THE ALPS AT THE CROSSROADS AND THE GROWTH OF THE AAC AFTER 1962

This eighth installment of the AAC's ski heritage photos takes the reader back about thirty to fifty years to chart the growth of the Australian Alpine Club. During the period from 1962 through to 1987, there was further expansion of resort-based skiing facilities in NSW and in Victoria. The AAC expanded rapidly, building four lodges in the ten years from 1963 to 1973, three of which were in Victoria. Despite the opening of its newest lodge at Dinner Plain in Victoria in 1987, it had become clear that the prevailing government policies would not allow the AAC to achieve its dream of establishing a chain of ski touring lodges across the Australian Alps. In fact the authorities compulsorily acquired, and later demolished, Albina Lodge.

The Wykeham Perry painting represents Australian skiing in the 1960's and 1970's, when skiing through the trees on winding ski trails ("Wood Runs") was more popular than at present and skiers often paused to take in the magnificent scenery.

SIMULTANEOUS OPENING OF TWO NEW AAC LODGES IN 1963

Perisher Huette and Falls Creek Huette were both opened on the 1963 Queen's Birthday weekend, following a ten month period of intense activity, which had commenced on Wednesday 5 September 1962, when the Ski Tourers Association (STA) accepted the offer from Lend Lease to purchase the STA's Kareela Lodge for £12,000.

It had become apparent to Charles Anton during 1962 that his problems with the Kosciuszko State Park Trust were unlikely to be resolved quickly. These problems involved obtaining sites for the proposed Perisher Huette and for additional ski touring huts above the Winter snowline in the Kosciuszko State Park. He was aware of the major ski village advances being made in Victoria (described in the Seventh Installment) and concluded that Victoria provided more opportunities for ski club developments than did NSW. Quite a few Victorian skiers had joined and/or used the Ski Tourers Association lodges in NSW (such as Bill Bridgford, head of the lift company at Falls Creek and a long-standing Kunama member and also Malcolm McColl, who skied the Lake Albina area with Frank Spencer). Charles decided that he needed to reactivate old skiing acquaintances in order to begin a thrust into the Victorian Alps, commencing at Falls Creek. He made visits to Falls Creek and to Melbourne to make new contacts at all levels from the Premier of Victoria and state parliamentarians (such as Tom Mitchell, who was the Upper House Member for the North-East) down to key members of the Falls Creek Development Committee. An important new contact was Geoff Henke, a Winter Olympian (ice hockey), a Board Member of the Ski Club of Victoria, a director of the Falls Creek lift company and managing director of the J. Molony Ski Shop.

Bill Bridgford successfully negotiated, in November 1962, to obtain a club site for the STA at Falls Creek in the name of the Reindeer Ski Club. With a lodge already in Thredbo, the STA's activities now included resort skiing as well as ski touring and its activities were no longer confined to NSW, as indicated by Geoff Henke's J. Molony Ski Shop providing the AAC with a Melbourne-based Victorian Office.

Charles also decided that he needed more friends in "high places" in order to rapidly progress the development of new skier facilities in the snowfields. He decided the STA needed to establish its national significance by changing the STA name to the Australian Alpine Club (AAC) in late 1962 and then securing Vice-Regal Patronage. Charles thought he might be able to win his arguments with the Kosciusko State Park Trust, by invoking the Governor General's status as Head of the Federal Government. The minutes of the AAC Committee Meeting of 5 February, 1963, record the receipt of "A letter from the Governor General's Aide-de-camp, Tyrell, pointed out that personal political or individual fracas within the KOSCIUSKO STATE PARK would not be tolerated by the Governor General, unless he was fully informed on all matters pertaining thereto, and his direction would be final."

An impressive new letterhead (Photo No.1) was designed to reflect the AAC's newly enhanced status under its newly acquired Vice-Regal Patronage.

In his last STA Bulletin for 1962, Charles reported to the STA members that a Falls Creek lodge site had duly been secured. He requested that any STA members interested in joining the new project, to please contact him. He received only one response and that was from Warren Peck, a Sydney-based Kareela Member who mainly skied at Perisher, but who was scheduled to be relocated to Melbourne (for work reasons) in early 1963.

Unlike Perisher Huette, that had the benefit of more than one hundred Kareela members, plus the £12,000 in the bank from the sale of the Kareela Lodge, the proposed AAC Falls Creek Huette had no members and no money in the bank. Life Foundation Memberships were to be sold for £50 each and 200 would need to be sold to raise £10,000 – the likely cost of building a lodge in four months using paid tradesmen, since there were no members at that stage to provide volunteer labour. The economic conditions at that time were difficult, following the 1961 "credit squeeze", and could best be described as a mild economic recession. Not much money was available in the general community at that time for "luxuries", such as skiing holidays. Charles was questioned about finance for the new AAC Falls Creek lodge by the Victorian Executive of the AAC, but he gave an airy assurance of "no worries".


FALLS CREEK HUETTE 1963

Charles used the same formula to promote this new project as he had used late in 1962 to promote the new Perisher Huette. This was a "Lodge Launching Gluehwein Party" and the production of attractive 8 page (folded) colour brochures describing the aims and objectives of the AAC in both the NSW and Victorian Alps. These brochures detailed the benefits of joining the proposed new AAC lodges at Falls Creek and Perisher Valley (Photo No. 2). The brochures were widely distributed using the AAC mailing list which, at the time, had listed very few Victorian skiers.

The brochures promoting the AAC and the two new lodge projects, had to be mailed to many more potential Falls Creek members. For this purpose, Geoff Henke and Warren Peck met (for the first time) at Geoff's home in early February, where they were joined by Jennie Ham, to mail out these new AAC brochures to keen skiers whose mailing addresses were known to either Geoff or Jennie. Personalised notes for each intended recipient were written on each person's invitation to the April 5, 1963, Lodge Launching Gluehwein Party, and inserted in each envelope with each brochure. The result was a packed venue for the gluehwein party, but only twenty memberships were sold!

Geoff Henke suggested that Warren, who had been nominated as Chairman by Charles, should approach Peter de Crespigny (a very keen Falls Creek skier) to join the committee of the Falls Creek Huette. Fortunately, Peter did join and made very substantial contributions to the success of the AAC in Victoria through recruiting his many skier contacts to the new AAC project. Not only was he heavily involved in establishing the Falls Creek Huette, but he also became the key member of the Foundation Committees of Patscherkofel Lodge and Anton Huette. Peter was also AAC President from 1970 to 1972.

"The Lodge Launching Gluehwein Party to celebrate the inauguration of the AAC's first building project in Victoria, was held at the Little Reata, Melbourne, on Friday, April 5, 1963, with proceeds in aid of the Spastic Children's Society. Highlights included "Stimmings Musik" by a harp and zither combo, the Lodge Launching Ceremony performed by Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes, and an "Alpine Fur Fashion Parade" which included what Charles considered the ultimate in furs – a fur bikini modeled by Jennie Ham." (Twenty-one Years of the Australian Alpine Club, edited by Wendy Cross, published by the AAC in 1972).

With only 20 paid-up members and £1,000 in the Huette's bank account, it was necessary to arrange finance from the AAC, from Charles personally, and from the Bank of NSW (guaranteed by Lindsay Allsop). Construction commenced on the foundations of the Falls Creek Huette on March 19, 1963 and the first snow for 1963 fell on March 20. Some photos of the Huette's construction are contained in the First Installment of this AAC Ski Heritage Series. The Huette's prefabricated walls were delivered to site on the Easter Weekend and the lock-up stage was reached on Anzac Weekend, just five weeks after site work had commenced. "The Huette was ready for the scheduled Queen's Birthday Opening, despite difficulties with snow and deep mud that resulted in every sheet of plaster, every fitting and every item of furniture having to be manhandled to the lodge from the car park," by builder John Ritchie and his team, assisted by Carol and Warren Peck, Rodney Moss, Ken Long and Peter de Crespigny.

The fundamental difficulty for the committee of the Falls Creek Huette was that Victorian skiers (used to club work parties) were skeptical of new ski lodge projects where construction was yet to start on the proposed lodge, or where there was only a partly-built shell in existence. They simply were unable to believe that a club could be founded and a lodge built in just six months. Hence, only about 40 memberships had been sold by the time the lodge commenced functioning on the 1963 Queen's Birthday Weekend. But by August, 1963, a further 48 had been sold, with another 30 being sold before the end of the 1963 ski season. As a consequence of the large numbers of children enrolled as members, the members decided to limit membership to 120 and to contribute long-term loans to cover the balance of the Huette's initial construction costs. This was done to ease the likely high demand for the Huette's 14 beds during school holidays, that would have otherwise existed, had the original target of 200 members been reached.

"The Falls Creek Huette in its early years introduced several innovations to the AAC, such as annual subscriptions, project and inter-project races, weekend bookings and Sunday to Sunday weekly bookings. Its members believed in domestic autonomy of individual projects, a view which Charles Anton clearly respected because he did not interfere in any way with the Huette's operation. The AAC Constitution . . . originated from the ideas of the Falls Creek Huette's membership."

"By 1969, it had become apparent that the Huette would have to spend a considerable sum of money to improve the heating and hot water systems and the question arose as to whether it would not be better to sell out and build an entirely new lodge. Rodney Moss made an approach to the Falls Creek Tourist Area Management Committee about the possibility of obtaining a site in the new high-rise sub-division situated very close to the Tow Terminal in the Frying Pan area. With the high standing of the AAC in Falls Creek, the club's application for a site was successful – on condition that it erected a top class building. . . .Within a very short period, the original Huette had been sold to Lauriston Girls' School for $33,500. When this was done, the possibility of erecting a luxurious lodge on the new site became a reality. Work began at the end of the 1970 season, on the new 30-bed lodge. Club membership was increased from 120 to 210." (Twenty-one Years of the Australian Alpine Club, edited by Wendy Cross, published by the AAC in 1972).

The new Huette, entirely built by paid tradesmen in 1970/71, was the most luxurious of all the AAC lodges erected up until that time. It was the second AAC lodge to boast en-suite facilities (Perisher Huette was the first in 1963) with the bedroom wing well isolated from the living areas. A manager's flat was included and its first occupant was Ted Hopkins, the Falls Creek Ranger. The new lodge was opened on the Saturday before the Queen's Birthday Weekend, 1971 and Photo No. 4 shows the lodge on opening day.

Following Victoria's Black Saturday bushfire disaster in 2009, the Falls Creek Huette's fire-rating now has to be increased for safety reasons, as have those of many other ski lodges. This involves protection of the external cladding (including the windows) against ember attack and timber cladding ignition, due to the high levels of radiant heat that can be experienced during a bushfire.


PERISHER HUETTE 1963

The AAC's 1962 decision to build a lodge in the Perisher Valley was influenced by the valley's significant advantages, such as the relatively high altitude of its ski runs, and the need to find a new home for the 90 members of AAC's Kareela Lodge, whose lodge had been sold to the Lend Lease Corporation at the end of the 1962 Ski Season. The concept for Perisher was presented in a brochure prepared to attract Perisher Skiers to join the AAC as Perisher Huette life foundation members, for a fee of £50 ($100). Part of that brochure, showing the proposed lodges location, is presented as Photo No. 5.

Following the successful "Lodge Launching Gluehwein Party" (in aid of the NSW Spastic Centre) at the Angus Steak Cave, Sydney, on December 7, 1962, the lease for the Huette's site was acquired on February 1, 1963. Work on the plans had commenced in October 1962 with the aim of having a small manager's flat plus 12 double bunkrooms for members and their guests, each room with an independent ensuite containing shower, handbasin and toilet. It was the first AAC Lodge to have the luxury of individual bathrooms and toilets for each bedroom and quite possibly was the first club lodge in the Perisher Valley to have such facilities. In addition to Charles Anton, the other committee members were Brian Robinson (Chairman), Alfred Morgan and Lindsay Allsop. Charles negotiated a very low price with the selected builder.

Work commenced on the foundations on February 19, 1963 and fortunately, the snow came late in that year. The Huette opened for business on the Queen's Birthday Holiday weekend in June, with Dawn Vozab as the first manageress. The Vozab family moved into the manager's flat from Warrugang Lodge next door, which they had previously managed. Despite its location in amongst the trees, a blast of cold air surged upstairs into most parts of the building, every time the front door was opened (Photo Nos.6 & 7). There was not an effective airlock inside the front door. Following the severe blizzards and very heavy snowfalls of 1964, the lodge entrance was extensively altered and Lou Vozab was asked to open up a large area beneath the bedroom wing, as a playroom for children and an area for member's lockers. Draughts still seemed to be able to enter the lodge through any slight gaps where the vertical timber boards abutted each other. Whenever the lodge was jolted by a wind gust, the carpet would rise up from the floor. More vertical boards were placed over the existing boards each Summer, so as to better seal the walls.

A gap in the external timber cladding is clearly visible in Photo No.6. It is above the windows to the left of the door that provides access onto the balcony. The underlying white insulating building paper is visible between the edges of two abutting weatherboards. Photo No. 8 shows work in progress in 1965 to provide a more sheltered front entrance to the Huette. The external cladding problems for Perisher Huette were not finally fixed until Leon Smith removed the entire external cladding in 1989, installed marine plywood across the exterior of the lodge's timber frame to provide a durable, new water-proof and draught-free seal, and then replaced the external cladding, using unwarped, treated vertical boards over the outside of the marine plywood.

When David Hayes was elected Chairman of Perisher Huette in 1968, his Committee consisted of Mrs Gertie Koenig, Ian Rae, Martin McCurrich and Simon Wright, and this team remained together during four years of constant repair and improvement. Most noteworthy, was the major addition to the rear of the building to double the size of both the kitchen and the manager's flat.

"The Perisher Huette Committee produced The Ski Tourers' Handbook for the AAC in 1970, during which year it also staged (with great success) the AAC Winter Race Meeting . . . ."

"The history of Perisher Huette, like that of so many other early AAC projects, began in great tribulation and at first seemed destined to be a history of misfortune. However Brian Robinson, Leon Smith, Dr John Edye, George Reeves, the Morgans, Gordon McDermott, David Hayes and a long list of capable workers have turned it, instead, into a record of success." (Twenty-one Years of the Australian Alpine Club, edited by Wendy Cross, published by the AAC in 1972)


THE AAC's MID SUMMER RACES

The suggestion of holding "a summer slalom race" on the snowdrifts on the south-eastern side of the Kosciuszko Main Range "every Boxing Day – snow permitting" was first made by Margaret and Charles Anton in an article titled "Drift Ski-ing in Mid-Summer" in the 1949 Ski Year Book, which describes their use of horses (from the Chalet Charlottes Pass) to access these drifts over the Christmas – New Year Period (Photo No.9). The article indicates that Charles had been skiing the drifts every Christmas Holidays, starting in 1946. In some years in the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's, there could still be quite a good cover of snow at Lake Albina in December (Photo No.10), and there was Photo No. 9 Mid-Summer Drift Skiing onMt. Northcote, 1948 (M.E. Anton) Photo No. 10 Lake Albina Lodge in December 1960 (Warren Peck) often a very large snowdrift on the south side of Mt. Northcote (near Lake Albina), even in those years of average snowfall. The AAC Summer Races were usually held on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year, with the first Mid Summer Races on 29 December 1951. That race was held on the South America Drift, 1.6 km in length, on the south side of Mt. Northcote, so named because of its characteristic shape (Photo No. 11). On five occasions in the first twenty years (1954, 1959, 1961, 1963 and 1969), the race was cancelled due to the drifts being too small to host a slalom ski race. For one of the races, when horses were still allowed in the Kosciuszko National Park, an entire riding school was able to ride over to the South America Drift from Seaman's Hut, to watch skiers hurtling down the snowdrift in summer.

The 11th Mid Summer Races were able to be held at Thredbo on Sunday 27 December 1964, in bright sunshine adjacent to a chairlift, thus making the races easily accessible for the first time, to the more than one thousand spectators who rode up the chairlift from the village, many dressed in colorful summer clothing. Charles Anton, dressed in "Summer Attire", was the course announcer. It was even possible to include a ski jumping event in the program. The results are summarized in the tables that follow.

Jump
1st Kore Grunnsund
2nd S. Leigh
3rd K. Nekvapil

HANS NEERING MEMORIAL TROPHY (Giant Slalom)
Men Woman
1st Otto Dorfer Annette Szeloczky
2nd A. Studley Indi Mitchell
3rd M. Tinsley & S. Turnbull L. McClutche

ALBINA SUMMER SLALOM CUP
Men Woman
1st A. Studley Annette Szeloczky
2nd R. Down Indi Mitchell
3rd Harry Malcher Elyne Mitchell

Well-known author, Elyne Mitchell, was the first Australian to win a major ski race event abroad, when she won the Canadian Women's Downhill Championship at Banff in 1938 (Photo No. 13). It was a very credible effort for her to compete 26 years later in the Ladies Albina Summer Slalom at Thredbo and to win third prize. Elyne's daughter, Indi, won second prize and 13 year old Annette Szeloczky of Thredbo Village won first prize. Sir William Hudson presented prizes to the summer race winners (Photo No. 14).

In AAC Bulletin No.41, Vol.15, (January 1965) Charles Anton paid tribute to the race committee of the Ski Council of NSW, the operating company Kosciusko Thredbo and "the help of stalwarts such as Tony Sponar, Bob Arnott, Paul Reader, George Derschko, Beppi Gutknecht, David Crozier, Karel Nekvapil, Frank Prihoda plus many others".

Charles also wrote, "After the successful conclusion of the races, the prizes were presented by Sir William Hudson, Commissioner Snowy Mountains Authority and President of the Australian National Ski Federation. This was Sir William's last official act as ANSF President . One often wonders how many NSW skiers realize what a tremendous debt we owe to Sir William Hudson's vision and his devotion to the Snowy Mountains Area. It was his early recognition of the great tourist potential which his new roads presented and his selfless assistance to those of us who in the 1950's planned the first commercial developments, that made the initial breakthrough at Thredbo possible. Thredbo Village and thus all the other commercial ski areas in the Snowy Mountains which followed in our wake, to no small extent owe their existence to Sir William Hudson."


ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF ACCESS TO CHARLOTTES PASS

In Winter, Charlottes Pass is surrounded by snow and the access road can be buried under snowdrifts several metres thick. Dog teams (Photo Nos. 15 16 17) were used in the period 1930 to 1950 for mail deliveries etc., where the use of an engine-powered over-snow vehicle ( Photo No. 18) was not warranted.

