Some years ago, I was chatting with my stepmother Linda about the demise of the Mt Buffalo Chalet and the ski lifts at Mt Buffalo and Linda said something that lit my curiosity. That she can remember her grandmother reminiscing about ice skating on Lake Catani at Mt Buffalo, and there is a photo somewhere of Granny doing so.
We all know about the impact of climate change on our weather patterns and rates of snow fall. As a lower elevation mountain, Mt Buffalo was always going to be in climate changes firing line when it came to achieving freezing temperatures. However, what surprised me was when ice skating stopped at Mt Buffalo. It wasn’t that long ago. Lake Catani was a manmade lake initially created in 1910 as water storage for the workers constructing the Mount Buffalo Chalet. After construction finished the lake quickly became a popular recreational spot for the large numbers of tourists visiting the mountain, often by rail.
Lake Catani was the only long track skating circuit in Australia for a while, offering a training circuit for Australia’s budding professional and amateur skaters, even offering the ability to train at night with kerosene lamps dotted around the shore. The first Lessee of the Chalet, John Newton, and his successor in 1919, Norwegian-born Hilda Samsing, hired ice skates to the public and did much to pioneer and promote winter sports in the Victorian Alps.
Australian Ice-Skating team member Eddie Spicer tragically drowned at Lake Catani while skating alone in 1997 and the lake has been closed to skating ever since. No one has reported it sufficiently frozen for skating for decades (https://icelegendsaustralia.com).
This made me think about other alpine resorts and if they had had ice rinks and skating as a winter pastime. I can remember an ice rink at Mt Buller sometime in the 1980’s, located near what is now the bus parking at horsehead hill.
Friend Lisa Logan, latterly of Diana Lodge, remembers an ice rink at Falls in the village bowl on the original tennis court that was in front of Cummings & beside the eagle chair, as does Andrew Rist and several members from AAC.
It was in the late 1890s that reports of ‘real’ ice-skating in the Australian Alps began to appear regularly in the press, as the newly formed Alpine Club, led by photographer Charles Kerry, began exploring around Kiandra and Mt Kosciuszko and promoting the thrills of winter sports.
With the creation of shallow artificial lakes, such as that on Diggers Creek in front of the Hotel Kosciusko (as it was spelt then, with no ‘z’) and on Lake Catani at Mt Buffalo, skating on ice became a far more likely prospect for residents as well as visitors making the journey to the mountains in winter. Encouraged by newly formed state government tourist bureaus, people who had never seen snow before embraced ice skating. The heyday of Alpine ice skating on naturally occurring ice predominantly came to an end at the 1970s, as temperatures warmed (https://www.australiangeographic.com.au).
If you’re an ice skater and are interested in vintage ice skates, come into the shop, and have a look. I’ve got quite a few sets of vintage skates, from the wooden style skate that you tied onto your shoes to the modern iteration of the skate boot.
Skaters on Lake Catani, Mount Buffalo, about 1918. Lake Catani was an artificial lake created to encourage ice skating at the Mount Buffalo tourist resort. Source: Museums Victoria
Former Australian freestyle swimmer Owen Griffiths leads a conga line of ice-skaters on the lake in front of the old Hotel Kosciusko, NSW, in the 1930s. Image credit: R.R. Ramsay/State Library of New South Wales
Eddie Spicer at Lake Catani in the late 1970’s
Have a great week and see you in store!
Above Foodworks, slight right through the public seating, through the bathroom corridor & up the short flight of stairs.