Australian ski lift directory
Details of nearly 500 ski lifts and passenger ropeways that have operated in Australia
Recent ski lift news
16 September 2019. Following the recent trend to hold charity auctions for redundant chairlift carriers at Mt Buller, Thredbo and Falls Creek, Thredbo will be auctioning chairs from the old Merritts double chairlift in a staged auction from 24 September to 1 October. If you fancy a new garden swing, the reserve price is $1000 per chair.
22 July 2019. A chair on the Gunbarrel lift at Thredbo fell 10 metres on to soft snow. The only person on the chair suffered light bruising. The resort gave the reason as ‘a freak gust of wind’, although this is not an isolated incident, an unoccupied chair also fell from the same lift in 2016.
Gunbarrel is a 31 year old, 1679 metre long, Doppelmayr detachable quad chairlift that climbs 426 metres from the Woodridge and Friday Flat areas up the mountain to just below the treeline. Safework NSW imposed a non disturbance order on the lift while it was investigated, but the lift was reopened a day and a half later without any explanation for the cause of the accident. Many other detachable quads in Australia are far more exposed to wind than Gunbarrel and none have ever shed chairs, so some people find Thredbo’s explanation less than convincing. Sixty years earlier Thredbo had similar problems with its original Crackenback chairlift shedding chairs until it was partly rebuilt circa 1963.
30 May 2019. Selwyn opens first and beats the big resorts. Mt Buller and Perisher are often the first resorts to open each winter, both have brand new chairlifts this year and both planned to open on Saturday 1st of June. But in a surprise move, Selwyn Snowfields beat its larger competitors by opening New Chum chairlift on 30 May to earn bragging rights as the first resort to open in 2019. But all three resorts will only operate a very limited number of lifts until the formal opening of the ski season on the 8th of June when other resorts will start running their lifts. So the early opening is mainly for publicity and perhaps for last minute training of new lifties.
April 2019. Mt Buller is replacing the top Canyon rope tow with a SunKid Comfort Star, hybrid handle tow / platter. The lift is located on an access route between Chamois and Bull Run and assists skiers over a slight rise. It is being replaced because some users had trouble getting a firm grip on the rope of the old tow. The second Canyon rope tow on an even gentler rise will remain. There are rumors that Perisher is planning to replace its 1961 vintage Mt Perisher double chair with a six pack. I don’t usually report unsubstantiated rumors, but this one comes from diverse sources, so it may be accurate.
Older lift related news stories are in section 23 at the end of this web page.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019.
Click on the main headings to go to that section.
A few notable lifts have short profiles. Readers are welcome to submit profiles of other lifts
2. Types of ski lifts
2.1 Aerial lifts
2.2 Surface lifts with an elevated cable
2.3 Surface lifts with a low level cable
3. Ski lift Manufacturers (Section newly rewritten.)
3.1 Australia and New Zealand: McCallum, Australasian Ropeways, Gam, Hamilton
3.2 Foreign: Leitner-Poma, Doppelmayr-Garaventa, others companies, defunct companies
4. Australian Capital Territory
5. Ben Lomond
6. Charlotte Pass
7. Falls Creek
- Alpine Chair Lift
- International Poma
8. Mt Baw Baw
9. Mt Buffalo
10. Mt Buller
- Summit Access - Howqua Poma
- Blue Bullets 1 & 2. Coming soon.
11. Mt Hotham
- Playground chairlift
- Blue Ribbon nutcracker
12. Mt Mawson
13. New South Wales, outside resorts
14. Perisher (including Smiggin Holes, Guthega and Blue Cow)
15. Selwyn Snow Resort
16. Tasmania: proposed ski resorts and proposed gondolas
- Crackenback nutcracker
18. Victoria, outside resorts
19. Other passenger ropeways (non snow)
- Brisbane Expo ‘88. Cornered chairlift & handle tow
20. Proposed ski developments outside snow fields
21. Cross country ski resorts (no lifts)
23. Older news stories
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019.
This article lists all of the nearly 500 ski lifts and passenger ropeways that have operated in Australia including several dozen lifts away from the snowfields. The dates cited are the ski seasons a lift operated (or if a lift didn't run in poor snow seasons, the years it was available to operate). Also included are a few planned lifts where details have been published.
Lift companies. Lifts at most ski resorts began with individuals and clubs taking the initiative. This meant that at all resorts except Thredbo, Mt Mawson and Charlotte Pass, skiers initially had to choose which lifts they would buy tickets for. In the 1950's there were four different groups running lifts at each of Buller, Falls Creek and in the Perisher area. The early 1960's saw most of the small operators close down or sell out, but Baw Baw only gained a single lift company in 1981 and Buller's lifts only came under a single company 1985. The four adjoining ski areas in the greater Perisher region were finally united in 1995. The last resort with two lift companies was Ben Lomond where Alpine Enterprises and Tasmanian Ski Lifts competed with each other until 2001.
Ski lifts outside resorts. Generally the clubs that operate lifts on Mt St Bernard, the Bogong High Plains and until recently, Cabramurra have only permited members and their guests to use the lifts as their liability insurance doesn't cover outsiders. But if you know someone or can spin a convincing story, you may be able to hitch a ride.
Ski areas without lifts. In Victoria Mt Donna Buang was Australia's only true ski resort before the Second World War and had four ski lodges, cafes, a ski hire, day shelters, six cleared ski runs and a huge ski jump, but it never had ski lifts. Likewise both the Feathertop Bungalow and Mt St Bernard Hospice were very popular commercial ski lodges before they were burnt in the 1939 fires, but no lifts were built at either location until the 1950s when a couple were installed on St Bernard. In NSW the Hotel Kosciusko at Diggers Creek was a popular pre war ski destination, but no lifts were built there until about 1950 when the heyday of the area was already over and most skiers were heading further up the road to Perisher and Charlotte Pass. The present day cross country ski resorts have never had lifts either except for Corin Forest near Canberra and Lake Mountain near Melbourne which both have a couple of short carpets.
Proposed resorts. A network of chairlifts and Pomas complete with an access gondola was proposed for Mt Rufus in Tasmania in the early 1970s. At about the same time Florentine Peak near Mt Mawson was assessed for it's viability as a modern ski resort, but sadly nothing eventuated at either location. A plan for developing a network of ski lifts on Mt Stirling in Victoria was released in the early 1980's and another was produced in the mid 1990's, but nothing eventuated from either of these plans. A 1950 report on developing Victoria's ski fields recommended development of an 'alpine village' at Mt Wills, but the only things built there were a single lodge, a refuge hut and two lifts, (neither are still in use). There have also been informal proposals to develop Twin Valleys to the east of Thredbo, but since Thredbo was established in 1957, the only new lifted ski area has been Mt Blue Cow in New South Wales, now part of Perisher ski resort.
Resort logos. The latest resort logos were initially used as headers for the sections on each resort, but there has been a surprising level of interest in older ones. So I've added every historic resort logo I can track down, although some are still missing from the early days. Please email any historic logos you may come across, even if the quality or resolution isn’t great.
Lift lengths. Where information on the length of a lift has been found in several different sources, it sometimes differs by 5 or 10 percent. This may be due to the difference between the actual length of the path on the ground and the distance on a map which does not take the vertical into account. If research has turned up two slightly different lengths, the official length as stated by the lift operator has been cited. Of course several lifts have been lengthened or shortened during their lifetimes and those lifts have the differing distances explained in the notes section.
