The Snowy Mountains, known informally as "The Snowies", is the highest mountain range on the island country/continent of Australia. It contains the Australian mainland's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, which reaches to a height of 2,228 m (7,310 ft) above sea level. The range also contains the five highest peaks on the Australian mainland (including Mount Kosciuszko), all of which are above 2,100 m (6,890 ft). They are located in southern New South Wales and are part of the larger Australian Alps and Great Dividing Range. Unusual for Australia, the mountain range experiences large natural snowfalls every winter. Snow normally falls the most during June, July and early August. Therefore, most of the snow usually melts by late spring.
The range is host to the mountain plum-pine, a low-lying type of conifer that is suspected of being the world's oldest living plant. It is one of the centres of the Australian ski industry during the winter months, with all four snow resorts in New South Wales being located in the region.
The mountain range is thought to have had Aboriginal occupation for 20,000 years. Large scale intertribal gatherings were held in the High Country during summer for collective feasting on the Bogong moth. This practice continued until around 1865. The area was first explored by Europeans in 1835, and in 1840, Edmund Strzelecki ascended Mount Kosciuszko and named it after a Polish patriot. High country stockmen followed who used the Snowy Mountains for grazing during the summer months. Banjo Paterson's famous poem The Man From Snowy River recalls this era. The cattle graziers have left a legacy of mountain huts scattered across the area. Today these huts are maintained by the National Parks and Wildlife Service or volunteer organisations like the Kosciuszko Huts Association.
In the 19th century gold was mined on the high plains near Kiandra. At its height this community had a population of about 4,000 people, and ran 14 hotels. Since the last resident left in 1974, Kiandra has become a ghost town of ruins and abandoned diggings.
The Kosciuszko National Park came into existence as the National Chase Snowy Mountains on 5 December 1906. In 1944 this became the Kosciuszko State Park, and then the Kosciuszko National Park in 1967. Recreational skiing began at Kiandra in the 1860s and experienced a boom in the 20th century following the commencement of the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme between 1949 and 1976 which brought many European workers to the district and opened up access to the ranges.
How To Get There
The Snowy Mountains are on Australiaĺ─˘s eastern seaboard and are equidistant from Sydney and Melbourne. The Snowies are easy to access by road, air and coach.
Most people travel to the region by car as this is the most flexible and rewarding way of exploring the mountains. However for visitors travelling from afar, there are regular bus services to Cooma, Jindabyne and Tumut, and daily plane services into Canberra with car hires available. If you are planning on hiring a car TSM recommends partner Europcar.
The Snowies is well served by a network of sealed roads boasting diverse and spectacular scenery. The Kosciuszko Alpine Way from Jindabyne to Khancoban, the Snowy Mountains Highway between Tumut and Cooma, The Snowy Valleys Way from just out of Khancoban through Tumbarumba to Tumut, the Monaro Highway running south from Canberra and the Elliot Way from Tumbarumba to Cabramurra all pass through stunning landscapes.
There is a fee for vehicles using Kosciuszko National Park, with entry stations on three of the main roads entering the park. Summer Daily passes are $16.00 per vehicle. Winter surcharge Daily passes are $27 (NSW Pensioner Card-holders are exempt from this cost)
Some minor roads may be unsuitable for caravans and hire cars, and donĺ─˘t forget to check the seasonal information if travelling here in winter.
Best Time To Go
The higher regions of the park experience an alpine climate which is unusual on mainland Australia. However, only the peaks of the main range are subject to consistent heavy winter snow. The climate station at Charlotte Pass recorded Australia's lowest temperature of -23.0 °C on 28 June 1994. Skiing in New South Wales takes place during the Southern Hemisphere winter. New South Wales has well-developed downhill ski resorts at Thredbo, Charlotte Pass, Perisher and Selwyn Snowfields. Cross country skiing is possible across the Kosciuszko National Park.
Low altitude and often dry climate; as well as seasonal (early spring) dust storms in the Simpson Desert depositing red dust on the ranges (causing less UV reflection and therefore faster melting) keep the snow season relatively short (June-Oct). The official opening of the ski season for most resorts coincides with the Queens Birthday Long Weekend on the second Monday in June. Heavy snow can fall however, at anytime between April and December in the Australian High Country.