham came into being as a ski resort in 1925 when Bill Spargo, chief ganger of the crew upgrading the road asked if he could open the new house that was the central base for the crew in winter as a guest house. The same year Feathertop Bungalow also opened and St Bernard Hospice was renovated and reopened. Previously the only ski lodge in Victoria was the Buffalo Chalet.

Name Derivations

There are lots of colourful names for areas of the snowy mountains and many have interesting origins. These Geographical Name Derivations are collected on one page for reference.

Old Ski Maps

Old ski maps from resorts dating back to the 50's and 60's and more recent ones as well.

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