Snowy Mountains

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Snowy Mountains
The Snowies
Snowy Mountains as seen from Kosciuszko Lookout.jpg
View towards Mount Kosciuszko.
Highest point
Peak Mount Kosciuszko
Elevation 2,228 m (7,310 ft)
Coordinates 36°27′S148°16′E / 36.450°S 148.267°E / -36.450; 148.267
Worldwind image of Snowy Mountains
State NSW
Range coordinates 36°30′S148°20′E / 36.500°S 148.333°E / -36.500; 148.333 Coordinates: 36°30′S148°20′E / 36.500°S 148.333°E / -36.500; 148.333
Parent range Australian Alps

The Snowy Mountains, known informally as "The Snowies", is an IBRA subregion and the highest mountain range on the continent of mainland Australia. It contains the Australian mainland's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, which reaches to a height of 2,228 m (7,310 ft) above sea level. The range also contains the five highest peaks on the Australian mainland (including Mount Kosciuszko), all of which are above 2,100 m (6,890 ft). They are located in southern New South Wales and are part of the larger Australian Alps and Great Dividing Range. Unusual for Australia, the mountain range experiences large natural snowfalls every winter. Snow normally falls during June, July, August and early September, with the snow cover melting by late spring. The Tasmanian highlands makes up the other (major) alpine region present in Australia.

Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia biogeographic regionalisation of Australia developed by the Australian Government

The Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) is a biogeographic regionalisation of Australia developed by the Australian Government's Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. It was developed for use as a planning tool, for example for the establishment of a National Reserve System.

A bioregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone, but larger than an ecoregion or an ecosystem, in the World Wildlife Fund classification scheme. There is also an attempt to use the term in a rank-less generalist sense, similar to the terms "biogeographic area" or "biogeographic unit".

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.


The range is host to the mountain plum-pine, a low-lying type of conifer. It is considered to be one of the centres of the Australian ski industry during the winter months, with all four snow resorts in New South Wales being located in the region. [1]

Ski resort Resort developed for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports

A ski resort is a resort developed for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports. In Europe, most ski resorts are towns or villages in or adjacent to a ski area – a mountainous area with pistes and a ski lift system. In North America, it is more common for ski areas to exist well away from towns, so ski resorts usually are destination resorts, often purpose-built and self-contained, where skiing is the main activity.

The Alpine Way and Snowy Mountains Highway are the major roads through the Snowy Mountains region.

Alpine Way highway in New South Wales

The Alpine Way is a 121-kilometre (75 mi) rural road located in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia. The road connects Jindabyne in the east to the New South Wales/Victorian border in the west, crossing the Murray River, near Upper Towong. The route does not carry an official shield designation.

Snowy Mountains Highway highway in New South Wales

The Snowy Mountains Highway is a 333-kilometre-long (207 mi) state highway located in New South Wales, Australia. Its two sections connect the New South Wales South Coast to the Monaro region, and the Monaro to the South West Slopes via the Snowy Mountains. The higher altitude regions of this road are subject to snow over the winter months, and the road also provides access to many parts of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. The highway bears the B72 shield along its entire length.


Skiing in Australia began in the goldrush town of Kiandra around 1861. Kiandra carnival 1900 Charles Kerry.jpeg
Skiing in Australia began in the goldrush town of Kiandra around 1861.

The mountain range is thought to have had Aboriginal occupation for 20,000 years. Large scale intertribal gatherings were held in the High Country during summer for collective feasting on the Bogong moth. This practice continued until around 1865. [2]

Bogong moth species of insect

The bogong moth is a temperate species of night-flying moth, notable for its biannual long-distance seasonal migrations towards and from the Australian Alps, similar to the diurnal monarch butterfly. During the autumn and winter it is found in southern Queensland, western New South Wales, western Victoria, and also in South and Western Australia. Adult bogong moths breed and larvae hatch during this period, consuming winter pasture plants during their growth. During the spring, the moths migrate south or east and reside in mountains such as Mount Bogong, where they gregariously aestivate over the summer until their return towards breeding grounds again in the autumn.

The area was first explored by Europeans in 1835, and in 1840, Edmund Strzelecki ascended Mount Kosciuszko and named it after the Polish patriot. High country stockmen followed who used the Snowy Mountains for grazing during the summer months. Banjo Paterson's famous poem The Man From Snowy River recalls this era. The cattle graziers have left a legacy of mountain huts scattered across the area. Today these huts are maintained by the National Parks and Wildlife Service or volunteer organisations like the Kosciuszko Huts Association.

