Cross Country Skiing in NSW
By Peter Southwell-Keely
As many will know, recreational skiing in NSW began in 1861 as a by-product of the short-lived Kiandra gold rush (i). The fortunes of Kiandra waxed and waned and, for almost 50 years thereafter, it was the site of the only snow sports in Australia. The type of skiing practiced at Kiandra was downhill (a straight schuss without turns) and jumping. There is no evidence in newspaper reports that cross-country skiing was practiced at all (ii).
In 1909, the NSW Government built the Hotel Kosciusko (now Sponars Inn) and, in the same year, the Kosciusko Alpine Club (KAC) was formed. It was the second ski club in Australia after the Kiandra Snow Shoe Club (now the Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club (1861).
Cross-country skiing began in earnest when KAC introduced the Summit Badge and Summit Trophy in 1913, the first cross-country competition in Australia. The aim was to go from the Hotel Kosciusko to the Summit of Mt Kosciuszko and return within 10 hours for men and 12 hours for women. A completed trip gained the successful person a Summit Badge and the fastest trip in any season won the Summit Trophy for that year (iii,iv).
Within a few years KAC had added a two-mile handicap, a five-mile handicap (1914) and the Betts Camp race (1918) to its list of cross-country races (v,vi). The route for the five-mile handicap became the route for the first Australian Championship (1) race which was begun by KAC in 1919 (vii,viii). The Australian Championship remained as a single-event, five-mile cross-country race until 1929 after which KAC handed the running of the Australian championships to the newly-formed Ski Council of NSW.
This five-mile Australian championship race began at the foot of the Kerry Course, ascended the Kerry, then up the Percy Pearson Run to the Gates of Heaven, went across the Plains of Heaven, around Mt Sunrise to Dainer’s Gap, then down the Kosciuszko Road to finish below the Kerry.
The formation of the Ski Council of NSW coincided, almost directly, with the opening of the Kosciuszko Chalet in 1930 by the NSW Government. From then on until the late fifties, all major skiing competitions, both alpine and cross-country, were held at the Chalet. A favourite course for the Australian Cross-Country Championship began at the Chalet went down to Mt Sugarloaf, across Johnnies Plains and then back to the Chalet including a side trip up Wright’s Creek (ix). Two circuits of the course (about 11 miles; 17.5 km) made up the Championship. Slight variations of this course were used for many years until the Perisher trails came into operation during the sixties. KAC continues to use a shorter version of the Sugarloaf course for the Charlotte Pass Open, the longest-running (began 1930) cross-country race in NSW.
With the development of Perisher Valley as a resort came the recognition that it possessed ideal terrain for cross-country trails and competition. Apart from the Perisher Cup, the first major cross-country competition involving Perisher was the inaugural Paddy Pallin Classic in 1965. The course ran from Round Mountain to Perisher Valley and involved only six competitors. Bad weather made the event treacherous and the organisers realised that they were lucky to have avoided a disaster (x)
From 1966 onwards the Paddy Pallin Classics followed different courses until they settled on a route that, in general terms, went from Perisher to Charlotte Pass, back to Perisher, to Smiggins and then returned to Perisher (xi)(photo at left – Paddy Pallin classic start – 1984). The longer Paddy Pallins used two circuits of the course. The Paddy Pallin Classic ceased in 1999 but its tradition continues as the Snowy Mountains Classic (xii).
The opening of the Sverre Kaaten Nordic Centre in 1980 (official opening 1982), ensured that cross-country skiers would have an administrative centre which could be used both for socialising and running major competitions (xiii). It has been very successful and was extended in 2008.
Other major cross-country races include the KCros Tour, Boonoona Open, NSW Night Relays, the KAC Cross-Country Classic, Laser Biathlon NSW, Charlotte Pass Open, the Sundeck Handicap and, frequently, the Australian Open Championships.
- The Sydney Morning Herald (1861), 6 August.
- Lockyer, N. (1900) The Town and Country Journal, August 11, p.38-39.
iii. Ward, G.R.T. (1969) The Diamond Jubilee of the Kosciusko Alpine Club, p.39.
- Southwell-Keely, P.T (2009) Out on the Tops – The Centenary of the Kosciusko Alpine Club, p.39.
- Ward, G.R.T. (1969) The Diamond Jubilee of the Kosciusko Alpine Club, p.41.
- Southwell-Keely, P.T (2009) Out on the Tops – The Centenary of the Kosciusko Alpine Club, p.35.
vii. Ward, G.R.T. (1969) The Diamond Jubilee of the Kosciusko Alpine Club, p.47.
viii. Southwell-Keely, P.T (2009) Out on the Tops – The Centenary of the Kosciusko Alpine Club, p.51.
- The Australian and New Zealand Ski Year Book (1934), pp.140-142.
- Pallin, P. (1966) SKI Australia, pp. 32-33; 63-64.
- The Australian Ski Year Book (1969), p. 63.
xii. Southwell-Keely, P.T. (2013) Highway to Heaven – A History of Perisher and the Ski Resorts along the Kosciuszko Road, pp.211-212.
xiii. NSW Ski Association Annual Report (1980), p.8.