7kms down the road from Selwyn Snowfields lies Kiandra, the place where skiing began in Australia during the Kiandra Gold Rush in the 1860s. Now a skeleton of the once booming town, Kiandra is arguably the birthplace of the world’s first ski club, the Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club. Back then skis were made out of wooden planks and the only way down the hill was straight down! Speed control was achieved by digging a long pole into the snow between your legs and there were no lifts to carry you back to the top after a run.
The Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club operated for the next century. A major turning point for the club was when the president of the day, Peter Fountain, obtained the blue prints for a Mueller t-bar and had it manufactured in 1957 by a Newcastle firm by the name of James Engineering. The t-bar was installed on Township Hill at Kiandra and was the first t-bar in Australia and one of the only ones to this day to be built by an Australian company.
In 1958, Ken Murray, founder of Perisher Valley, obtained a copy of Peter’s blue prints and had a second identical t-bar produced by the same Newcastle company. This t-bar was installed at Perisher Valley and operated there until the late 1960s. In 1962, Peter Fountain made a decision to sell the t-bar at Kiandra to Bill Mathew & Colin Myers who later became the founder of Selwyn Snowfields. At this stage, Colin was the president of the Tumut Ski Club that owned a Nutcracker Rope Tow on New Chum Hill at Kiandra. In 1964 Colin purchased Bill’s share in the t-bar and became the sole operator.
Skiing began at Selwyn Snowfields in 1966 when a portable rope tow that had been built by Colin the previous year, was moved and installed on the run we now know as Township. This occurred towards the end of the season when the snow became too marginal at Kiandra for skiing. This was so successful that it continued for several years and in the late 1960s Colin purchased the Perisher Valley t-bar that had been built off the identical plans to the Kiandra t-bar and installed it at Selwyn Snowfields on the Township run. The t-bar was installed by hand and was ready for operation for the 1972 ski season.
Back then life was simple. Tickets were sold out of a duffle bag at the bottom of the lift. Tins of pineapple juice was the only commodity on sale and were sold out of the make shift shop front of Colin’s car. Many times visitors couldn’t make the drive in because the roads would be closed, so Colin, his wife Marnie and their team of helpers would just ski all day and have the slopes all to themselves.
Throughout the late 1970s, the National Parks and Wildlife Service along with the Roads and Traffic Authority protested against the congestion that was being caused on the Snowy Mountains Highway due to lack of designated parking at Kiandra and as a result all facilities at Kiandra were removed or shut down in 1978. Colin moved his t-bar from Kiandra and installed it at Selwyn Snowfields the same year. The t-bar was placed along side its replica from Perisher and these original t-bars operated in this location for a further 31 years! Only in 2009 were they replaced by the new Township Triple Chairlift, an exciting addition to the resort.
In 1982 the company Mount Selwyn Snowfields Pty Limited was created with shares holders Col and Marnie Myers, Bob and Janelle Heatley and John and Debbie Myers, John and Janelle being the son and daughter of Col and Marnie. In 1984 this company signed a 45 year lease with the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the area surrounding Selwyn Snowfields and this lease is still in place today. In 1995 Colin and Marnie retired and Janelle and Bob became the sole shareholders and have since taken the resort to new heights.
Over the last 40 years Selwyn Snowfields has grown from a one lift operation to a sophisticated resort with 11 lifts, food and retail outlets, a ski & clothing hire centre, specialised snow sports school programs, a top of the range snow making system that covers 80% of the mountain and facilities that can cater for up to 2000 people every day. With over 60% of the leased terrain still undeveloped, the future for Selwyn Snowfields is very exciting and open to many possibilities. Just imagine what improvements we all might see over the next 40 years...