Banjo Paterson Australian journalist, author and poet

Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson, was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales, where he spent much of his childhood. Paterson's more notable poems include "Clancy of the Overflow" (1889), "The Man from Snowy River" (1890) and "Waltzing Matilda" (1895), regarded widely as Australia's unofficial national anthem.

The Man from Snowy River (poem) 1890 poem written by Andrew Barton Paterson

"The Man from Snowy River" is a poem by Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson. It was first published in The Bulletin, an Australian news magazine, on 26 April 1890, and was published by Angus & Robertson in October 1895, with other poems by Paterson, in The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses.

The Kosciuszko Huts Association was formed in Canberra, Australia in 1971 with the purpose of saving the mountain heritage huts in the Kosciuszko National Park. The initial meeting was supported by the past Parks commissioner, Neville Gare and resulted in a small group of individuals forming the association.

In the 19th century gold was mined on the high plains near Kiandra. At its height this community had a population of about 4,000 people, and ran 14 hotels. Since the last resident left in 1974, Kiandra has become a ghost town of ruins and abandoned diggings. [3]

Gold Chemical element with atomic number 79

Gold is a chemical element with symbol Au and atomic number 79, making it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur naturally. In its purest form, it is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft, malleable, and ductile metal. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and a group 11 element. It is one of the least reactive chemical elements and is solid under standard conditions. Gold often occurs in free elemental (native) form, as nuggets or grains, in rocks, in veins, and in alluvial deposits. It occurs in a solid solution series with the native element silver and also naturally alloyed with copper and palladium. Less commonly, it occurs in minerals as gold compounds, often with tellurium.

Kiandra, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Kiandra is an abandoned gold mining town and the birthplace of Australian skiing. The town is situated in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, in the Snowy Monaro Regional Council inside the Kosciuszko National Park. Its name is a corruption of Aboriginal 'Gianderra' for 'sharp stones for knives'. It was earlier called Gibson's Plains, named after Dr. Gibson, a settler in the district in 1839. For a century, Kiandra was Australia's highest town.

The Kosciuszko National Park came into existence as the National Chase Snowy Mountains on 5 December 1906. In 1944 this became the Kosciuszko State Park, and then the Kosciuszko National Park in 1967. [4]

Recreational skiing began at Kiandra in the 1860s and experienced a boom in the 20th century following the commencement of the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme between 1949 and 1976 which brought many European workers to the district and opened up access to the ranges.


Sunrise over Mount Jagungal Jagungal.jpg
Sunrise over Mount Jagungal

The discovery of gold at Kiandra (elevation 1,400 m or 4,600 ft), in 1859, briefly enticed a population of thousands above the snowline and saw the introduction of recreational skiing to the Snowy Mountains around 1861. [5] The Kiandra Goldrush was short-lived, but the township remained a service centre for recreational and survival skiing for over a century. Australia's first T-Bar was installed at Kiandra in 1957, but the ski facilities were finally shifted up the hill to Selwyn Snowfields in 1978. [6] Steeper slopes and more reliable snows lie further to the south and in the 20th Century, the focus of recreational skiing in New South Wales shifted southward, to the Mount Kosciuszko region. [7]

The Kosciuszko Chalet was built at Charlotte Pass in 1930, giving relatively comfortable access to Australia's highest terrain. [8] In 1964, Australia briefly boasted the "World's Longest Chairlift", designed to carry skiers from the Thredbo Valley to Charlotte Pass, but technical difficulties soon closed the facility. [9] [10] At 1,760 m (5,774 ft), Charlotte Pass has the highest village base elevation of any Australia ski resort and can only be accessed via over-snow transport in winter. [11] The growing number of ski enthusiasts heading to Charlotte Pass led to the establishment of a cafe at Smiggin Holes around 1939, where horse-drawn sleighs would deliver skiers to begin the arduous ski to the Kosciusko Chalet. [12] It was the construction of the vast Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme from 1949 that really opened up the Snowy Mountains for large scale development of a ski industry and led to the establishment of Thredbo and Perisher as leading Australian resorts. [12] [13] The Construction of Guthega Dam brought skiers to the isolated Guthega district and a rope tow was installed there in 1957. [14]