Two chairlifts, whose routes are shown in Photo No. 19, were built from Charlottes Pass over the Ramshead Range and down to the Alpine Way, the nearest all-weather road to the Chalet. These chairlifts were intended to be the main access for skiers going to and from Charlottes Pass for their holidays. Photo No. 20 is an advert explaining what the new chairlifts should achieve.

The photos (Nos. 22 & 24) attributed to Walkom, were published in his 1991 book, "Skiing off the Roof", describing the history of the NSW Government Chalet at Charlottes Pass, which was then sold to Private Enterprise in early 1963 and has been privately operated since then.

But the new chairlifts to the Thredbo River were a failure, because the lifts could not safely operate in bad weather when strong winds were blowing. This lift line was abandoned in 1966 and its towers were subsequently demolished. Steel from the dismantled towers was still lying on the ground in August 1979 (Photo No. 25). The Stillwell Restaurant (at the mid-point along the Chalet to Thredbo River route, where skiers and Chalet guests changed from one chairlift to the other chairlift) survived until about 1982, in a derelict condition in its very exposed position, on the crest of the Ramshead Range.


MASTERPLAN FOR AAC VICTORIAN LODGE DEVELOPMENT

The aim was to establish AAC lodges in the three main Victorian Ski Resorts – Falls Creek, Hotham and Buller. After the Falls Creek Huette was opened in 1963, Charles was very keen that the next Victorian AAC lodge should be built at Hotham, because of its ski touring potential, particularly in the direction of Mount Feathertop (via the Razorback Spur) and the Bogong High Plains (via the Loch Spur). He wanted to position the AAC lodge on the Alpine Road in between these two spurs, as shown in his 1963 sketch map reproduced as Photo No. 26.

PATSCHERKOFEL LODGE MOUNT BULLER 1966

Charles Anton was keen to build the next AAC lodge at the Diamentina on Mt. Hotham, but his Victorian colleagues were concerned that a lodge at that site would be remote from the most likely sites for the inevitable future Hotham ski village and therefore unable to readily connect to future village services, such as water and electric power. They decided to first launch an AAC project at Mount Buller. The first Committee consisted of Peter de Crespigny, Warren Peck, Geoff Henke, Malcolm McColl and Eric Burt. During Autumn 1964, they issued invitations (Photo Nos. 27 & 28) to well known Buller skiers, some of whom also skied in other resorts and hence would particularly value the AAC's reciprocity between its various lodges.

The project's name was chosen because the thoughts of skiers from around the world were fixed on Patscherkofel Mountain near Innsbruck, Austria, where the 1964 Winter Olympics were about to be held. Eric Burt, then a skiers' representative on the Mt. Buller Committee of Management, facilitated the transfer to the AAC of Patscherkofel's present site on the corner of The Avenue and Breathtaker Road. From a skiing viewpoint, it is one of the best positions on Mt. Buller, being approximately 100 metres from the south-facing runs in the Bull Run area, whilst the more sheltered runs near the Bourke Street Run are only a gentle downhill run of about 200 metres. An AAC advertisement was also placed in the January 1964 Catalogue for the J. Molony Ski Shop and this advert is presented as Photo No. 29.

When the artist's impression of the proposed lodge was drawn at the end of 1963 (Photo No. 29), the Patscherkofel Committee had not finalized the lease of the lodge site nor had engaged an architect. Hence the proposed lodge is shown as a single storey building on a flat site. The building, as sketched, could have been constructed quite cheaply in 1964 using pre-fabricated standard modules, then available from a factory in the Melbourne suburbs. However, once key design issues were considered, such as the potentially heavy snow-loading on the roof, the likely excessive heat loss through the walls and the need to have airlocks for all doors that accessed the snow, the Committee decided to engage Malcolm McColl, a very experienced Melbourne snow architect, with over 20 years experience of designing snow buildings, including the Cleve Cole Memorial Hut near the top of Mt. Bogong.

Whilst Patscherkofel Lodge was being built, Leon Smith, Chairman of the AAC's Lake Albina Ski Lodge Ltd., received a letter dated 23 December 1965 from the Kosciuszko State Park Trust, announcing the Trust's intention to resume the club's Lake Albina Ski Lodge. Charles Anton said, in a note to Warren Peck dated 29 December, "Trouble seems never to cease. However, this one we will have to fight tooth and nail". Many meetings were held and many submissions were made stating the strong reasons (in the interest of the skiing public) for Albina's continued existence. After lengthy negotiations, the lodge was very reluctantly handed over to the Trust in November, 1969.

