Thousands of years before alpine resorts, chalets and four-wheel drives, Victoria’s Mt Buller was inhabited by Aboriginal tribes, in particular the Taungurong people (also spelt Taungurung). A Taungurong woman is quoted in the book Mt Buller: the story of a mountain, (p.13), describing elders taking younger men to the peaks of Buller as part of initiation, where ‘they would…show the young men the creation stories and the dreaming tracks and what the country was all about. It was a way of explaining things.’ The Taungurong name for the mountain was marnong, the word for ‘hand’.
In 1836, British surveyor Thomas Mitchell renamed the peak Mount Buller after the British Parliamentarian Charles Buller. It wasn’t until 1924 that the first ski trip to Buller’s summit occurred. In August of that year, five members of the Ski Club of Victoria (SCV) left Melbourne by train, staying overnight in Mansfield before driving a little past Merrijig, where they meet two guides with horses. There they followed a horse trail up the mountain until the snow became too deep for the horses. They transferred the supplies on to their skis and pulled them like sleds up to a cattlemen’s hut, not too far from the summit.
[The Chalet, Mt. Buller], H91.50/1247
Surviving without sauna, wireless internet or pool tables, they stayed for a week, exploring the area and making the most of the untapped ski conditions.
Winter Sport in Australie. Stecht 12 dagen van Java, H90.105/20
One of the party, Gerald Rush, describes the trip in the 1926/27 Ski Club of Victoria year book: ‘A hundred yards or so above the hut, the tree line ends abruptly and a ski-ers paradise of clear, smooth, snowy slopes is presented. Needless to say, our days passed too quickly, climbing these open slopes, slowly without effort, in long zig zag tracks, but descending at a hair raising speed…In short we experienced all the joys of this wonderful sport.’
The Argus, May 22 1939
Construction on a road up to the Mt Buller chalet began in 1939 and the SCV built the first tow rope in 1949. Today, eighty-nine years after five dedicated skiers slept in a hut, Mt Buller can sleep over 7000 people who are free to enjoy over 300 hectares of ski fields.
1. Darby, Jim 2008, Mt Buller : the story of a mountain; tSm Publishing, Vic.
2. Ski Club of Victoria, 1934- , The Victorian ski year book, [Ski Club of Victoria, Melbourne]
3. Blake, Les 1977, Place names of Victoria, Rigby Adelaide.
Written by Paul Dee
Librarian, Australian History and Literature Team