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Pair of wooden skis made from hand-cut mountain ash, with leather bindings

1989.0050.0001

Pair of wooden skis made from hand-cut mountain ash, with leather bindings

Object information

Physical description

Pair of so-called 'butter-pat' wooden skis handmade from hand-cut mountain ash, with leather bindings.

Statement of significance

This collection comprises a pair of wooden "butter-pat" snow skis with leather bindings which were handmade in Kiandra, New South Wales circa 1860-1869. The skis were acquired from Old Adaminaby, New South Wales, circa 1956, and donated to the Museum by Sydney architect, member of the Kosciuszko Alpine Club and team manager for the 1960 Australian Winter Olympics skiing team, Donald Maclurcan OBE.

Following the discovery of gold at Kiandra in the Australian Alps in 1859, many goldminers converged on the area. By the end of December 1860, most had left to seek their fortunes in other goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria. Among those who remained were three Norwegians and a young Chinese man, Chun Yen, whose lives are intertwined with the history of these skis. Originally called 'snow shoes', skis have been in use for thousands of years in arctic countries, primarily as a mode of personal transport and for hunting. In Kiandra in 1860-1861,former ship's carpenter, Elias Gottaas and fellow Norwegians, Soren Torp and Carl Bjerknes began manufacturing Norwegian-style 'snow shoes' from mountain ash timber growing on the lower mountain slopes. In 1861, the three Norweigans founded the Kiandra Snow Shoe Club, later the Kiandra Ski Club and now, the Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club. The Kiandra Snow Shoe Club has been officially recognized by the International Skiing Federation as the first identifiable, and longest surviving, ski club in the world. The term 'snow-shoes' continued in use until the beginning of the 1900s, when skis (from schees) became the popularly used colloquialism. Originally known as 'Kiandra Kick-ins', later versions were called 'Butter-pats', referring to the pattern of grooves on the underside which was similar to that made by a butter-pat tool. The Kiandra Butter-pat was the original ski made specifically for alpine downhill racing, and used during the world's first documented International Snow Shoe Carnival in Australia in 1908. While acting as advisor on architectural aesthetics to the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Authority in 1956-57, Donald Maclurcan found this pair of skis in a shed belonging to Geoffrey Yen in Old Adaminaby, prior to its being flooded as part of the Snowy River Scheme. Mr Yen's grandfather, Chun (Charles)Yen had migrated to Australia from China around 1850 with his friend Boo Shang (John Boonshang). The two first settled in Tumut for some years before moving to Kiandra in the gold rush of 1859. It is not known whether the skis belonged to Chun Yen and were passed down through the Yen family to his grandson Geoffrey. However, according to historical records, the Kiandra Snow Shoe Club held its first special day's racing for Chinese members in the 1860s. Many Chinese participated in skiing, and, from the late 1880s and for the following twenty years, the ladies? downhill events were principally dominated by Barbara, Margaret and Mary Yan, the daughters of another Chinese gold miner, Tom Ah Yan. The Cooma Express, 9 August 1895, described a "Miss M Yan" as "a perfect artist on the shoes". The same year saw Ah Foo win the Chinese race, with Ah Fun coming second, and Ah Wung and Ah Yen tying for third place.

Object information

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