Meanwhile, construction of Patscherkofel continued and the committee's thoughts turned to the official opening in May 1966. Charles Anton was invited to open Patscherkofel, but Charles tried to get various celebreties to open the lodge, such as Prime Minister Harold Holt, because Charles felt the publicity would assist the sale of Patscherkofel memberships. A copy of Harold Holt's letter of reply to Charles' invitation is presented in Photo No. 30, onto which Charles had typed a letter to Warren Peck, advising his travel details to Melbourne and mentioning that his wife, Yutta might not be able to attend, because of her need to look after their younger child. The Prime Minister's letterhead has not copied very well onto Photo No. 30, due to fading over the past 47 years, but the Commonwealth of Australia Coat of Arms and the words "Prime Minister, Canberra" had actually been etched by the copying process into the paper that Charles sent to Warren.

In his third paragraph, Harold Holt states he has studied Charles' submission on the proposed master plan for Kosciusko (under which the AAC's Lake Albina Lodge would be compulsorily acquired by the Trust). In the fourth paragraph Harold says "I am afraid it is impossible for Zara and myself to be with you for the opening of Patscherkofel Huette at Mount Buller . . . .". Harold has written at the bottom of his letter "Kind regards from Zara and myself to Yutta and yourself, Harold".

When construction commenced, the only access to the lodge was from Breathtaker Road on the high side of the building. Hence the main entry to the lodge was designed to be from the high side. During the final stages of lodge construction, the Mt. Buller Committee of Management built an entirely new road (The Avenue) right past the Patscherkofel Lodge's back door! Last minute lodge design change needed!

The Official Opening of Patscherkofel Lodge was held on Saturday 28th May, 1966, at 8.00 pm. Some photos of this event are contained in the Second Installment of this Ski Heritage Series. Charles and his young son, Phillip, arrived at Mt. Buller immaculately attired in Lederhosen, embroided weskits and feathery Tyrolean hats. Charles was enthusiastically pushing that evening, for detailed planning to build an AAC Mt. Hotham Lodge to begin at once.

None of those present for the Patscherkofel Official Opening, would have guessed that this would be Charles' last official duty as President of the AAC.

Patscherkofel was originally built as a two-storey building with a store-room and drying room in the basement. The first floor had a foyer, lounge, dining room and kitchen with an ample supply of the latest fittings. On the same floor was a bar-den ("Peter's Pit") and, in the Accommodation Wing, seven bedrooms and two large bathrooms. The upper floor had another seven bedrooms and two bathrooms. The lodge uses a combination of electricity and gas for cooking, lighting and refrigeration, so that it can still function in the event of failure of one of these two services.

Entry into the building from The Avenue was improved in 1970 by adding a new entrance and a manager's flat (Photo 31). After a further 16 years of trouble-free operation, a very extensive rebuild was undertaken over the 1987-88 Summer. The significantly upgraded and enlarged lodge was officially opened in June 1988 by Dr. Noel Carter, the then AAC President. It is sad to note that Noel subsequently died later in that year after a long illness.

The team of Peter de Crespigny and Warren Peck, that had lead the Falls Creek Huette Committee in the early sixties, also lead the AAC team developing the Patscherkofel Lodge project at Mount Buller in the mid-sixties and went on to lead the AAC's Anton Huette Project at Mount Hotham in the early seventies. Both Peter and Warren subsequently each served a two-year term as President of the AAC, presumably as recognition of their pioneering work in establishing the AAC's first three lodges in Victoria.


CHARLES ANTON
Founder and First President of the AAC

Charles Anton was born in Austria in 1917 and migrated to Australia in 1938. He passed away in Cooma Hospital on September 17, 1966, the victim of a rare form of meningitis. When World War 2 broke out in 1939, he joined the "Aliens Section" of the Australian Armed Forces. In September 1945, an Allied Services Ski Meeting was held at Charlotte's Pass and Private C.W. Anton is recorded as having finished 4th in the Downhill event and 3rd in the Slalom. This was Charles' first taste of skiing in Australia and he found, on subsequent ski trips that Spring, that his new country had mile upon mile of glorious snow country with runs comparable to some of the best in Europe.

The various installments of this Australian Ski Heritage Study, have covered the development of the AAC from its founding meeting in Sydney on 10 November 1950 to the 1980's and Charles Anton's pivotal role as President. In addition, the Sixth Installment described the very substantial contributions to the creation of the Thredbo Ski Resort made by Charles in the 1950's, as a leading member of the founding syndicate. Despite the loss of the AAC's charismatic leader in 1966 and the subsequent departure from the AAC in the 1990's of three of the lodges that Charles had helped to create, the AAC lives on with five ski lodges still operating under the AAC's banner.