Express lifts. ‘Express’ is a marketing term for lifts that run faster than usual. While T-bars, platters and fixed grip chairlifts usually operate at speeds under 2½ metres per second, other types of lift where the grip detaches from the tow rope when loading such as Poma lifts, nutcrackers and detachable chairlifts can run at double that speed. Of course, not all lift companies run their detachable grip lifts at 5 metres per second all of the time.
The length of ski seasons obviously varies dramatically depending on snow conditions. In NSW and Victoria the formal ski season lasts from Queens Birthday long weekend (the second weekend in June) to the second weekend in October. Of course if there was little snow in poor ski seasons, ski lifts operated for much shorter times, especially before the advent of snow making machinery. Due to its proximity to Melbourne, in good seasons Mt Buller has extended the dates its lifts have operated far more than other resorts. The records appear to be some lifts at Buller operating on the first weekend of May in 2009 and the lifts finally closing on Cup Day (3 November) after the bumper 1992 ski season.
Many hundreds of industrial ropeways used to transport materials have operated in Australia. While they are not covered here, it’s worth noting that the most common were funicular tramways and cable haulages. The majority were used in timber harvesting in the first half of the 20th century, but others were used in the construction and maintenance of other projects such as the penstocks of hydro-electric schemes. Aerial ropeways were less common although in the 1920s and 30s some were used to move logs down to timber tramways such as the High Lead near Powelltown in Victoria.
A n aerial ropeway was built near Melbourne in 1920 to transport cement from Healesville railway station to the site of the Maroondah Dam and a 5.2 km ropeway built by Doppelmayr at Kandos in NSW in 2000 was used to transport limestone to a cement plant until 2012.
Sources. This web page began in 2007 as a small personal project out of frustration at less than accurate reports relating to ski lifts in books, magazines and websites and I didn't bother to cite sources. However it's grown into a bit of a monster with close to 500 lifts and nearly 300,000 page views, so in hindsight I wish I'd footnoted it. However I've been careful to only list lifts that have been reported in reliable histories (resort histories are noted at the end of each section) or which appear in contemporary publications such as magazines and brochures. The only exception is some lifts in the backcountry NSW section where I've had to rely on personal reports from reliable sources. If researchers want to know the source of any information on this page, please email me and I should be able to respond within a few days.
Copyright. This web page and its contents are copyright, so please don't reproduce it without permission. If you use small parts of it in compiling web pages, articles or books, I'd be grateful for an acknowledgement of my work by name and a link to this web page. Thanks.
Finally, this sort of research takes a lot of time and it will probably always be a work in progress. In particular, details of early lifts at Perisher and backcountry lifts in NSW are a little shaky and the Mt Buffalo section needs more information. If you notice any errors, omissions or you have extra information, please email: australianmountains (at) gmail.com © David Sisson 2007 - 2019.
2. Types of ski lifts
Only the ‘Big Five’ resorts (Buller, Falls, Hotham, Perisher and Thredbo) have quad chairs, the smaller resorts have a combination of surface lifts, double chairs and triple chairs. Victorian resorts tend to replace their lifts far more often than their NSW counterparts. In the last 70 years, 18 lifts have been built to serve Bourke Street on Mt Buller. By contrast the Mt Perisher Double Chair is 58 years old and several other lifts at Perisher and Thredbo are not much younger. Australia’s oldest operating ski lift is the 66 year old Mt St Bernard nutcracker tow. It originally ran at Mt Buller in the 1953 and 54 before moving to St Bernard where it has been ever since.
In response to a question about lifts with curved routes or lifts that go around corners. Most of the longer Poma lifts had bends in their paths, but the only survivors are the International and Lakeside Poma lifts at Falls Creek. The Olympic T-bar at Perisher is the only T-bar in Australia that has ever had a bend and the only Australian chairlift with corners was at Brisbane’s Expo ‘88 where for 6 months, a chairlift ran a 10 minute circuit through the Swiss pavilion and outside into a park, before returning to the pavilion.
Highest and lowest. Australia’s highest ski lift is Karel’s T-bar at Thredbo with a top station at 2037 metres. The highest chairlift is the 1961 vintage Mt Perisher double chairlift at 2033 metres. The lowest ski lifts are at Mt Mawson in southern Tasmania with three having a base at a little over 1200 metres. There are plenty of tourist chairlifts operating from close to sea level, but the only ones that actually went down to a beach are the former chairlifts at Portsea and Victor Harbour.
2.1 Aerial lifts
Chairlifts in Australia have been built to seat 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8 people per chair. Most chairlifts are fixed grip, with chairs directly attached to the lift cable, most cables move at about 2.3 metres per second. Detachable chairlifts remove the chairs from the cable near the top and bottom stations and move them slowly through the terminals, allowing passengers to get on and off a slow moving chair (around 1 metre per second). This means the main cable can move much faster, around 5 metres per second (18 km/h). However detachables are much more expensive to build and maintain, so more economical, but slower, fixed grip chairs are still being at built at major resorts around the world for lifts under about 1 km long.
Chairlift capacity is determined by the number of people per chair and the interval between chairs. The highest capacity for a quad chairlift is 3000 per hour, which would mean a fairly quick 4.8 second interval between chairs. However most quads have a nominal capacity of around 2400. The real number moved is usually lower due to stoppages, not all chairs carrying the maximum number of people and the lift not running at full speed. A few older lifts also have 'generously' spaced towers, meaning that chairs need to be spaced further apart to reduce the weight on the cable and sheaves.
Australia's first (and only) single chairlift was built at Falls Creek by Bob Hymans in 1957. The first double chair was Thredbo's Crackenback in 1958. Triple chairs appeared in 1976 when the Back Perisher Triple was built. 1984 saw the advent of the quad chair with Big D at Hotham and Blue Bullets 1 and 2 at Buller. Australia's only eight seat chairlift is Perisher's Village built in 2003 and the first 'six pack' in the country was Abom Express which opened at Buller in 2008. Buller's Blue Bullets were also notable for being the first detachable chairlifts in Australia and the third and fourth in the world
Australia's longest chairlifts were the two that briefly connected Thredbo Valley to Charlotte Pass in 1964 and 1965 at 4,757 and 3,323 metres. The longest existing chairlift is the Kosciusko Express (formerly named Crackenback) at Thredbo which at 1860 m is marginally longer than the Northside quad (previously named Horse Hill) at Mt Buller. The shortest ski chairlift was the 160 metre long Valley chairlift at Mt Buffalo which last ran in 2006. The shortest operating ski chairlift is probably New Chum at Selwyn.
Chondolas are essentially detachable chairlifts which can also have gondola cabins attached to the cable. They are marketed as 'combination lifts' or ‘telemix’ by some lift manufacturers, although the term chondola has become almost universal in the English speaking ski world. The two installed in Australia are Northside (formerly named Horse Hill) at Mt Buller and Thredbo's Kosciusko Express (formerly Crackenback). Both operate as chairlifts most of the time and Buller appears to only use its gondolas occasionally, but Thredbo regularly uses theirs to transport passengers at night to the restaurant at the top of Kosci Express. It’s worth noting that the Doppelmayr website claims Horse Hill was the first chondola in the world.
