Timothy Myers' Happy Place: The “Snowies” – Mt Selwyn
Everyone has a happy place. A patch of land, sea, or mountain where everything makes sense. A geographical and emotional pin, where the past, present, and future can connect easily or meaningfully. For camera journalist Timothy Myers, that place is Mt Selwyn; his childhood home and one of Australia’s first ski fields built by his grandfather.
“My early career first led me to live in Sydney, and now Los Angeles, but it was growing up at Mt Selwyn that I remember most fondly,” says Tim Myers. “You know that feeling when you take someone special back to the place you used to call home, and somehow now everything seems a little bit smaller? All of a sudden, the winding road behind Talbingo doesn’t feel as steep, the high plains at Kiandra don’t feel as vast, and then the hill where you learnt to ski, doesn’t feel as big. Even as I share my own story of this place, I recognize a measure of insignificance after a lifetime of experience lived elsewhere since those formative years. But in fact, Mt Selwyn has a big place in modern Australian history too.”
Mt Selwyn tops out around 1,614 metres in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains. The Mt Selwyn ski field was built by Tim’s grandfather Colin Campbell “C.C.” Myers. In the late-50’s he was pioneering a life in Australia’s high country, charging skiers pennies to be dragged up a slope at the old Kiandra goldfields by a rope-tow spinning through an engine from a Bedford truck. Lift tickets were exchanged out of a duffle bag slung over Col’s shoulder. Tins of pineapple juice were the only commodity on sale, and were sold out of a makeshift shop in front of Colin’s car.
By the time Tim arrived in the 80’s, Col had since purchased a few more ski lifts and moved operations to nearby Mt Selwyn, where he’d grown the resort into a small, but popular family-owned ski resort. It was also Tim’s backyard. From his house on top of the beginner slope at Selwyn, Tim would climb out his second-floor bedroom window onto the roof and ski off it, usually to the horror of his mother.
“In winter I went to school in Cabramurra which was the highest school in Australia, and the only school in the country to ever have an official ‘snow day,’” said Tim. “Having that upbringing in a country known for its coastline was rare and very special. Dad had me on skis at age 18 months, and as a toddler I could ski better than I could walk. Living above the snowline in Australia was a wild way to experience the world from a young age.”
Col’s two kids, Janelle and John (Tim’s father, himself an accomplished alpine ski racer), shared the running of the resort, while Tim, with his siblings and cousins took over the place after the lifts closed. There was no public accommodation on the hill, so after all the punters and workers cleared out, the third generation of the Myers’ clan would commandeer Skidoos, let off fireworks, and generally run free on the roof of Australia. Later, Tim would travel the world as an alpine ski racer and then freeskiier, before he started his career as cinematographer.
The family eventually would hand over the running of the resort in 2016, just two years before Col passed away at age 93. Before he died, Tim and his cousin Kenny spent a few hours interviewing their Grandfather to record the stories of a man who helped shaped Australian alpine culture.
Tim muses, “Col’s passion for skiing saw him build a life for himself and his family in the snow. But his joy came from seeing so many Australians’ discovering snow for the first time, which happened daily right in our backyard. His theory was that if you introduce someone to a set of skis and make that first experience a good one, they will keep coming back. His approach to the mountains and snow sports was a genuine one. I’m lucky to have had that childhood, and now a special connection with a place that so many people have a fond memory of.”
In the summer of 2019/2021, the Black Summer bushfires swept through the Snowy Mountains, destroying Selwyn’s infrastructure and environment. The house Tim grew up in was razed, chairlift’s melted, and vintage machinery gutted.
“Even though they no longer had business with the resort, our family was devastated. Personally – I guess being a journalist – I looked at it from a storytelling perspective... It felt timely, especially so soon after Col passed. The fire was a definitive, all be it tragic, end to a significant chapter of Australian skiing written by my grandfather. A story I look forward to telling properly one day.”
The new owners have rebuilt the infrastructure and aim to reopen the ski resort in 2023. Tim fears for its future given the effects of climate change, but for now the legacy of Col’s tenure at Mt Selwyn lives on with everyone that was first introduced to snow sports on her bunny slope, and who still enjoy the mountains to this day. For Tim, the memories of his home and happy place can never be erased.
“I’m always asked where the best skiing in the world is, and I expect the raised eyebrow when I answer the Australian “Snowies”. I embraced the same passion for skiing as my grandfather, at the very place he built to share his love for the sport. And as unusual as it sounds, that place just happened to be a small family ski resort in a remote part of a sunburnt country. But the Mt Selwyn that I once called home, is as significant to Australia’s cultural identity, as it is to my own.”