When news of his passing reached Melbourne on 18 September, 1966, Warren wrote a tribute that was published in the Newsletters of the Falls Creek Huette and Patscherkofel Lodge. The following paragraphs are excerpts from those Newsletters describing what it was like to be working with a "human dynamo".

"During the 1954-55 seasons all units worked well; then, in 1956, disaster. In the short span of three weeks Kunama was destroyed by avalanche and the Tow House was burnt to the ground. In three weeks the results of three years hard work had been completely wiped out. With only Albina left, rebuilding on the Main Range was well nigh impossible under new Park Trust Regulations. The Trust's current attempt to take over Albina would, if successful, complete the process started by the elements ten years ago. No wonder Charles strenuously resisted the take-over right up to the time of his death. He spent his very last day of skiing visiting Albina." (a couple of days before he died in Cooma Hospital, after illness had rendered him unconscious at Roslyn Lodge).

"The Falls Creek Project was the first time I worked in close collaboration with Charles and the experience is best described as exhilarating. The early morning phone calls, the letters typed while he was travelling, and the flying visits to Melbourne, to Falls Creek, and to Mr Bolte, really kept us (his fellow committee-men) on our toes. We wavered at times, but always Charles' infectious enthusiasm overcame our doubts."

"When things really looked black (for the Falls Creek Huette Project) he generously loaned the project nearly $4,000. Spurred on by his optimism, work started on the Huette on 19th March 1963, and it was finished in time for the Queen's Birthday Opening."

"Charles had hoped to continue the Club's expansion by building at Hotham in 1964, but was persuaded to wait, as Hotham, with its 'limitless possibilities and an infinite variety of slopes, second to none in Australia', seemed poised on the brink of a Thredbo-like development. In the meantime, the Patscherkofel Lodge Project, Mt Buller, was launched by the Club."

"Less than a fortnight before his untimely death, Charles and I had a long talk together at Falls Creek about the future plans of the AAC, particularly in Victoria. It clearly gave him pleasure to hear of our proposals for building a Club Lodge at Hotham. His enthusiasm for this project, and for skiing in general, will always be a source of inspiration. Appropriately, the text chosen for the memorial service at St. Mark's Church, Darling Point in Sydney, at which we paid our sad last respects, was 'Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?' (Job 38.22). Charles Anton certainly had, and he spent much of his life making it possible for others to do likewise."

Following cremation, Charles Anton's ashes were placed in a niche carved out of the granite near the top station of the Thredbo Chairlift, by Leon Smith, in a month of hard work in a very exposed location (Photo Nos.33 & 34). On the Queen's Birthday Weekend, 1968, following a memorial service conducted by the Reverand David Hayes, this time in the Thredbo snow that Charles loved so much, the NSW Minister for Lands, Mr Tom Lewis, unveiled a commemorative plaque designed by Otto Erneg (who also designed the Kareela Huette, where Yutta and Charles were married in 1959, only a few hundred metres from Charles' final resting place). The plaque reads as follows:-

An entire mountain had been named after Charles Anton in 1967. Mt. Anton, 2019 metres altitude, is located on the Great Dividing Range (the "Main Range") about 1.6 km north-east of Mt. Twynam and 3 km west-north-west of Illawong Lodge. The announcement of its naming was made in the NSW Government Gazette on November 10, 1967 – the AAC's 17th birthday.

All who met Charles Anton quickly became aware of his determination and ability to get things done – and done now! Action was his key-word and he not only knew how to achieve the goals of the AAC, but also what had to be done to create a ski resort at Thredbo. He could enthuse friends and enrage the bureaucrats, who were trying to limit the Anton initiatives at Thredbo and for ski touring. If blocked, he always found a way around the obstacle. Charles Anton proved to be a man of extraordinary vision. His concept of an association crossing State boundaries and bringing the ability to ski in several Australian resorts, to as many families as possible, through ski booking reciprocity between lodges, is one of his legacies to Australia's skiers.


ANTON HUETTE MOUNT HOTHAM 1973

Charles Anton had explored the possibilities of a "Thredbo-type" development at Mt. Hotham in the mid-1960's, as recorded in the AAC Bulletin No.41 to the AAC members and in a letter dated 4 February 1965 to AAC office bearers and key Victorian Skiers such as Ken Myer, Bill Bridgford, Bruce Bretherton, Eric Burt, Warrand Begg, Ian Darby (the then skier-chairman of the Mt. Hotham Committee of Management) and George Chisholm. Charles had lunched the previous week with six of the key Victorians to discuss the low-level Hotham access option and it was agreed to reconnoiter the possible options in April 1965. Action on building an AAC lodge at Hotham was delayed because Charles wanted it to be built in the proposed low level village with its proposed year-round easy access, should that low level village eventuate.