Gondolas. A gondola is an aerial ropeway with enclosed cabins where passengers walk in and sit facing each other. There are usually racks on the outside of each cabin for skis and snowboards. At overseas ski fields and in Australian tourist areas, gondolas are a separate type of lift. In 2018 Thredbo submitted a plan to the authorities to build a gondola, but none have been built so far in Australian ski fields. The longest gondolas in Australia are Skyrail between Cairns and Kuranda in Queensland. Skyrail is two different lifts (passengers change over at a mid station), they have a combined length of 7,500 metres.
In 2009, the Falls Creek resort plan proposed replacing the Gully triple chair with a gondola. Similarly the 2010 Buller master plan included a proposal for a gondola connecting the overnight car parks with the town centre. A less likely plan is the 2009 local tourist authority proposal for a gondola on Mt Buffalo, a little to the south of the (then) toll road. However they didn't mention any financial backers for their dream.
Finally in 2016 the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and the Tourism Industry Council proposed a 9 km gondola at Cradle Mountain to replace over loaded mini bus shuttles along the narrow road from the Visitors Centre to Lake Dove at the base of Cradle Mountain. The southern gondola terminus would be an underground building on the site of the present carpark. However as a Mercury report explains, this ambitious plan is unfunded, although the accompanying video makes the whole project look very appealing and much less intrusive on the landscape than the current situation.
The most recent Australian gondola outside ski areas is the Arthurs Seat Eagle on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne which opened in 2016
Aerial Trams or Cable Cars. These lifts have two large cabins permanently attached to the cable and shuttle between the termini. When a cabin arrives at the terminus, the direction the cable travels in is reversed, so the cabins never go around the bullwheels. While they are popular at overseas resorts, none have been built at Australian ski fields. However two trams, Scenic Skyway and Scenic Cableway operate at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. In addition to the proposal for Mt Wellington in Hobart, in 2014 a group in Sheffield in northern Tasmania has floated a proposal for an aerial tram up nearby Mt Roland.
Lift makers have several ways of describing aerial lifts, none of which are easy for a layperson to understand. In this listing, characteristics of aerial lifts are shown by: the capacity of each carrier, then Chair or Gondola and then Fixed or Detachable grip, so 6-Chair-D indicates a 6 person chairlift with Detachable grips
2.2 Surface lifts with an elevated cable
All resorts started out with surface lifts (also called drag tows). They are much cheaper to build and maintain than chairlifts and are not as vulnerable to high winds. However they are not as 'beginner friendly', and they usually have a much lower capacity. They also need a consistent uphill slope. Sadly, surface lifts have been phased out by most major resorts except for areas high above the treeline that are exposed to strong winds. However at Perisher and the smaller resorts, they continue to play an important role.
T-bars. T-bars consist of several parts. The first is a stick with a bar across the bottom which looks like an inverted T shape. Skiers and boarders lean on this bar, holding on to the central stick. This T-bar is connected to a retractable cord running from a spring box which is permanently attached to the elevated moving lift cable. Because they are fixed grip, T-bars tend to run at fairly modest speeds. The first T-bars in Australia were the 1957 Township Hill T-bar at Kiandra and the short lived Gam Tow at Thredbo. The longest was probably the Tyrol T-bar at Mt Buller which was 1,610 metres long before it was shortened.
J-bars are essentially single T-bars. A few were built in the early days of ski lifts, but none have been built in Australia for half a century because they cost the same to build and run as T-bars, but only transport half as many people. However after snowboarders experienced difficulties riding the platters and Pomas at Ben Lomond, some J-bars were added to lifts at that resort for the 2009 season. The first J-bar in the country was installed at Charlotte Pass in 1938. It was only the second ski lift in Australia.
Platters (or button tows). Platter lifts look a bit like Poma lifts because skiers are hauled uphill by a button between their legs, but they are fixed grip and the platter has a retractable cord connected to a spring box, so they operate like single person T-bars. Confusingly, many platters were described as Pomas, presumably because they both use a button between a skiers legs to move them uphill, even though they are a different type of lift in every other respect.
Poma lifts. Most Poma lifts were, not surprisingly, built by the company of the same name although some, such as Headwaters and Lakeside at Falls Creek, were built by other companies, Schippers and Montaz Mautino respectively, presumably under some sort of licensing arrangement.
Pomas are the only detachable grip surface lift still used at major resorts. Sticks are stored in a rack at the bottom of the lift. Passengers move to the front of the lift queue, grab a spring loaded stick and put the button between their legs. At the same time, the grip at the top end of the stick attaches to a moving overhead cable. This can either by manually activated by a liftie or automatically by skiers tripping a switch as they move past. Pomas are the only surface lift found at resorts where self loading works in practice (although this is standard procedure for nutcracker tows at club fields). There have been experiments with self loading T-bars and platters, but skiers and boarders don't seem to be able to cope with them.
Because they are detachable, Pomas are by far the fastest drag lift, the diesel powered International Poma at Falls Creek had a speed of 4.2 metres per second until a new and slower electric motor was installed. The speed record for any Australian ski lift belongs to the former double ended Howqua - Summit Access Poma at Buller which operated at 6.5 m/s for a few years until the inevitable carnage led to a reduced speed of 4 m/s when open to the public, although it was still cranked up to 6.5 m/s for staff access.
Pomas are the only type of ski lift that can easily accommodate bends in their path (T-bars and chairlifts can have bends, but they are awkward and expensive to build). Half the Pomas built in Australia had bends, Brockhoff at Hotham and Cresta at Buffalo had two. Pomas were very popular in Victoria and at one stage there were four of them running parallel to each other at Buller. However they were never as popular in NSW. An early form of Poma first ran in 1960 at Smiggin Holes and at Sponar's Inn. More modern Pomas made their appearance in 1964 at Buller, Hotham, Charlotte Pass and Falls Creek. The longest Poma to run in Australia is the 1,219 metre International at Falls Creek, which is one of only six Pomas still operating in this country.
2.3 Surface lifts with a low level cable
Put simply, a rope tow has an unsupported rope which the skier grasps in their hands to be hauled a short distance up a gentle slope. A handle tow is similar, but has plastic handles attached to the rope making it easier for a skier to get a secure hold. A typical nutcracker tow is far more complex. Along its track it has towers or poles with pulleys to support the rope a metre above the snow, a tensioning system to keep the rope tight, specifically designed and fabricated parts like pulleys and bull wheels and a proper, weatherproof engine shed. Because they are often steep and it is awkward to grip the rope in a gloved hand as it passes over pulleys, a rope gripper (or nutcracker) is almost essential when using a nutcracker tow.
Nutcracker tows. Some skiers who don't venture beyond the main resorts are unfamiliar with nutcracker tows. But almost every ski resort in Australia and New Zealand began with them. While they have been replaced at the resorts, nutcrackers can still be found at 'club fields'.
A nutcracker (or rope gripper) is a device attached to a belt worn by a skier that clamps onto a moving rope at waist level, allowing the skier to be towed uphill. The height of the rope and the pulleys that support it are adjusted according to snow levels. While it may not be necessary to use a nutcracker on short, gently graded tows, it is difficult for skiers to hold onto a rope with their hands on steeper tow lines or where the rope passes over a pulley. Riding nutcrackers explained, Powderhound article on nutcrackers.
