Get ready Australia, winter is really coming at last: from Armidale to Zeehan fat fluffy flakes are forecast.
That old adage about Australia having more snowfields than Switzerland will actually be true, briefly at least anyway, if the BOM forecast for Saturday is correct.
That old claim seems to mainly stem from Roof of Australia the classic 1957 promotional film about life in the Snowies, made by the old Commonwealth Film Unit.
“Where the mountains of the Australian Great Divide swing south and east they climb to their greatest heights, the peaks of Kosciuszko, Feathertop, Hotham, Bogong and Buffalo. Where winter turns sunbaked valleys and ridges to snowfields larger than those of Switzerland..”
Looking at the classic short film you can well believe it. Released in ’57, it was shot in the mega winter of 1956. Cabramurra, the main above snowline town for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, is absolutely buried. Check the hills hoist with snow up to the lines, the kids skiing to school and the racing:
“The slalom course starts in the main street..”
Cabramurra is a few kilometres past Selwyn Snowfields, and at a bit lower elevation, 1488m. To see it buried under metres of snow, as it often was in the 1950s, is to realise how much things have changed. Blame global warming or (as some old timers do) blame the localised warming effects of the Snowy Scheme’s lakes like Eucumbene and Jindabyne, but there’s no denying the winters are much less snowy at the lower elevations.
The Roof of Australia also has great footage of Charlotte Pass, including the oversnow transport giving you the option of a tow on skis behind it. We could have used that a couple of weeks back coming home from The Paralyser.
But the Hotham scenes are the most amazing, they could be out of the highest Swiss peaks. Thick with snow, not a rock or tree in sight, the lone lodge looks like a heliski base.
Before the film, there was then NSW Premier Sir William Mckell’s dedication of the Snowy Mountains National Park in 1944, in which he said it would allow the area to offer “winter sports resorts to equal any in Switzerland” and bring tourists from all parts of the Commonwealth and overseas.
So the theme of being bigger/better the Switzerland for snow and snowsports somehow got stuck in the Aussie psyche for 75 years. Who are we to disagree?
With all the snow back then there was plenty of enthusiasm for finding new skiable areas, like the Barrington Tops north of Newcastle, which get a mention in an old Ski Year Book. They should at least get some snow from this week’s storms, and points further north in New England like Armidale and Guyra, which can get quite a lot.
As for Zeehan, well it’s not so high at 170m, and we may have exaggerated a tad actually including it, but the surrounding hills are likely to get some.
More importantly for long-suffering Taswegians, Mt Mawson could fire up finally for the season. Stay tuned to their site for updates. They deserve too after all the work volunteers have put in to be COVID safe and ready.
As for Switzerland, it may be small, but it’s not too shabby in the ski department – check our features on the best Swiss areas here.