Charlotte Pass is a popular ski area in the upper Snowy Mountains Charlotte Pass Village in August.jpg
Charlotte Pass is a popular ski area in the upper Snowy Mountains

Skifields up by Kosciusko's side were also established during this period, though their existence is now little realised. The Australian Alpine Club was founded in 1950 by Charles Anton. Huts were constructed in the "Backcountry" close to Mount Kosciusko, including Kunama Hut, which opened for the 1953 season. A rope tow was installed on Mount Northcote at the site and opened in 1954. The site proved excellent for speed skiing, but the hut was destroyed in an avalanche, which also killed one person, in 1956. [15]

Anton also recognised the potential of the Thredbo Valley for construction of a major resort and village, with good vertical terrain. Construction began in 1957. [13] Today, Thredbo has 14 ski-lifts and possesses Australia's longest ski resort run, the 5.9 km from Karel's T-Bar to Friday Flat; Australia's greatest vertical drop of 672 m; and the highest lifted point in Australia at 2037 m. [16] [17]

The last establishment of a major skifield in NSW came with the development of Mount Blue Cow in the 1980s. In 1987 the Swiss designed Skitube Alpine Railway opened to deliver skiers from Bullocks Flat, on the Alpine Way, to Perisher Valley and to Blue Cow, which also opened in 1987. [12] The operators of Blue Cow purchased Guthega in 1991, and the new combined resort later merged with Perisher-Smiggins to become the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere. [18] In 2009 Perisher had 48 lifts covering 1,245 hectares and four village base areas: Perisher Valley, Blue Cow, Smiggin Holes and Guthega. [12]

Snowy Mountains Scheme

Map of Snowy Mountains Scheme Snowy-Mountains-System (de).png
Map of Snowy Mountains Scheme

The Snowy Mountains also feed the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers from the Tooma River, Whites River and Yarrangobilly River. The range is perhaps best known for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, a project to dam the Snowy River, providing both water for irrigation and hydroelectricity.

The project began in 1949 employing 100,000 men, two-thirds of whom came from thirty other countries during the post-World War II years. Socially this project symbolises a period during which Australia became an ethnic "melting pot" of the twentieth century but which also changed Australia's character and increased its appreciation for a wide range of cultural diversity.

Tumut 3 generating station. Tumut3GeneratingStation.jpg
Tumut 3 generating station.

The Scheme built several temporary towns for its construction workers, several of which have become permanent: Cabramurra (the highest town in Australia); and Khancoban. Additionally, the economy of Cooma has been sustained by the Scheme.[ citation needed ] Townships at Adaminaby, Jindabyne and Talbingo were inundated by the construction of Lakes Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Talbingo. [19] [20] Improved vehicular access to the High Country enabled ski-resort villages to be constructed at Thredbo and Guthega in the 1950s by ex-Snowy Scheme workers who realised the potential for expansion of the Australian ski industry. [13]

By 1974, 145 km (90 mi) of underground tunnels and 80 km (50 mi) of aqueducts connected the sixteen dams, seven power stations (two underground), and one pumping station. [21] The American Society of Civil Engineers has rated the Snowy Scheme as "a world-class civil engineering project".

The principal lakes created by the scheme include: Lake Eucumbene, Blowering Dam, Talbingo Dam, Lake Jindabyne and Tantangara Dam.



Mount Kosciuszko from the Snowy River. Mount Kosciuszko from the Snowy River.jpg
Mount Kosciuszko from the Snowy River.

The higher regions of the park experience an alpine climate which is unusual on mainland Australia. However, only the peaks of the main range are subject to consistent heavy winter snow. The climate station at Charlotte Pass recorded Australia's lowest temperature of -23.0 °C on 28 June 1994. [22]

Glacial lakes

Lake Cootapatamba in the characteristically U-shaped glacial valley, Kosciuszko National Park. AU Kosciuszko L Cootapatamba.jpg
Lake Cootapatamba in the characteristically U-shaped glacial valley, Kosciuszko National Park.

Part of the mountains known as Main Range contains mainland Australia's five glacial lakes. [23] The largest of these lakes is Blue Lake, one of the headwaters of the Snowy River. The other four glacial lakes are Lake Albina, Lake Cootapatamba, Club Lake and Headley Tarn.