Most Australian nutcracker tows were derived from those designed by Bill (later Sir William) Hamilton in New Zealand. Hamilton installed his first ski tow at Coronet Peak in 1947 and within a few years had perfected the Hamilton Model B design that has been used ever since. Because it was easily copied and readily available material could be substituted for Hamilton parts, (such as modified wheel rims for rope pulleys), many nutcracker lifts were home made and built by the groups that ran them. As they don't have large, heavy towers, nutcracker tows can be moved fairly easily and some Australian tows have operated at four locations.
The first nutcracker tow in Australia was on Bourke Street, Mt Buller when an earlier rope tow was upgraded to a nutcracker tow for the 1950 season. The longest nutcracker was probably the Crackenback Tow at Thredbo (as it was in 1957). One of the newer nutcracker lifts also claims to be the longest and steepest. The Heritage Express Tow at the small Roundhill resort in New Zealand first ran in 2010. It is 1473 metres long with a 626 metre rise.
Handle tows are short, portable ski lifts with plastic handles permanently attached to a waist high cable. To move uphill, a skier just grabs one of the handles and holds on. They are also known as Pony Lifts at some overseas locations.
Rope tows. This term is sometimes used to include nutcrackers and handle tows, but a true rope tow is one where the rope is not supported by sheaves and the skier or boarder simply grasps the rope in their hands. As they are rarely tensioned, the rope often drags through the snow. (See one at 8:36 in this 1950 video of Mt Buffalo.) Parts for early rope tows were often adapted from second hand material such as using truck or tractor wheel rims as very basic bullwheels. They are only practical for short and gently graded slopes as it is difficult to hold onto a rope on steep slopes and an unsupported cable dragging on the snow places heavy demands on the motor. A modern example is one of the Canyon tows at Buller which assists skiers over slight bumps on a mostly downhill access trail. In this directory many of the old lifts described as rope tows were probably nutcrackers as the distinction between the two types of lifts was a grey area. The first ski lift in Australia was a rope tow made out of recycled railway tracks that was built at Mt Buffalo in 1937.
Carpets. (Also known as Conveyors or Magic Carpets.) A carpet lift is simply a conveyor belt at ground level. They move quite slowly (around 1.2 metres a second) and are used exclusively for gentle beginners slopes as they do not require any technique to ride other than the ability to stand up. Australia's first carpet lift was installed at Mt Thebarton in Adelaide in 1987 to service the world's first indoor ski slope.
Carousels. Look a bit like oversized rotary clothes lines that pull small children around in a circle. At times, Mt Buller, Perisher, Hotham and Charlotte Pass have listed them as lifts, but that is probably stretching the definition of a ski lift a bit far.
Funicular Railways. A railway or tramway with parallel tracks on a steep slope with two cars connected by a cable. The descending car counterbalances the ascending car, while an engine house at the top provides any necessary power or braking. While many funiculars have been built in Australia for timber harvesting and hydro electric purposes, only a few have taken passengers, none of them at ski areas. The most recent serious proposal to build a passenger funicular was in 2005 for the Maydena Hauler in southern Tasmania.
3. Ski lift manufacturers
This section was completely rewritten in May 2019. Please send any feedback or additional information to australianmountains (at) gmail.com
In recent decades ski lift and aerial ropeway manufacture across the world has been dominated by two companies; Doppelmayr-Garaventa and Leitner-Poma. While Bartholet competes with them in Europe, in new world countries such as North America, Australia and New Zealand the duopoly largely have the market for chairlifts and gondolas to themselves. A few smaller companies such as SunKid manufacture carpets and to a small extent compete with the big two in the market for light surface tows.
In earlier times there were many more lift makers, but by 2003 all had either gone out of business or been taken over except for BMF Bartholet. The advent of detachable chairlifts seems to have been a determining factor, most mid sized companies appear to have lacked the capital and the economies of scale to develop, build and maintain the more complex technology involved.
In Australia the Swiss manufacturer Mueller built early chairlifts at Thredbo and Perisher (the 1961 Mt Perisher Double is one of the oldest surviving Muellers in the world) while the American company Riblet also built chairlifts in NSW. However foreign products were not always successful in Australian conditions. The Mueller Crackenback chair at Thredbo derailed several times and had to be partially rebuilt using material supplied by Riblet. One case that pointed to the future was when Blue Lifts at Mt Buller installed the world's first Doppelmayr double chair, rime build up in Mt Buller's damp and foggy conditions became a major problem. In contrast to Mueller (which appears to have left Thredbo to sort out its own problems), when Doppelmayr received photos and a description of the severity of the problem, they sent engineers to Buller to study and rectify it. Perhaps that is a pointer to the reasons why Doppelmayr survived and prospered while most of its competitors went out of business. In any case, Buller has retained a strong brand loyalty for Dopp products ever since.
Local manufacturers were initially on the scene too. Many rope tows and a few nutcrackers were home made in small workshops (although the most reliable nutcrackers were Hamilton branded ones imported from New Zealand). Some local products like Gam T-bars were not a success, but others like Vladimir Hayek's Australasian Ropeways built a number of chairlifts that were in use for many decades. The most successful local lift maker was Ron McCallum who built reliable and long lived T-bars and chairlifts at several ski resorts as well as tourist chairlifts at locations away from the mountains.
3.1 Ski lift manufacturers: Australia and New Zealand
From 1937 most early Australian ski lifts were built as one off projects by the groups that operated them. In the early days several rope tows and nutcracker tows were built by the groups or clubs that owned them, utilising whatever materials and trade skills that were available from their members.
However at least four local companies got into the business of building ski lifts, although by the mid 1970s all had ceased production. This was probably due to the economies of scale of European and American companies, which the local makers could not compete with. For local companies each project was custom designed and built, as it was impossible for them to generate enough business to implement the sort of mass production that foreign makers had. In 2019 an Australian designed and built chairlift was installed as a personal project on private land near Albury, making it the first substantially Australian made chairlift in over 40 years.
Ron McCallum built 16 lifts throughout Australia from 1954 to 1970 from a base at Moorabbin in suburban Melbourne. He also assisted John Gam and others to erect lifts in the 1950s. This is a list of the lifts where McCallum built the entire lift including most of the components and does not include lifts he helped site or others where he supervised their erection. The ropeways built by McCallum Engineering were:
Location Lift name Lift type Dates operated Notes
Falls Creek Hyman's skyline Portable Rope Tow 1954 - ?
Mt Buller Baldy Portable Rope Tow 1957 - 61
Falls Creek Summit T-bar 1961 - 91
Falls Creek Village T-bar 1961 - 99
Portsea Back Beach Double Chair, fixed grip 1962 - 67?
Thredbo Middle T-bar 1962 - present. Moved to Merritts Spur, renamed Ski School
Thredbo Basin T-bar 1963 - present
Mt Buffalo Double Chairlift Double Chair, fixed grip 1964 - ?
Falls Creek Gully Double Chair, fixed grip 1964 - 81
Mt Buffalo T-bar T-bar 1965 - 84
Mt Buffalo Beginners Poma Platter 1966 - ?
Falls Creek Sun Valley T-bar 1967 - 88
Mt Buller Boggy Creek T-bar 1967 - present
Falls Creek Link Lift T-bar 1969 - 2000
Frankston / Caribbean Gardens Double Chair, fixed grip 1969 - present. Moved to Scoresby c. 1971 when Whistle Stop park closed
Perth Royal Show Chair Lift Double Chair, fixed grip 1970 - present
Thanks to Ron McCallum and his son Andrew for the list.
There was at least one other possible McCallum lift. I was sent a table of older lifts in the broader Perisher area including details of their length, manufacturer, etc. and it listed the original Blue Cow T-bar at Guthega as a McCallum.
Perisher: Guthega Blue Cow T-bar 1976 - 1980 Allegedly formerly at Mt Buller, but as no known McCallum T-bars
were retired before 1976, the lift may not have been a McCallum?
Another local outfit that built a few chairlifts. It was run by Dr Vladimir Hayek, a Czech migrant who may have designed Australia's first chairlift at Falls Creek in 1957, but details are sketchy. Lifts definitely built by Hayek include Arthur's Seat (Mark 1), Hobart Showgrounds, Brisbane Showgrounds and Launceston’s Cataract Gorge. Any further information would be very useful.
Gam / Ski Tows Pty Ltd.
Run by John Gam and Geoff Hughes, who was one of the founders of Thredbo. They built the Gam portable T-bars that ran at Thredbo and Lake Albina in the late 1950s and also built the improved T-bars at Kiandra in 1958 and Perisher in 1959 and 1960. Gam's death in late 1959 put an end to lift design, although the company continued to operate for a few years as an agency for Mueller. (Not to be confused with Ski Tows Ltd, the original lift company at Mt Hotham.)
Most Australian nutcracker tows were derived from the the designs of Bill (later Sir William) Hamilton in New Zealand. Hamilton installed his first lift at at Coronet Peak in 1947 and within a few years had perfected the Hamilton Model B design that has been used ever since. Most of the early nutcracker lifts installed in Australia were Hamilton products. Hamilton appears to have been the only commercial maker of nutcracker tows installed in Australia and New Zealand, although the Model B design was later widely copied by individuals and clubs.
3.2 Ski lift manufacturers: foreign
In recent decades the market for ski lifts outside Europe has been dominated by the conglomerates of Leitner-Poma and Doppelmayr-Garaventa. But like duopolies in other industries, there are aspirants looking to take a share from the two main players as well as smaller companies content to focus on less glamorous installations such as carpets and light surface tows.
In the past there was a much greater diversity of overseas ski lift and aerial ropeway manufacturers. Companies with installations in Australia are listed as well as brief descriptions of a few other lift manufacturers that made important contributions to the development of ski lifts.
Leitner-Poma is one of the two companies that dominate the modern ski lift and aerial ropeway market. In 2000 Leitner’s owners took over the Poma group, but before then both companies had absorbed several other ski lift makers. Leitner and Poma continue to operate as different companies in Europe (albeit sharing some parts and technology), but since 2002 they have run a combined operation outside Europe. It appears that recently built Australian lifts have been sourced from North America.
In Australia Poma is much better known than Leitner as it has been building lifts here for over 60 years. The company began when Jean Pomagalski started building and designing ski lifts in 1935. He established Pomagalski as a French based company in 1947 and began to market the Poma lift, a platter with a spring loaded pole and a detachable grip attached to an elevated tow rope. The most successful refinement of the design appeared in the early 1960s. Poma lifts were especially popular in Victoria, partly because they are the only ski lift that can easily accommodate curves in their route, which was an important factor in the time of mostly surface lifts which need to maintain a consistent uphill slope. At one stage Orange Lifts at Mt Buller had three Poma lifts running in parallel on upper Bourke Street. From 1958 the company diversified and also began building chairlifts, gondolas and aerial tramways. There is an excellent French language history of Poma, although if you need to use an auto translate application, there are a few amusing mistranslations.
Leitner is located in the Italian Tyrol and built its first chairlift in 1947. Today it manufactures aerial trams, chairlifts platters and T-bars. Leitner ski lifts were fairly uncommon in Australia, although the Big Dipper duplex T-bar installed at Falls Creek in the early 1980s was a Leitner.
Like its main rival, Doppelmayr-Garaventa is a conglomeration of many companies. Doppelmayr began in 1893 as an Austrian metal working and tool making business and built its first ski lift, a J-bar at Zürs am Arlberg in 1937. Garaventa built it’s first ropeway in 1928 to transport timber harvested in the Rigi mountains of central Switzerland and by the 1960s both companies had progressed to manufacturing and installing larger passenger carrying aerial lifts.
The two companies merged in 2002, but before then Doppelmayr had taken over the Swiss ropeway builder Von Roll in 1996. Von Roll had previously bought out Hall, an American chairlift maker in 1982. Garaventa had merged its North American operations with the local lift maker CTEC in 1992 and traded as Garaventa CTEC. The merged Doppelmayr-Garaventa incorporated over a dozen other companies from Europe and North America which gave it expertise in a broad range of operating environments and engineering approaches.
In Australia, Garaventa only built a few lifts such as the Towers quad chair at Falls Creek in 1999. But Doppelmayr was far more involved. Their T-bar spring boxes were highly valued in the early 1960s as their design copped with rime and icing up better than those built by other local or foreign manufacturers. With this reputation for reliability and quality in Australia, Doppelmayr built what appears to have been their first ever double chairlift at Mt Buller which opened for the 1964 season. The story goes that the family patriarch was suspicious of chairlifts and regarded them as a passing fad, so their first double chair was quietly designed and built on the other side of the world so it wouldn’t be as obvious to Doppelmayr customers if it wasn’t a success. When there were problems with hard rime ice, the company sent out engineers so they could understand the problem and fix it. That sort of attention to customer service distinguished it from its competitors of the time.
Whether the story of why their first chairlift was built as far as possible from Austria is entirely true or not, the Buller chairlift was the first of thousands from what became the worlds biggest chairlift builder. Doppelmayr is responsible for more Australian ski lifts than other company.
Link to Doppelmayr’s website.
The Australian ski resort of Mt Buller occupies an important place in the history of Doppelmayr. It appears they built their first double chair there in 1964, their website identifies the Horse Hill (now Northside) Chondola as the first combined chairlift and gondola in the world and the Blue Bullet detachable chairlifts were the company’s second and third detachable quads and the third and fourth detachable quads from any maker in the world
3.2.3 Other modern lift makers
BMF Bartholet is a Swiss maker of fixed grip and detachable chairlifts, gondolas and aerial trams as well as amusement rides. It is probably the biggest competitor with the two giants of the industry. While it has a healthy market share in Europe, so far it has yet to crack other ski lift markets except for a few chairlifts and gondolas in China, Argentina and Chile. Link to website.
GMM or Gimar Montaz Mautino is a French maker of chairlifts and surface lifts. While the former Gimar didn’t build anything in this part of the world, before they merged, Montaz Mautino was a successful lift maker and sold many lifts in Europe. In 1976 the company built the Lakeside Poma lift at Falls Creek. French language website.
Harusch is a small Canadian maker of light surface lifts. In the 1960s many of their handle tows and rope tows were installed in mainland ski resorts, especially Thredbo. Their old style website announces recent developments, so they appear to still be in business.
