Passing of a wonderland

As Commonwealth Forestry Director, Charles Lane Poole formed a rather special bond with the magnificent Brindabella mountains in the 1930s.

Over his many scientific journeys, field expeditions and bushwalking trips into the heart of this mountain range, Lane Poole fashioned a winter vision. Each winter his adored mountains were blanketed, cloaked in a mesmerising cover of magnificent snow, offering boundless opportunities to connect with a magical winter wonderland.

The inaugural President of the Canberra Alpine Club, Lane Poole had a simple dream. To form a club, to nurture a passionate community devoted to the thrill of downhill skiing.

The tantalising prospects of a winter playground on the doorstep of the nation’s capital must have seemed irresistible for a forester whose career had previously taken him to South Africa, Sierra Leone, Western Australia, Papua and New Guinea.

So it was, in the winter of 1938 amidst the rapturous applause from the assembled crowd, the doors to a magnificent two-storey ski chalet were officially opened. Straddling the NSW and ACT border so as not to pollute the Cotter Catchment, the Mt Franklin ski chalet would stand pride of place for the next 65 years.

With time the club sensed that, climatically, things were changing. The winter snow blanket was becoming less reliable. The club’s focus progressively switched to the ski fields of the Snowy Mountains.

My relationship with these majestic mountains began over 25 years ago. I have been captivated by many a splendid tale of Mt Franklin’s spectacular skiing competitions, vehicles being stranded, club members being marooned in a toasty warm chalet on a cold winters night as the snow continued to fall.

This era abruptly ended during the scorching summer of 2003, when the grand old chalet was razed, engulfed in a cataclysmic fire storm.

I sense that with the global implications of climate change now upon us, it simply doesn’t snow like it did 70 years ago, certainly not enough to justify the likes of a Charles Lane Pool ski chalet.

From time to time a dusting of snow falls across the mountains of the bush capital.

Before venturing into the mountains to experience that snow, plan your trip to stay safe. Given the potentially hazardous road surfaces, our rural roads are not necessarily designed to cope with large volumes of traffic during these wintery conditions. A number of roads may be temporarily closed.

If you’re seeking snow, please consider visiting established winter recreation areas instead. Fortunately the bush capital is spoilt for choice.

To discover the best opportunities visit the Roads ACT closure webpage.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful Platypus.

Article also appeared in The Chronicle