Whereas Thredbo's low-level access was provided by an already existing access road built for the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, the Victorian Authorities had no need for a similar low-level access to the Hotham area, such as a road along the West Kiewa and the Diamantina Rivers. In Bulletin No.42 dated 27 October 1965, Charles had reported that "Developments at Hotham have been slow" because the Victorian Government had not yet introduced legislation to allow binding franchises to be issued for uphill transport etc., in its ski resorts. Additionally, the Government had yet to commit to the investigation of a low-level access road to Mt. Hotham. The "Thredbo-type" development of Hotham was put on hold, as was the AAC's Hotham Huette.

Hotham Heights and so Peter de Crespigny and Warren Peck went to Hotham to inspect potential lodge sites on a weekend during the ski season. They aimed to find a site that was reasonably protected from the full force of Hotham's Winter storms. Hence the weekend they chose for their inspection visit, was forecast to have strong winds with snow flurries. They first inspected some flat areas close to the Alpine Road near the Sun Run T-Bar ski lift and Loch Spur. Both men were blown over several times in the blustery conditions ! Clearly these were unsuitable sites for a ski lodge. They then walked back along the Alpine Road through the Hotham Heights Village to the Davenport Subdivision. The most sheltered undeveloped land they could find was located between two, rarely used ski runs, on which site Anton Huette (Photo No. 37) was subsequently built. The only service then available to lodges was running water. Each Hotham lodge had to provide its own means of lighting and heating the lodge as well as a means of cooking food.

The lodge was opened in 1973 and subsequently had its "teething problems". In order to save money, the electricity generator was installed in the basement of the lodge, rather than in a separate building. After several problems, culminating in a fire that was fortunately confined to the generator room, the lodge was closed a couple of weeks before the end of its first ski season and a new stand-alone generator building was constructed over the 1973/74 Summer.

The Anton Members are very interested in the AAC Ski Races and in Ski Touring. Under the leadership of Dr Noel Carter in 1977, the Anton members, with the assistance of John Brownlie of Algona Guides, expanded the scope of the original AAC Ski Tourers Handbook (that had been prepared in the 1960's by Perisher Huette), so as to include Victorian and Tasmanian ski fields. Every AAC member received a copy in 1978 and copies of this 112 page book, "Ski Touring in Australia", were sold through outdoor and ski shops under the Algona Guides banner (Photo No. 38). At 120mm by 180mm, it fitted neatly into an outer pocket of a rucksack. In 1986, John Siseman, Warren Peck and John Brownlie revised and expanded it to 136 pages in a bigger format (135mm by 215mm). All copies of this Second Edition were sold by 1992.


WATER FROM THE ROCK - PERISHER VALLEY 1974

The geotechnical consulting engineering firm of Golder Moss Pty Ltd was retained in 1974 by Publishers Holdings Pty Ltd, the operators of the Perisher Valley Hotels and ski lifts, to investigate the feasibility of obtaining about 450,000 litres of ground water per day from waterbores in the Perisher Valley, as a possible alternative to piping water about 5km from the valley of Betts Creek located to the south-west of Perisher Valley. Warren Peck, suggested that ground water in usable quantities would be located in fractures in the granite bedrock and possibly also in the soil cover overlying the fractures. This water has soaked into the ground from snow melt and rain. It accumulates in the pores of the soil and in the natural fissures in the granite.

If a waterbore is located in linear major rock fractures called lineaments, it can often tap into significant amounts of water. Such features are more easily seen on aerial photographs, than during a ground survey. The sites of several lineaments were confirmed by seismic surveys in February 1974. Bores were drilled in March 1974 to test how much water could be obtained from the soil and fractured rock along two prominent lineaments in the Perisher Valley.

The Rock Creek Valley Lineament south-west of Perisher Village yielded about 50,000 litres per day from a group of 18 shallow bores (less than 7m deep) entirely located in the soil profile, whose permeability was found to be quite variable due to the presence of large pockets of impermeable clay. More promising results were obtained from Pretty Valley where a flow of 50,000 litres per day was obtained from pumping water from the bottom 4m of just one 12m deep bore. It had been drilled through about two metres soil thickness to encounter weathered granite underlain by the fractured fresh granite of one of the lineaments. It was inferred that the water yield from this bore could have been increased by simply drilling the bore deeper into the lineament.

The investigation concluded that the granitic soil was a poor water-producing medium but the fractured granite was likely to produce the required amount of water if pumps were installed in three or four bores, each drilled 20m to 30m into the fresh, fractured granite rock along one or two of the lineaments. The Perisher management decided to pipe the water in from Betts Creek, rather than drill the necessary waterbores into the fractured rock that underlies parts of Perisher Valley, from which supplies of drinking water could be pumped.