recreation and tourism
The remote qualities of the Australian Alps are also of interest for science, including studies of natural systems, geology, geomorphology and plants and animals. This interest continues to attract another sort of recreationist, the field naturalist and observer of nature.
Europeans first went to the Alps to explore and find new areas for grazing, mining and settlement. Many of these explorers, stockmen, geologists and botanists often found their own special recreational pleasure in the rugged magnificence of the mountains.
Historical accounts illustrate the appreciation and wonder that these men felt for the Alps. Strzelecki, who claimed the first ascent of Mount Kosciuszko, wrote about his experience later:
Mt Kosciusko is seen cresting the Australian Alps, in all the sublimity of mountain scenery... (it) is one of those few elevations... (which) present the traveller with all that can remunerate fatigue.
People have continued to value the Alps as a recreational setting, especially in winter. In 1891, the poet Barcroft Boake captured some of the excitement of skiing in ‘The Demon Snow Shoes - a Legend of Kiandra’:
The Eucumbene itself lies dead Fast frozen in its narrow bed; While to and fro the people go In silent swiftness o’er the snow His long, lithe snow shoes sped along In easy rhythm to his song:
Now slowly circling round the hill, Now speeding downward with a will.
Today’s visitors might use different words to describe their experiences, but the feeling is much the same.
Recreation in these early days was low key, a pastime secondary to making a living in the Alps. In the 1860s, miners at Kiandra (NSW) experimented with rough-hewn timber skis on nearby small slopes during the winter. These haphazard skiers were unwittingly introducing skiing to Australia.
Since then, recreation has developed into a major land use of the area. The activities that come under the broad category of recreation are really a series of land uses with varying social, economic and environmental impacts.
Recreation is an important part of contemporary life, and most people now visit the Alps specifically for recreation, rather than enjoying the mountains as part of another core reason for visiting. As a result there has been a growing tendency towards more organised recreational use. In other words, in the early days, recreation was sporadic, individual and ad hoc: stockmen occasionally riding to a summit to admire the view; a local pastoralist heading off, perhaps with a group of friends, for a day of walking in the mountains; miners skiing. In 1907 eminent geologist Edgeworth David described a field trip: ‘Before leaving the Blue Lake the party enjoyed some excellent tobogganing on the snow drifts. Enamelled dinner plates served as toboggans’ - a very different scenario from the extensive chairlifts, pomas and T-bars of ski resorts today.
From the earliest days Increasing use of the Alps by pastoralists, miners and loggers in the 1800s saw the begin- nings of organised recreation. In 1856, miners working the Buckland River goldfield led the first tourist parties of miners up to the plateau to view the striking granite cliffs and tors of
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