Sunkid is an Austrian company established in 1974 that initially built amusement rides. In the late 1990s they diversified into light ski lifts and they later incorporated Bruckschlögl, a company that had a few tows at Perisher. Sunkid lifts are often overlooked beside larger constructions in ski resorts and their products are not always noticed, but they have had some success in Australia with their carpet lifts. The most recent Sunkid product in this country is a hybrid platter / handle tow at Mt Buller that first ran in 2019. Website.
Team Service is an Italian company that makes carpet lifts, carpet lift tunnels and belt conveyors for loading chairlifts. Their products have been installed at several Australian ski locations including Baw Baw, Corin Forest and Lake Mountain. Website.
3.2.4 Significant foreign lift makers no longer operating (with details of their Australian lifts where applicable)
Hall Ski Lift was a successful American maker of T-bars and chairlifts from 1955 to 1982 when they were bought by Von Roll and operations of the two companies were merged. While a few of their lifts were installed outside North America, none ever made it to Australia.
GMD Mueller (GMD Müller in German) was a Swiss company founded in 1947 that began by building rope tows, then contributed to the development of T-bars and became a major chairlift manufacturer. They went out of business in 1992. The company was most successful in Europe and North America but it did build a few chairlifts at New South Wales resorts and another chairlift at an amusement park in Perth. The company’s reputation was damaged in Australia when their Crackenback chairlift at Thredbo suffered multiple failings including derailments and had to be substantially rebuilt. However their 1961 Mt Perisher double is the oldest chairlift still operating in Australia.
Riblet began building chairlifts in the USA in 1938 and closed down in 2003. They were highly successful, but only built fixed grip chairlifts. The company had a good start in Australia, Ramshead and Merrits double chairs at Thredbo were Riblets and the trouble plagued Mueller built Crackenback double chairlift was partly rebuilt using Riblet parts. But apart from those three, there was no subsequent Riblet activity anywhere in Australia. The company’s website has been preserved as it was in 2003.
Schippers was a French company that produced surface ski lifts and tubing lifts from c.1962 to 2004. Schippers lifts that have operated in Australia include the Headwaters Poma lift, Playground and Tom Thumb platters at Falls Creek and a platter at Corin Forest.
Von Roll was a Swiss based company that had great success with its gondolas, aerial trams, monorails and amusement rides, especially in North America. The company went through a number of financial crises before its cableway division was bought by Doppelmayr in 1996. Von Roll branded products ceasing to be sold in 1999 although the original factory continues to be used by the new owners. Von Roll probably built the chairlift that followed a rectangular route at Brisbane’s Expo ‘88, but it appears that they never built a lift at an Australian ski resort.
Yan Lift (or Lift Engineering) built chairlifts in America from 1965 to 1996. They were one of the few manufacturers that were able to make the transition from fixed grip chairlifts to high speed detachables. However that didn’t save them as a number of accidents led to decreased demand for their products and the company went bankrupt in 1995. None of their lifts operated in Australia.
Yac was a French lift maker that built four platters at the northern Tasmanian resort of Ben Lomond in 1973… and that’s all I know. There are no references to Yac in international books and magazines I’ve searched and the only other mention of it on the internet is that there was another Yac lift at Baulmes, a small club field on the Swiss-French border. At one stage this company was the manufacturer of a significant number of lifts at one of our ski resorts, so if you have even fragmentary information about them, please send it to australianmountains (at) gmail.com
The best listing of former ski lift makers is Remontees-mecaniques, but you will need to use your browsers auto-translate feature. However even this very long list is not complete as it omits many companies including Harusch, Yac and the former Australian and New Zealand lift manufacturers.
3A. Lift tickets
Draft. This section is under development, it should be completed in a month or two. Email any thoughts to australianmountains (at) gmail.com
[Article will include scans of vintage ski tickets, tokens and coupons]
Initially people paid for a roll of lift tickets and gave one to an attendant each time they rode a lift. As the lift companies consolidated down to one or two per resort, the fee was often one coupon for a short beginners lift and two coupons for major lifts. Some resorts experimented with token operated turnstiles.
This unwieldy system rapidly evolved into ‘day tickets’ valid for all lifts at a resort.
In the 1970s individual lift tickets (or often tokens) were still available, but the vast majority of skiers bought day tickets. Beyond that only season tickets were available, although half day tickets had begun to be introduced.
In the 1980s five day and week tickets became available, but the tickets were still printed and displayed on a skiers jacket which limited the variety of tickets which could be issued as a liftie still had to glance at tickets as skiers shuffled past.
The new century saw the introduction of electronic tickets that could be read by a scanner. This vastly increased ticketing options and led to things like advance purchase discounts.
4. Australian Capital Territory
|Mt Franklin||Nutcracker||Canberra Alpine Club||1957 - late 60's||Brumby Tow||Operated on Little Ginini, Slalom Run, Nursery Run|
|Mt Franklin||Hook Tow||Canberra Alpine Club||1965 only||Austin A40 Tow||Operated on Slalom Run|
|Little Ginini||. ?||John Dowling||1959 - 1960||-||Probably moved to Mt Selwyn|
|Mt Ginini||. ?||RMC Ski Club||1957 - mid 60's||-||-|
|Corin Forest||Nutcracker||Corin Forest||pre 1982?||-||May have originally been a rope tow and then upgraded to a nutcracker?|
|Corin Forest||Platter||Corin Forest||1983 - 1995||-||Under 120 m long, vertical c,20 m. The lift was a Schippers 'Bambi' button tow|
|Corin Forest||Carpet||Corin Forest||2016 - present||Valley Carpet||75 metre long Sunkid carpet|
|Corin Forest||Carpet||Corin Forest||2018 - present||Ski School||25 metre long Team Service carpet|
The Corin Forest platter appears to have only run from 1983 to 86 and again from 1994 to 95, but please email if you have more information. Information is sketchy on the Corin nutcracker, there is a Facebook video of it in operation, but no dates.
More on ACT ski history.
