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.

An early chalet at Mt Buller.

[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.

A stylish skier enjoys the view

 Victoria’s snowland: for summer suntan in winter

A poster from the early 1930s advertising Australia as skiing destination.

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 badge of the Ski Club of Victoria.

 The Argus article from 1939 on the road construction at Mt Buller.

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.

The Library holds some books on the Taungurong people and many images of the Victorian ski fields as well as the year books and journals of the Ski Club of Victoria.


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

This article has 2 comments

  1. Hi All, I was the first child to ski at Mt Buller, around 1955. We stayed in a little shack, with a dirt floor behind the Ivorwhittikor, whose power we had for exactly one hour a day when they put their generator on. I was taught to ski by a German fellow, Otto..? who had been a Luftwaffe pilot who had come to OZ to start again and who built a Chalet at the top of what was later named Bourke Street. Swanson Street was called Shaky Knees. My Father made skis for me and my mother ski clothes out of old parachutes and I had a belt made of three cats collars with bells so they could always hear me. I became a good competitive skier by the tine I was about 16.

  2. Hey Everyone, I was the second person to ski at Mt Buller, Around 1955. My best friend Joanna encouraged me to get outta my skin (if you know what i mean). So i just went on down and i got myself a brand new one. It was a magical place with a breeze so icy it made your skin feel cold. Now I’m on my deathbed and wish i cdould relive it again.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *