Buffalo was a small resort perched up on a plateau. It's modest elevation meant snow was not always reliable, but it was a great beginners resort and its non-threatening environment offered a great place to start. There is still some very good xc skiing on the plateau.
- 1 Location
- 2 Pros
- 3 Cons
- 4 Contacts and information
- 5 Planning
- 6 Resort Facilities
- 7 Cross country ski and snow play information
- 8 Other
- 9 Resources
About 3-4 hours from Melbourne and about 9 from Sydney.
- Non threatening
- Good access
- Sheltered conditions for small children
- Great family mountain
- Not crowded
- Magnificent views and scenery
- Great beginners areas for cross country skiing
- Warm cafe and facilities at Dingo dell with snow play, tube park and toboggan run just outside
- Warm day shelter and toilets at Cresta, the hub of cross country ski area
- Friendly atmosphere
- No lifts for alpine skiing
- No accommodation
Contacts and information
Mt Buffalo Ski School. (Cross Country ski Lessons and tours - snow shoe shuffles) Contact 0439680917 or James on 0433567869 E Mail firstname.lastname@example.org,au www.mountbuffaloskischool.com.au
Adventure Guides Australia. Snow camping and tours, Alpine Abseiling, Burstons Crevasse Adventure - Contact David Chitty on 0419280614 or email@example.com www.adventureguidesaustralia.com.au
Parks Victoria. General Information: Parks Victoria 13 1963 WWW.PARKWEB.VIC.GOV.AU/MTBUFFALO
Mount Buffalo Park Entry Station 0357562328
Along the Hume Highway (M 31) and turn to the Great Alpine Road (B 500) near Wangaratta. At the Porepunkah roundabout, turn on to the well sign posted road to Buffalo. The day entry fee is only $10.30, much lower than any other ski area in mainland Autsralia.
There is no accommodation available at Mount Buffalo at the moment.
Buffalo Lodge (aka Tatra) near the ski lifts was burnt down in the December 2006 bushfire. The huge but run down Chalet closed in January 2007. New operators are being sought. Hopefully the lovely historical guest house will be back in business in coming years.
On mountain camping
Summer Camping is available 1st September 2008 through to Saturday 26 April 2009. Walk or ski-in winter camping is available at Lake Catani campground or remote camping at Mount McLeod, bookings are essential and can be made online by visiting www.parkstay.vic.gov.au or by telephoning Parks Victoria on 13 1963 or the Mount Buffalo Entrance Station on (03) 5756 2328.
Off mountain accommodation
There is a considerable amount of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets in the Valley just at the base of Mount Buffalo and in the towns of Bright, Porepunkah and Myrtleford etc Insert non-formatted text here
There are no cross country trail fees, the cost is included in the entry toll.
THE NEW MOUNT BUFFALO SKI SCHOOL IS OPENING IN THE WINTER OF 2009 Call 0439680917 www.mountbuffaloskischool.com.au CROSS COUNTRY SKI TUITION 1½ hour Lessons at 10 am and 12 midday most days (booking required) Ski hire available at towns at the base of the mountain.
Cross country skis and equipment may be hired in Bright, Porepunkah and Myrtleford
Rays Ski Hire Myrtleford Rios Ski Hire Porepunkah Porepunkah Ski Hire (caters for school groups)
There is plenty of parking, including for buss's at Dingo Dell (Toboggans, Tube Park and Cafe) Also at Cresta - (Cross country trails - ski school and day shelter)
Great snow play areas,
Snow Shoe Shuffles,
Cross Country Ski Trails,
Ice Climbing / mountaineering area at the Hump (Dependent on conditions)
Cafe at Dingo Dell
The park is manned and patrolled by Parks Victoria Rangers
Cross country ski and snow play information
Great beginners cross country ski areas
There are 14 km of groomed trails plus back country skiing,
Groomed trails 1 km, 4 km and 6 km marked and groomed trails at Cresta plus the 6½ km Horn road (with a 3¼ km downhill return trip)
Grooming is dependent on conditions, tracks will be set when possible
Back country trails
Non groomed trails The reservoir road (7 km return)
Gorge to the camping ground - Only after big snowfalls (6 km return)
Lyrebird Plain off the horn road
Back Wall track off the 4 km groomed trail
Mt McLeod off the reservoir trail
Saltlick Plain off the reservoir trail
Out of Bounds
The Mount Buffalo Chalet building is currently out of bounds.
Click here for the link to the WikiSki page on XC skiing at Buffalo.
The Tube Park at Dingo Dell is being run by Parks Victoria in 2009 and is great fun. Tickets can be purchased at the Cafe
The Toboggan run will be located at either Cresta valley or Dingo Dell dependent on the snow conditions.
Great family snow play at Dingo Dell and Cresta valley
Aborigines were once drawn to the area in summer by the large numbers of bogong moths which migrate from the plains to the north west each summer. After roasting them in strips of bark, Aborigines ate the bodies or ground them into a paste. It is said the moths tasted like prawns.
The first Europeans to record the Plateau were the explorers William Hovel and Hamilton Hume on 24 November 1824. They named it Mount Buffalo from its supposed resemblance to a reclining buffalo from where their viewpoint. The mountain's highest peak is The Horn. It was first climbed by Baron Ferdinand Von Mueller in 1853. Von Mueller was a government botanist, who collected many unrecognised species on his excursions.
Visitors were drawn to the magnificent views as early as the 1850's and the Bright Alpine Club was established in 1883 to promote tourism. A local guide book came out in 1887 featuring local walking tracks and bridle paths. Some of these historic tracks are still in use. The first land was set aside as a national park in 1898 and the national park has been enlarged several times since then and now takes in most of the mountain, its slopes and surroundings. The Mount Buffalo Chalet was built in 1910. Australia's first ski tow was installed at Dingo Dell in 1937.
The Buffalo Chalet.
Buffalo was Victoria's first ski resort and the site of Australia's first ski tow. The huge, sprawling wooden Buffalo Chalet was built in 1910, enlarged in 1937 and closed at the start of 2007. It is Australia's oldest and biggest ski lodge. For it's last 50 years, the place slowly sank into decline with it's outdated facilities and decor putting off most tourists. Later a number of private operators tried to make a go of the place, but the inherent problems meant that it was impossible to make a profit. How long the almost derelict old building lasts before succumbing to wind or fire is anyone's guess, but hopefully it will at least last until it's centenary.
- The main reason it closed was that the Chalet was 97 years old and run down. A lick of paint and new carpet wouldn't do the trick, the whole place had to be bought out of the 1950's and the standard of accommodation raised to a modern standard. That meant installing better heating, ensuite bathrooms, soundproofing, replumbing, totally refurnishing, rebuilding lounge areas, ripping out the kitchens and starting again.
This enormous expenditure could not be justified without either a sale of the freehold or at least a secure long term lease. However the building was owned by the state government who were not prepared to permit any more than relatively short leases.
Other reasons the Chalet closed:
- The loss of the burnt Buffalo (aka Tatra) Lodge meant that there was a loss of critical mass, for both accommodation and the ski lifts. Staff were often transferred between the two according to demand. Without either the Chalet or the Lodge, there was no one to use the ski lifts.
- Lack of mains electricity. (This is the same problem that Ben Lomond and Mt Mawson ski resorts are facing, although it does not seem to be inhibiting Baw Baw too much.)
- It was the only place in the Victorian High Country with a toll booth on the road in summer. This madness meant that casual punters who wanted to visit the mountains preferred nearby places with better facilities that they could visit at no cost like Falls Creek, Hotham and Dinner Plain. This lowering of summer traffic further reduced the viability of the Chalet.
So in it's 100th year, the Buffalo Chalet is slowly crumbling and unless something happens soon, it will soon be beyond saving as it's structural condition further declines. That would be a sad end to Australia's oldest ski lodge.