Matthew Higgins. Skis on the Brindabellas. Tabletop Press, 1994. Second edition, 2008.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 23 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
5. Ben Lomond
|Unnamed||Windlass||Home made||1960 - ?||-||?||Powered by lawn mower engine, one rider at a time. Designed by Tony Godfrey-Smith, built by Harley Smith|
|Thirty Second [1.]||Nutcracker||Club members||1963 - 1984||370 / 85||Above current Bass tow||NTAC. Originally c.244/76. Extended at base 1964 & 72?, at top 1975|
|Big Ben [1.]||Nutcracker||Club members||1967 - 1984||425 / 78||B/w Fannys & Bills||NTAC. Used parts from Mt Buller's Bourke St rope tow|
|Summit [1.]||Platter||Yac||1973 - 1991||327 / 86||-||Alpine Enterprises. 370 m long, 80 m rise|
|Fannys [1.]||Platter||Yac||1973 - 1978||-||-||Alpine Enterprises. 300 m long, 73 m rise|
|Beginners / Village||Platter||Yac||1973 - present||260 / 55||-||A.E. 300 m long, 35 m rise. Renamed in 1980's|
|Giblin||Platter||Yac||1976 - present||245 / 52||-||AE. Closed 09, PWS refused maint access to tower by vehicle or heli|
|Fannys [2.]||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1979 - present||254 / 68||-||Alpine Enterprises|
|Creek Run||Platter||Yac||1979 - 2010||325 / 28||-||Relocated Fanny's platter. Relocated in 2011 to Big Ben|
|Bills||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1985 - present||-||-||Alpine Enterprises|
|Thirty Second [2.]||Poma||Pomagalski||1985 - 2002?||-||Above current Bass tow||NTAC. Formerly on Mt Buller Summit|
|Big Ben [2.]||Poma||Pomagalski||1985 - 2002?||-||B/w Fanny's & Bill's||NTAC. Formerly on Mt Buller Summit|
|Summit [2.]||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1992 - present||-||-||Alpine Enterprises|
|Bass||Poma?||-||? - present||-||-||Built on lower section of 30 Sec, used some of its parts|
|Big E||Platter||Yac||2011 - present||-||Big Ben slope||Relocated Creek Platter|
|Creek Inn-base of Bill's||2-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||c.1990||-||Thirty Second||TSL. Formerly Mt Buller's Bourke St chair. See note below|
|Village - Thirty Second||T-bar||Doppelmayr||2009||-||-||Relocate & extend Fannys. Base of Village - top of Fannys|
|Big Ben slope||Platter||Yac||2009||-||-||Relocated Village Platter|
In common with Mt Buller and Mt Baw Baw, for a time Ben Lomond's ski lifts were run by two companies. The Northern Tasmanian Alpine Club's (NTAC) first tow was built by Eddie Hausegger and Bill Mitchell in 1963. In 1990 the lifts were split off from the club to become Tasmanian Ski Lifts (TSL). The other lift company was Alpine Enterprises (AE), established in 1973 by Eryl Williams, Brian Hill and Arvids Endelmanis.
There is a long tradition of smaller ski resorts in Australia buying second hand lifts from the larger resorts, so it was no surprise when Tasmanian Ski Lifts bought an old chairlift from Mt Buller. However installation of the chairlift that formerly ran on Bourke St, was repeatedly delayed by bureaucracy, eventually TSL simply gave up trying to get around the new barriers that were constantly put in the way of installing the lift and abandoned the project. Early this century the chairlift was still stored on a nearby farm, but apparently the drive terminal was then sold to a horse breeder to be used for training purposes while the rest was sold as scrap metal, a sad end for what was the first Doppelmayr double chairlift in the world. :(
Some years after the chairlift fiasco, Tasmanian Ski Lifts was refused permission to operate their Pomas by the former Ben Lomond Skifield Management Authority and told to remove their lifts. Eventually rival lift company Alpine Enterprises was given salvage rights to them and Thirty Second and Big Ben were removed.
There is a passing reference to a ski tow on Ben Lomond on p.24 of Skiers novice handbook published circa 1958. However this is the only mention I have found of it and several people I have spoken to who worked on the mountain in the early 1960s are confident that it never existed. My conclusion is that the mention in the handbook may be a confused reference to Cuming's tow at Mt Mawson. Any further information would be appreciated.
30 Second named by in November 1931 when a party including Fred Smithies skied on a late spring snowdrift near Legges Tor with the descent of the small drift taking exactly half a minute.
Other than runs with the same names as lifts, the only named runs at Ben Lomond are:
Little Slalom to skiers left of Summit lift, loops around to the lift line half way down.
Milk Run to skiers left of Fannies to top of Village left.
Coal Mine to skiers right from top of Giblin.
More on Ben Lomond history.
David M. Harvey. The Ben Lomond Story. The author, 2000.
Thanks to "Ben Lomond Brad" and "Bulldozer" for help with this list.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 4 August 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
6. Charlotte Pass
|Ski Hoist, aka. The Meat Hook||J-bar||NSW Railways||1938 - 1952||< 122 / ?||Pulpit Rock||2nd ski lift in Aust. Replaced by rope tow|
|Sponar's||Rope tow||-||1952?||c.46-61 m||Wood Run||Was to operate in '53, but Sponar ill with T.B.|
|Pulpit Rock||Nutcracker||-||1953 - 1962||-||-||Rope tow 1953, converted to nutcracker in '54|
|Woodrum||Nutcracker||-||1958 - 1962||600 / ?||Chalet Dam-Lit Stillwell||600 metres long, replaced by double chair|
|Thredbo Valley-Stillwell Restaurant||2-Chair-F||Carlevaro or..||1964 - 1965||4757 / -||-||Abandoned due to strong winds & derailing -|
|Stillwell Restaurant-Charlotte Pass||2-Chair-F||...Mueller???||1964 - 1965||3323 / -||-||- Combined length = 5 km. Cost £1,200,000!|
|Pulpit||Poma||Pomagalski||1963 - 1966||-||-||Replaced by a T-bar. Poma moved to Basin|
|Rope Tow||Portable rope||-||19?? - 2007||-||-||Usually operated between Basin & Kangaroo|
|Guthries||Poma||Pomagalski||1963 - present||580 / 133||-||Occasionally spelt 'Gutheries' on trail maps|
|Basin||Poma||-||1968 - present||260 / 43||-||Moved from Pulpit|
|Pulpit||T-bar||-||1968 - present||310 / 95||-||Replaced a Poma. Was a duplex T-bar in 1970's|
|Kangaroo Ridge / Kosciusko||3-Chair-F||Pomagalski||1980 - present||670 / 154||-||Name changed 2009?|
|Kosci Carpet||Carpet||-||2008 - present||-||B/w Basin & Kosci trip||-|
|Charlotte's Carousel||Carousel||-||2012 - present||-||In front of Chalet||Probably doesn't quite qualify as a lift?|
Around 2009 a double chair with markings indicating it came from Mt Baw Baw was moved to Cooma Airport. Rumours said that it may have been destined for Charlotte Pass. In late 2013 the scattered components were still there, quietly rusting.
Information on the 1960's Pulpit lifts is a bit ambiguous. Sponar's tow had previously run at St Christoph, Austria in 1949, it was the first tow at that resort. Woodrum may have been demolished at the end of the 1962 winter rather than after the 1963 season. Current trail map.
The former Thredbo Valley - Charlotte Pass chairlifts have a page on a wiki here. Parts of them have been reassembled to make a chairlift at Wollongong which still operates. See Section 18 of this page Other passenger ropeways.
More on Charlotte Pass history.
Rick Walkom. Skiing off the roof: the Kosciusko Chalet at Charlotte Pass and its place in the history of the Australian snowfields. Arlberg Press, 1991. Reprinted by Tabletop Press, 2000. Second edition 2008.