During the last ice age, which peaked about 20,000 years ago in the Pleistocene epoch, the highest peaks of the main range near Mount Kosciuszko experienced a climate which favoured the formation of glaciers, evidence of which can still be seen today. Cirques moraines, tarn lakes, roche moutonnées and other glacial features can all be seen in the area. Lake Cootapatamba, which was formed by an ice spilling from Mount Kosciuszko's southern flank, is the highest lake on the Australian mainland. Lake Albina, Club Lake, Blue Lake, and Hedley Tarn also have glacial origins. [24]

There is some disagreement as to exactly how widespread Pleistocene glaciation was on the main range, and little or no evidence from earlier glacial periods exists. The 'David Moraine', a one kilometre long ridge running across Spencers Creek valley seems to indicate a larger glacier existed in this area at some time, however the glacial origin of this feature is disputed. [25]

There is evidence of periglacial activity in the area. Solifluction appears to have created terraces on the north west flank of Mount Northcote. Frost heave is also a significant agent of soil erosion in the Kosciuszko Area.


Snow Gum at tree line along Dead Horse Gap Walk, Kosciuszko National Park. Snow Gum on the Dead Horse Gap Walk.jpg
Snow Gum at tree line along Dead Horse Gap Walk, Kosciuszko National Park.

The Snowy Mountains cover a variety of climatic regions which support several distinct ecosystems. The alpine area above the tree line is one of the most fragile and covers the smallest area. This area is a patchwork of alpine heaths, herbfields, feldmarks, bogs and fens. The windswept feldmark ecotope is endemic to the alpine region, and covers a mere 300,000 square metres (3,200,000 sq ft). It is most vulnerable to the wandering footsteps of unmindful tourists.


Many rare or threatened plant and animal species occur within the Snowy Mountains. [26] The Kosciuszko National Park is home to one of Australia's most threatened species (the corroboree frog). The endangered mountain pygmy possum and the more common dusky antechinus are located in the high country of the park.

By 2008, wild horse numbers in the National Park had reached 1,700 with that figure growing by 300 each year, resulting in park authorities coordinating their culling and relocation. [27]


The high country is dominated by alpine woodlands, characterised by the snow gum. Montane and wet sclerophyll forests also occur across the ranges, supporting large stands of alpine ash and mountain gum. In the southern Byadbo wilderness area, dry sclerophyll and wattle forests predominate. Amongst the many different native trees in the park, the large Chinese elm has become naturalised.

Snowy Mountain Bushfires

In summer 2003, the Australian Alps experienced their largest bushfires for over 60 years with an estimated 1.73 million hectares burning. The bushfires burnt across Victoria, New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) during a drought that ranks as one of the worst in 103 years of official Australian weather records [28] . Fires are a natural feature of the park's ecosystem, but it will take some time for the region to return to its pre-2003 condition.

Aftermath of the 2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires showing the burnt out hillsides alongside the Omeo Highway, near Anglers Rest, Victoria, Australia. 2003 Bushfires aftermath near Anglers Rest.jpg
Aftermath of the 2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires showing the burnt out hillsides alongside the Omeo Highway, near Anglers Rest, Victoria, Australia.

In November 2004, a committee "The Snowy Mountains Bushfire Recovery Taskforce" was set up by the NSW State Premier's Department to help residents in the region recover from the fires. The Taskforce commissioned Louise Darmody from Sound Memories to produce a documentary involving 26 people from the Snowy Mountains to talk about their experiences [29] .The interviewees included farmers, school children, volunteers and employees from the NSW Rural Fire Service and National Park Snowy Hydro [29] .

See also

Related Research Articles

Kosciuszko National Park Protected area in New South Wales, Australia

The Kosciuszko National Park is a 6,900-square-kilometre (2,700 sq mi) national park and contains mainland Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, for which it is named, and Cabramurra the highest town in Australia. Its borders contain a mix of rugged mountains and wilderness, characterised by an alpine climate, which makes it popular with recreational skiers and bushwalkers.

Australian Alps Region in Australia

The Australian Alps, an interim Australian bioregion, is the highest mountain range in Australia. This range is located in southeastern Australia, and it straddles eastern Victoria, southeastern New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Alps contain Australia's only peaks exceeding 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) in elevation above sea level. The Alps are the only bioregion on the Australian mainland in which deep snow falls annually. The Alps comprise an area of 1,232,981 hectares.

Thredbo, New South Wales village in New South Wales, Australia

Thredbo is a village and ski resort in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, and a part of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council. It is about 500 kilometres south of Sydney, accessible by the Alpine Way via Cooma, Berridale, and Jindabyne. The village is built in the valley of the Thredbo River, also known as the Crackenback River, at the foot of the Ramshead Range.

