On July 19, the Australian post office issued three skiing and snowboarding stamps honoring the 150th anniversary of skiing in theSnowyMountains.
The 1859 Australian gold rush drew thousands of miners and would-be miners to New South Wales. They came from all over the world, including a number of Norwegians, some fresh from the goldfields ofCalifornia, where they had some experience with early longboard racing. It’s estimated that from April to September of 1860, some 3,000 people wintered atAustralia’s Kiandra mining camp.
They didn’t hunker down in their canvas tents . They made skis. Newspaper reports published during the winter of 1861 describe young folks climbing the local hill and descending at the speed of railroad trains. By 1896 there was documentary evidence of a Kiandra Snow Shoe Club having been in existence since at least the early 1880s, and photos show single-stick downhillers blasting into town.
Kiandra is now a ghost town, but the club, now named the Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club, is still active in Perisher Valley. Local lore says it was organized in mid-1861 (during the southern-hemisphere winter, of course). While no one can prove that, the post office has accepted the year as the founding date for Australian skiing. It’s a legitimate historical question, because 1861 would predate the races organized by a club in Trysil, Norway, in January 1862. The first ski clubs for which we have newspaper accounts, in Onion Valley and LaPorte, Calif., were reported in January, 1861.
The Skiing Australia stamps, including a first day cover, were designed by John White, of the Australia Post Design Studio. They are available online at www.auspost.com.au/stamps while stocks last. —Seth Masia