However, the Chalet is NOT beyond restoration yet. But it would probably require the sale of the freehold, a very long lease or a casino license for any company to be prepared to invest the huge amount required to save the place from dereliction and collapse. One of Victoria's best loved accommodation houses, it is a magnificent building that will hopefully be restored to its former glory in the years to come.
A range of park notes and other Information is available at the Parks Victoria web page for Mount Buffalo at www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=151
The garden of the gods: a brief history of Mount Buffalo National Park. By Daniel Catrice, circa 1999.
Mount Buffalo National Park was established in 1898 when 1,166 ha. of land around Eurobin Falls was temporarily reserved as a national park. Ten years later this area was enlarged by 9,240 ha. and at the same time made a permanent national park. Mount Buffalo is one of Victoria’s oldest and best-loved national parks. It is a geological treasure, rich in plant and animal life, attracting many different types of visitors who have contributed to a fascinating human history.
Mount Buffalo was first visited by local Aboriginal tribes who gathered each summer to feast on Bogong moths. This small, brown moth migrates each year from breeding grounds in Queensland and New South Wales to the high peaks of the Australian Alps. Roasted, the moths provided a rich, high protein diet. Tribes gathered each year at corroboree grounds for marriages and initiations, then moved to the high country where the moths clustered in caves and rock crevices. Early settlers remarked upon the emaciated men and women making their way to the mountains, returning months later sleek, shiny and fat.
Mount Buffalo was first sighted by European explorers in 1824. Hume and Hovell crossed the plains to the west of the plateau, giving it the name Mount Buffalo because it resembled a giant sleeping buffalo
Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell passed through the district in 1836. He noted the Buffalo plateau, and unaware that Hume and Hovell had already named the mountain, he called it Mount Aberdeen.
Mitchell’s reports of rich pasture beyond the Murray River initiated a rush by land-hungry graziers. Thomas Buckland arrived in the 1840s to take up the Junction Run near Porepunkah, at the foot of Mount Buffalo. Buckland appointed a manager, Thomas Goldie, who reputedly cut the first track up to the plateau from the Buckland valley. Goldie’s Track was thereafter used to bring cattle to the plateau each spring. For the next one hundred years over 300 head of cattle grazed the alpine pastures at the foot of the Horn. The last summer grazing licence was issued by the Mount Buffalo Committee of Management in 1956.
Other visitors to the plateau came for vastly different reasons. The painter Nicholas Chevalier visited the district in the 1850s, returning in 1864 to paint Mount Buffalo from One Mile Creek. Ferdinand von Mueller explored the plateau in the early months of 1853, accompanied by the Superintendent of Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens, John Dallachy. Only days after his appointment as Government Botanist, Mueller set off on horseback to explore the alps and describe its flora:
I ascended Mount Aberdeen and another peak....and examined the rich, almost tropical vegetation that borders the rivers rising in these mountains. It was in this locality that our exertions were rewarded with the discovery of the high, majestic Grevillea Victoriae and other rarities.
During this expedition, Mueller collected several new plants, including the delicate Grevillea, which he named in honour Victoria, and Acacia Dallachiana. This was the first recorded ascent of the Horn, although it is likely that Buckland and Goldie had already visited the plateau.
In 1853 gold was discovered in the Buckland valley at the foot of Mount Buffalo. At the height of the rush over 5,000 miners were on the diggings, including the brothers James and John Manfield. It is likely that miners searched for gold amongst the granite of Mount Buffalo. In 1856, according to W.F. Waters, the Manfields escorted the first parties of miners to the plateau. Although no gold was discovered on Mount Buffalo, miners continued to visit the plateau, tempted by the cooler summer climate, the scenery and the magnificent views.
The Manfield brothers, together with Buffalo Bill Weston and Ted Carlile, pioneered early tourism to Mount Buffalo. Bill Weston built the first permanent building on the plateau in 1879. For several years he had brought tourist parties to the mountain. A group of Melbourne doctors were so impressed that they returned regularly. At Echo Point, Weston built a log cabin which he called Doctors Hut, providing shelter for the many tourist parties he guided up the rough bush tracks to the Gorge.
Ted Carlile guided visitors to the plateau via Goldie s Track. He built Carlile s Hospice and Hotel near the Monolith, in 1891. Not to be outdone, James constructed the Manfield Chalet near Bent’s Lookout. The Manfield children also guided tourist parties about the plateau, and one daughter, Alice, became so competent that she is fondly remembered as Guide Alice.
Enthusiasm for the beauty of the plateau gave rise to a concerted campaign to ensure permanent protection. The Bright Alpine Club and Bright Progress Association were formed in the 1880s. Under the energetic leadership of Dr. John Wilkinson and William Staker, the Bright Alpine Club actively publicised the values of the plateau and invited influential visitors to witness them at first hand. It produced an Illustrated Guide to the Victorian Alps, and concluded that the best way to experience the plateau was to camp out:
The complete isolation from the world of business, the exhilaration, the wildness and magnificence of the surroundings brings the tourist in close sympathy with nature
The Bright Alpine Club commissioned Weston and his brother, George to cut a more direct route to the plateau from Bright. It was named Staker s Track in honour of William Staker.
In 1888 the Bright Progress Committee requested the reservation of The Horn, The Hump and Eurobin Falls as a public park. This prompted the Lands Department to exclude the area from selection but not to reserve the land as requested. In 1897 the Bright Alpine Club renewed its efforts to have the plateau protected. Despite opposition by mining interests, an area of 1,166 ha. was reserved as a site for a national park on 4 November 1898.
At about this time State Government Geologist, E.J. Dunn made a geological survey of the mountain. Dunn called Mount Buffalo the garden of the gods and described feelings of awe at the way nature had shaped the granite boulders on the plateau. On return visits however, he observed the damage done by visitors to these grand, wonderful, beautiful rocks and recommended the appointment of a Crown land bailiff with power to prevent mischievous and ignorant acts which may undo the work it has taken aeons to accomplish
Dunn’s observations, together with the Bright Alpine Club s continued promotion of Mount Buffalo, finally attracted government attention. Following a visit by Minister of Lands, J.E. Mackay, the government was persuaded to provide funds for the construction of a road. The new road, which followed Staker’s Track, was officially opened by the Premier in 1908. In the same year, a further 9,240 ha. were added to the national park and the entire area made a permanent reservation.
By 1910, overnight visitors were accommodated at Manfields Chalet overlooking the Gorge, at Carlile’s Hospice near the Monolith or at the newly opened government chalet. Manfield and Carlile were soon evicted, which caused a public outcry. The government was forced to compromise and the Manfields were granted two sites on the other side of the Gorge: one for Bill Manfield near Reed’s Lookout known as the Alpine Lodge; and the second for Guide Alice known as Manfields Bungalow. Manfields Bungalow was destroyed by fire in 1930, and the Alpine Lodge was removed in 1935. Carlile was bought out by the Lands Department in 1917, and the Hospice was demolished.
Despite its grand proportions the Chalet offered very basic accommodation. The building was unlined at first, and had no heating. J.F. Wilkinson observed that guests came to meals wearing rugs and overcoats, and would rush their dinner in order to get back to the fire. The Chalet was nevertheless a popular resort. Lake Catani provided a venue for boating and fishing in summer and skating in winter. A golf course opened at Tuckerbox Corner in 1911.
With the opening of the Chalet, snow sports were pursued seriously. For a time Mount Buffalo was the most accessible ski field in Victoria. Miss Hilda Samsing, lessee of the Chalet from 1919 to 1924, fostered the growth of skiing by importing hickory skis from Norway. She employed Fred Chalwell to teach guests, and soon skiers were journeying to Mount Buffalo each winter to try the new sport.
