Ski fields in Tasmania, while closer to major cities than those on the mainland, have lower altitude and therefore less reliable snowcover. The first recorded skiing was at Cradle Mountain in 1914, and from the 1920s hardy enthusiasts prepared to undertake strenuous treks to mountaintop snowfields took up the sport. By 1949 there were six club huts in the Mount Field National Park, 96 km from Hobart. Increasing interest, and a jeep track to the Mount Mawson plateau in 1962, meant new clubs and huts, some commercial accommodation, ski training and rentals by 1980. Four rope tows built and operated by volunteers now run whenever snow cover is adequate. The difficult mountaintop terrain requires heavy snowfalls to provide satisfactory downhill skiing, but cross-country touring is a picturesque alternative.

The Northern Tasmanian Alpine Club pioneered skiing on Ben Lomond, 60 km from Launceston, from 1929 despite inadequate road access until 1953. Members built the first tow in 1963. The completion of a tortuous road up Jacobs Ladder by 1966 enabled great development. The new Alpine village included clubs and huts, ski rentals and a ski school attracting large numbers by the end of the 1970s. Tow building and upgrading and the opening of a tavern added appeal. Training for the Ben Lomond Junior racing team lifted ski skills generally and snowboarding became popular, but improved commercial facilities proved costly when poor seasons left them unused. More reliable snowcover at mainland and overseas centres frequently entices Tasmanian skiers elsewhere.

Beginners still enjoy occasional snow coverage despite lack of facilities in the beautiful surroundings at Cradle Mountain. Mount Rufus overlooking Lake St Clair offers skiing to those prepared to trek several hours to slopes without lifts.

Few Tasmanian skiers have competed in Australian racing competitions, but on the local scene, Ben Lomond skier, Czech migrant and forester Tony Stonjek was pre-eminent from 1958-75 in all categories of ski competition jump, langlauf, downhill and slalom.

Further reading: D Murray, The Ben Lomond story, Launceston, 2000; Tasmanian Tourist Bureau, 'Skiing in Tasmania' pamphlets, 1972, 1978, 1980; Ski Council of Southern Tasmania, 'Development of facilities for skiing on Mt Mawson', 1961, TL; Tasmanian Tramp 7, 16, 21, 1947, 1963, 1974.

Anne Rand