Charlotte Pass, New South Wales town in New South Wales, Australia

Charlotte Pass, elevation 1,837 metres (6,027 ft), is a location, snow resort and village in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. The pass is located in the Kosciuszko National Park where the Kosciuszko Road crosses Kangaroo Ridge. Charlotte Pass is the closest village to Mount Kosciuszko.

Perisher Valley, New South Wales human settlement in Australia

Perisher Valley, commonly called Perisher, is a valley formed below Mount Perisher, a mountain that is located in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia.

Blue Cow Mountain ski resort

Blue Cow is a ski resort that is part of Perisher located in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, within the Snowy Monaro Regional Council. The resort is situated within the Kosciuszko National Park and is administered by the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service. During winter months, the only access to the village is via the Skitube underground railway. In summer, access is via off-road only. Blue Cow is one of the four resort bases within Perisher, Australia's largest ski resort.

Bullocks Flat New South Wales, Australia

Bullocks Flat is a flat portion of the Thredbo Valley adjacent to the Thredbo River, located in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia.

Jindabyne, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Jindabyne is a town in south-east New South Wales, Australia that overlooks Lake Jindabyne near the Snowy Mountains, in Snowy Monaro Regional Council. It is a popular holiday destination year round, especially in winter. This is due to its proximity to major ski resort developments within the Kosciuszko National Park, including Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass.

Guthega, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Guthega is a ski village and the site for a hydro electric dam located in the Kosciuszko National Park, on the upper reaches of the Snowy River, on the western face of Mount Blue Cow, Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia.

Thredbo River river in Australia

The Thredbo River, a perennial river of the Snowy River catchment, is located in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia.

Snowy River Shire Local government area in New South Wales, Australia

The Snowy River Shire was a local government area in the Australian Alps region of New South Wales, Australia from 1939 until May 2016. It was named after the Snowy River that runs through it. Prior to 1936, it had been named as Dalgety Shire since establishment in 1906.

Sport in New South Wales describes participation in and attendance at organised sports events in the state of New South Wales in Australia. It is an important part of the culture of the state. In terms of participation, the most popular sports in the state are netball, tennis and soccer.

Smiggin Holes, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

Smiggin Holes is a village in the ski resort area of Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, in the Snowy Monaro Regional Council. It is primarily a winter-only resort village. It is within the Kosciuszko National Park, and is administered by New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change. Access to the village is via road. There is an access fee payable to the national park, and motor vehicles are not permitted to stay overnight in the winter months.

Skiing in Australia overview of skiing practiced in Australia

Skiing in Australia takes place in the high country of the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, as well as in the Australian Capital Territory, during the southern hemisphere winter.

Perisher Ski Resort ski resort in New South Wales, Australia

Perisher is the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere. Located in the Australian Snowy Mountains, the resort is an amalgamation of four villages and their associated ski fields, covering approximately 12 square kilometres (5 sq mi), with the base elevation at 1,720 metres (5,640 ft) AHD, and the summit elevation of 2,054 metres (6,739 ft) at the top of Mount Perisher. 4.4 square kilometres (1.7 sq mi) of this area is covered by 240 snow guns, which are used to artificially supplement the natural snowfall. Perisher was acquired by Vail Resorts, United States on March 30, 2015 for a sum of approximately AU$177 million.

Skiing in New South Wales overview of skiing practiced in New South Wales

Skiing in New South Wales takes place in the high country of the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales during the Southern Hemisphere winter.

Kosciuszko Road road in New South Wales

The Kosciuszko Road is a road in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia which runs from Pine Valley, to the ski resort of Charlotte Pass. It passes through the towns of Berridale and Jindabyne before entering Kosciuszko National Park. Within the national park it provides access to Smiggin Holes and Perisher Valley and Charlotte Pass ski resorts, and terminates just past the entry to the latter.

Kosciusko Alpine Club (KAC) is the second oldest ski club in Australia after the Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club (1861). It was founded in 1909, two months after the NSW Government opened the Hotel Kosciusko at Diggers Creek, the first hotel in the Kosciusko area. The Hotel Kosciusko became the winter home of KAC until 1930 when the Kosciusko Chalet opened at Charlotte’s Pass. KAC was the only ski club in the Kosciuszko area until 1920 when the Ski Club of Australia was formed.


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