In 1924 the lease of the Chalet was transferred to the Victorian Railways Refreshment Service. Harold Clapp, Chairman of Commissioners of the Victorian Railways had spent time in the North American railway services, and saw a comparison between Mount Buffalo and the North American national parks, Banff and Yosemite, where tourist resorts had been built at the end of railway lines. Vowing to make Mount Buffalo t he finest all-year round playground, Clapp refurbished the Chalet and greatly improved transport to the plateau.
Clapp also promoted Mount Buffalo as a ski-field. The first ski tow in Australia was built at Dingo Dell in 1937. A Cadillac engine drove a drum around which an endless rope was wound. Skiers grasped the rope by a metal handle and were towed to the top of the slope. Also in 1936 Franz Skardarasy was brought to Mount Buffalo from Austria by the Victorian Railways to run the first ski school in Australia. He introduced skiers to the Arlberg technique which enabled better handling of deep snow than the Telemark technique then practiced.
During this time, a committee of management (appointed in 1918) administered the national park. Like many park management committees it focused on the recreational aspects of management, but stressed that the demands of outdoor recreation should not compromise the park’s natural values:
While endeavouring to cater for the public under winter conditions, in providing buildings, etc., the Committee has not lost touch of its desire of not civilising the plateau and would keep to the spirit of rough grandeur by encouraging the walker and tourist rather than making it a paradise for the motorist and having buildings as far as practical conform to the natural surroundings and not despoiling the landscape.
The stone shelters at The Gorge, The Horn and at Lake Catani are evidence of the Committee’s endeavours to keep the plateau natural.
For many years, naturalists had expressed concerns about the impact of grazing on Mount Buffalo. In 1942 the Victorian Naturalist asked whether the plateau would be a Botanical Paradise or Cattle Run?. Hugh Stewart of the Field Naturalists Club argued that t he droppings of cattle have a cumulative effect on the soil and this is fatal to many indigenous plants which give way to aliens, pests like St. John’s Wort, which formerly were never encountered on the Plateau. Cattlemen were accused of lighting fires to encourage new growth, and the chalet management complained that cattle were fouling drinking water. In 1956 the Committee of Management was persuaded to exclude cattle from Mount Buffalo.
In 1960 legislation was enacted to allow development leases in national parks despite widespread public opposition. Leases were subsequently granted in Wilson’s Promontory and Mount Buffalo, and while the lease at Wilson s Promontory was later abandoned, the Mount Buffalo lease resulted in the construction of the Tatra Inn. The Tatra Development was plagued by controversy. A proposal to restore Chinaman’s Dam to create a recreational lake brought a storm of protest, and in 1972 the Victorian government put a freeze on further development. In 1975 the government terminated the Tatra lease, and paid the developers compensation totaling $987,000.
In 1980 the park was extended to include most of the foothill country adjoining the plateau. This addition brought the park to its present 31,000 ha. Mount Buffalo’s peaks and plateaus have attracted many different types of visitors. Aboriginal moth hunters, explorers, botanists and painters, cattlemen, bushwalkers and have given Mount Buffalo a rich cultural history. The plateau has been shaped by their presence and they in turn have been enriched and changed by its beauty and grandeur.
SOURCES Johnson, D. The Alps at the Crossroads: the quest for an alpine national park. VNPA, 1974.
Mount Buffalo National Park, Resource Collection Files F/C:3/2, Historic Places Section, DNRE.
Scougall, B. (ed.) Cultural Heritage of the Australian Alps: Proceedings of the 1991 Symposium. AALC, Canberra, 1992)
Waters, W. The Buffalo Mountains: a brief history. in The Melbourne Walker, 1967.
Webb, D. & B. Adams, The Mount Buffalo story, 1898-1998. MUP, Melbourne, 1998.
- WikiSki page on Buffalo backcountry ski touring.
- The Parks Vic website for the Buffalo Plateau.
- Wiki List of Aussie Resorts
- http://www.orc.org.au - Adventure Activity Standards for group adventures in the Outdoors