This fifth instalment of ski heritage photos takes you back 110 years in New South Wales, when skiing was something done by the 270 miners and their families at Kiandra, who were joined for the Snow Shoe Races by about 50 visitors from other parts of the Monaro and Sydney (Photo 1). Kiandra in winter was completely isolated by deep snow drifts from the rest of NSW and winter visitors often had to ski 15km to get there. Some of these ski enthusiasts successfully pressed the NSW Government to establish a more easily accessible ski resort on the eastern side of the Kosciusko Main Range. Many thousands were introduced to skiing in the period 1909 to 1951 at the Hotel Kosciusko and the Chalet at Charlottes Pass. Closely associated with these two large hotels were three huts – Betts Camp, Seamans Hut and Whites River Hut. This instalment also looks at two skiers who not only significantly raised community awareness as to the vast extent and quality of the snowfields in the Snowy Mountains, but also greatly influenced government to actively develop these snowfields. The first is Charles Kerry (1858 – 1928) whose historic Kiandra skiing photos are well known.
Charles Kerry was born on a rural property on the Monaro Tableland in 1858. A grazier and businessman, he was also an adventurer and an outstanding photographer. He was the first person to promote the Kiandra Snow Shoe carnival outside the Monaro District and to introduce Sydney visitors to skiing at Kiandra. First conducted in 1881, the carnival's races were often won by "ski-runners" who could cover 200m in about 10 seconds. Kerry's earliest known Kiandra photos were taken in 1895 and he personally guided groups of visitors to Kiandra every winter. He drew the attention of the NSW Government to the Kiandra skiing, and the NSW Government Tourist Bureau commenced promoting and organising regular ski trips to Kiandra for the general public.
Charles Kerry was mainly interested in ski touring and is known to have led a cross-country ski trip in August 1899 from Kiandra to the Grey Mare mine and on to the summit of Mt Jagungal (Photo 3, with the Kosciuszko Main Range visible in the background on the left), which was heavily blanketed by snow at the time. He had also played a leading role in the first winter ascent of Mt Kosciuszko two years earlier and encouraged the establishment of Clement Wragge's weather station on the summit. This weather station operated continuously from the Spring of 1897 to 1901. Charles Kerry and Edgar Holden established the Alpine Club in Sydney about 1897 to cater for skiers (or "ski-runners" as they were then known).
Recognising the limitations of Kiandra as a winter holiday destination, he persuaded the government to open up the Kosciuszko area as the main focus for holidays above the winter snow-line. A road was constructed from Jindabyne to the Kosciuszko* Summit and Betts Camp was built in 1905. The Creel (now flooded) was built on the Summit Road in 1907 to house the workmen constructing the Hotel Kosciusko* opened in June 1909. Charles Kerry was elected the first president of the Kosciusko Alpine Club (KAC). [* For over 100 years, the spelling of the name of Australia's highest mountain was Mount Kosciusko. For its entire life the hotel was spelt "Kosciusko". The spelling of the mountain was changed about 1990. Hence the Hotel Kosciusko is on the flanks of Mt. Kosciuszko.]
Percy Hunter, the founder of the NSW Government Tourist Bureau, wrote in 1928 of Charles Kerry's significant contributions to the development of Australian skiing and nominated Kerry "as the father of Australian skiing". Hunter also paid tribute to Kerry's splendid vision for the NSW skifields and his unselfish work in bringing part of that vision to fruition. Hunter noted that Kerry "bridged the gap of the development period and saw far ahead the prospect, which is even now only beginning to open up dimly, of a chain of winter sport centres along the main divide from Kosciusko's hoary summit to Kiandra and across the broad bosom of this peak studded plateau in every direction." The construction of the two tin huts (previously described in Instalment 3) and the Chalet Charlottes Pass were projects that Kerry had strongly promoted as part of this vision.