Article Index


The Perisher Hut on the Summit Road had long been used as a staging point for skiers and the over-snow transport travelling between the Hotel Kosciusko and both Betts Camp and the Chalet Charlottes Pass. The hut had also been used as overnight accommodation by skiers exploring the Perisher Range and who recognized the area's significant ski potential. Moves by skiers to gain permission from the Kosciusko Park Trust to build huts in the Perisher Valley had commenced in 1949. The Kosciusko Snow Revellers Club (KSR) gained approval in early 1950 for the erection of a 20 bed ski lodge in Perisher. The Telemark Club soon followed with its own building application. 


The first club hut in Perisher was erected by KSR members over the Christmas Weekend in 1950, with water supply and septic tank being connected prior to the 1951 ski season. The club had earlier discovered that there was no local labour available for lodge building, due to the major works then in progress for the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, and that some form of site accommodation was essential for working parties, if the building was to be erected by club members. KSR asked the Trust for permission to erect a temporary hut on the site to accommodate the volunteer workers, with this hut being incorporated in the permanent lodge as the work progressed. The Trust approved this request in September 1950. Construction was sufficiently advanced to provide KSR members with "Spartan" accommodation during the 1951 ski season.
This set the pattern followed for many of the club lodges erected in the 1950's – construction by volunteer labour over two or more years. A major effort was made to get each lodge to the "lock-up stage" before the on-coming winter closed down work on the exterior of the building. This gave a weather-proof shell within which the "fitting-out" could proceed irrespective of weather, but with hygienic but primitive conditions for occupants in the first couple of ski seasons whilst the volunteers finished the lodge. A good standard of workmanship was needed, as powder snow and rain could penetrate any tiny cracks and chinks in the outer fabric, whilst lodges could be partly buried by snow during winter, as shown in Photo No. 10.
Perisher lodge development generally was very slow at first, but accelerated after the complete destruction of the Hotel Kosciusko by fire on 18 April 1951. The many conflicting demands on the budget of the New South Wales State Government prevented the government from replacing the hotel.
The Telemark Lodge operated in the 1952 Ski Season and others soon followed, with Cooma Ski Club, CSIRO and University Alpine Club lodges accommodating members in the 1953 Ski Season. The completed KSR lodge and the Orana Ski Club operated for the first time in the 1954 winter.
Perisher Ski Tow and the club lodges of Warrugang, Sydney and Kandahar Clubs operated for the first time in the 1955 ski season. Built by the members themselves, the lodges had basic dormitory accommodation. For example, the Warrugang Lodge (Photo No. 11) had its ski room, boiler room and entry downstairs. The main floor had a large living room with open fireplace, plus a kitchen and two dormitories each with hot showers and toilets. Opened in May 1963, Perisher Huette was the first club lodge in Perisher Valley to have private en-suite facilities in all its bedrooms.
Ski lodge construction continued steadily each summer in the Perisher Valley with commercial guest lodges being built in addition to club lodges. The Sundeck Hotel was ready for the 1959 ski season and the Man from Snowy River Hotel opened in the winter of 1960. Photo Nos. 13 and 14 were taken in January 1963 and show that many of the buildings at Perisher were partly or completely screened from view by trees. The Sundeck Hotel is the light-brown building in the centre of Photo No.14.
Winter skiing in Perisher Valley in 1955 was not for the faint-hearted. Most skiers had to ski in from the end of the snow-cleared road at the burnt-out Hotel Kosciusko, with a heavy rucksack containing their clothes and fresh food. If their club did not have tinned food stored in the lodge for use in the ski season, then the rucksack would be particularly heavy. The nearest food shop and the nearest hotel were at Jindabyne, one day's travel from Perisher.
In the 1950s, Perisher skiers often applied a small amount of Klister Ski Wax to the sole of each ski under the binding, so as to allow the ski to grip the snow when the skier was climbing to reach the top of a ski slope. Once at the top, the skis would be rubbed back and forward on the snow a couple of times to warm the wax (due to friction) and so allow the skis to run downhill across the snow. Once the skis stopped sliding, the wax would quickly cool and grip once more, to allow the next slope to be climbed.
Uphill ski transport at Perisher in 1955 was provided by two rope tows. The first was a small portable ski tow (about 80m long) operated near KSR Lodge by Ski Instructor Johnny Abbotsmith, who lived in a ski tow hut overlooking the Kosciusko Summit Road, south-west of Smiggin Holes, where he had a more powerful rope ski tow about 150 metres in length. The second tow was located in North Perisher and was about 400 metres in length.
Skiers rode these rope tows by either hanging onto the rope with their hands (which quickly wore out their ski gloves) or using a device shaped like a nut-cracker that was attached by a short length of cord to a belt worn by the skier. Once the skier was moving, the nut-cracker was simply held closed by hand and the pulling force of the rope was applied to the skier via the cord and the belt. The rope moved only a little faster than walking speed so that there was little chance of injury if a skier lost grip of the rope and slid back down the tow track into other skiers. There could also be problems at the top of the tow if there was only a small unloading area onto which the arriving skiers could slide whilst they disengaged from the moving rope and got out of the way of the skiers following on behind (Photo No.15).
The Perisher Tow Hut also provided refreshments and accommodation for its patrons. The Cooma Ski Club Lodge, then located where the mid-station buildings of the Back Perisher Triple Chair are now situated, first operated a 300m long rope tow in the 1958 ski season. The first T-bar ski tow was built in Perisher in 1959 for the Sundeck Hotel development.