Thanks to Bob McLennan for information on lifts in the 1960's.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 16 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
7. Falls Creek
|Myrtleford Ski Club tow||Rope tow||Gordon Muller||1951 - 1960?||90 / 25||?||Initial site uncertain, moved closer to Nissen in 1953|
|Nissen||Nutcracker||Hamilton||1951 - 1960||568 / 213||Summit||Nissen Alp Club (Toni St Elmo) Capacity 5, so long queue 6/- day in 1951. Had Buick engine. Shortened by 122m in 1952 as rope often buried near cornice by snowfall|
|Hyman's Skyline||Portable rope tow||Ron McCallum||1954 - ?||-||Mostly on upper Grand Couer||Bob Hyman, operated top left of summit in '57|
|Alpine Chair Lift||1-Chair-F||Locally made||1957 - 1961?||380 / 120||Near Grand Couer run||Bob Hyman. 1st chairlift in Aust. 40 chairs, Speed = 1.5 metres per second. See notes below|
|Village (left side)||Nutcracker||Jock Wilson||1958 - 1960||? / 50||Went to Raceline||Fred Griffith, Bill Bridgeford & others|
|Village (right side)||Nutcracker||Jock Wilson||1958 - 1960||-||Village run||Fred Griffith et. al. Double the length of left side|
|Dog Patch / Collis||Nutcracker||-||1958 - c.1962||-||Sth of Nissen on Summit||Marshall Collis and others, moved to Hotham|
|Nursery Tow ||Rope tow||-||1961 - ?||-||Below Dogpatch||Shown on map below|
|Nursery Tow||Rope tow||-||1961 - ?||-||Site of current Tube lift||Shown on map below|
|Summit||T-bar||Ron McCallum||1961 - 1991||793 / 204||-||Alpine Developments, designed & built by Ron McCallum|
|Village / Spur||T-bar||Ron McCallum||1961 - 1999||466 / 122||-||Replaced & extended Village nutcracker tows. Length/vertical also cited as 470/114|
|Gully||2-Chair-F||McCallum/Dopp||1964 - 1981||456 / 76||-||Mostly McCallum but had Doppelmayr drive & other moving parts|
|Nursery / Baby||Poma||Poma||1964 -2001?||153 / 30||Near current Tube lift||Definitely still in operation 1998. Length/vertical also cited as 170 /38|
|Sun Valley||T-bar||Ron McCallum||1967 - 1988||826 / 168||-||Replaced by Scott quad. May have had 210 metre vertical|
|International||Poma||Poma||1969 - present||1219/ 277||-||See notes below. Length/Vertical also cited as 1149/263|
|Saddle / Link Lift||T-bar||Ron McCallum||1969 - 2000||265 / 30||Access b/w Summit & Sun Val||Definitely still operating 1998, towers standing 2010|
|Nursery (Baby) duplicate||Poma||Poma||1972 - 2000?||170 / 38||-||-|
|Ruined Castle||Poma||-||1973 - 1994||732 / 140||-||Replaced by Ruined Castle quad chair|
|Mitey Mite||Portable handle||-||1975 - ?||? /various||Various||-|
|Lakeside||Poma||Montaz Mautino||1976 - present||737 / 140||-||Length/vertical also cited as 688/140|
|Dogpatch||Poma||-||1979 - 1992?||148 / 27||B/w Nursery & Summit||-|
|Panorama||Poma||Poma||1979 - 2003?||790 / 135||-||Replaced by Drovers Dream quad. Length/vertical also cited as 590/71|
|Playground ||Platter||Schippers||1980 - 2005||278 / 28||-||Replaced by Monkey Bar Platter|
|Playground ||Poma||Poma||1984 - 2005||300 / 28||-||Replaced by Monkey Bar Platter|
|Eagle||3-Chair-F||Poma||1980 - 2017||693 / 190||-||Length/vertical also cited as 700/193. Replaced by a Leitner Poma detachable quad chair|
|Headwater||Poma||Schippers||1980 - 2000||490 / 56||B/w Summit & Ruined C||Definitely still operating in 1998. Length/vertical also cited as 428/55|
|Towers||Duplex T-bar||Leitner||1981 - 1998||692 / 138||-||Replaced by Towers quad. Length/vertical also cited as 704/134|
|Gully||3-Chair-F||Poma||1982 - present||475 / 76||-||Replaced Gully double chair. Length/Vertical also cited as 407/70|
|Big Dipper||Duplex T-bar||Leitner||1983 - 1994?||800 / 140||South west of Ruined C||Probably not used after Ruined Castle chair opened in 1995. Engine and lower bullwheel still on site|
|Tom Thumb||Platter||Schippers||1986 - 2005||124 / 14||Site of Mouse Trap||Replaced by Mouse Trap enclosed carpet|
|Halleys Comet/ Bilia/ FC Express||4-Chair-D||Doppelmayr||1986 - present||920 / 207||-||Named Bilia Bullet '02?-'04, Falls Express '06 -|
|Scott||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1989 - present||758 / 155||-||Replaced Sun Valley T-bar|
|Summit||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1992 - present||587 / 187||-||Replaced Summit T-bar|
|Ruined Castle||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1995 - present||650 / 150||-||Replaced Poma. Has conveyor to speed loading|
|Towers||4-Chair-F||Garaventa||1999 - present||613 / 137||-||Replaced Towers twin T-bar|
|Boardwalk||Carpet lift||-||2004 - present||-||-||-|
|The Tube||Carpet lift||-||2004 - present||-||Site of Nursery Poma||-|
|Drover's Dream||4-Chair-F||Leitner Poma||2004 - present||710 / ?||Replaced Panorama||Bought from Leitner-Poma Canada, not Poma Aust|
|Mouse Trap||Enclosed carpet||-||2006 - present||-||Site of Tom Thumb||Replaced Tom Thumb poma|
|Monkey Bar||Platter lift||Doppelmayr||2006 - present||271 / 33||-||Speed 2.2 metres per second, 792 passengers per hour. Replaced Playground Duplex Platters|
|Eagle||4-Chair-D||Leitner Poma||2018 - present||c.700 / 190||Village Bowl||Replaced original Eagle triple chair|
|Pete’s Train||Carpet||.||2018? - present||short||Cloud 9||Not shown on ski maps, so hard to determine what year it was bulit.|
|Rocky Knolls||"Chairlift"||-||?||587 / ?||Beyond Big Dipper T-bar||Approved circa 2004|
|Damsite||"Surface lift"||-||?||750 / ?||West of Rocky Knolls||Approved circa 2004|
|Mt McKay lifts||Chairlift system||-||"Before 2012"||-||-||Mentioned in E.E.S. for above in 2002|
|McKay south||Unknown||-||-||c.750 / 380||McKay sumit-Pretty Val Ck||Shown on a map apparently produced by lift company|
|Gully||Gondola||-||Proposed 2009 plan||-||Site of Gully triple||Mentioned in section 2 of 2009 plan (no longer online) also in 2014 resort plan|
|Village||Rack railway with small pods||-||Proposed 2014 plan||-||Near oversnow||2014 resort plan. Y shaped plan, 6 stations. From Oversnow lines to base of Gully, Windy Corner & cnr of Schuss / Paralell sts|
Lift makers. Falls Creek has had by far the greatest diversity of ski lift manufacturers of any Australian resort. Other resorts appear to have developed a brand loyalty to a particular maker (or perhaps it was just complacency?), but Falls seems to have always been on the lookout for the best lift at the best price and several overseas manufacturers had their only Australian lift at the resort. The first major lift at Falls Creek was a Hamilton nutcracker and they gave local maker McCallum Engineering plenty of business in the 1960s. Falls subsequently built lifts from Poma, Doppelmayr, Leitner, Garaventa, Montaz Mautino (now GMM), Schippers, Harusch and Sunkid. It appears they even played the European and North American divisions of Leitner-Poma off against each other to get the best price for the Drovers Dream quad chair.
Lift companies. In the 1950's every lift had a different owner. In late 1960, Bill Bridgeford's Alpine Developments Holdings (ADH) bought Nissen and Village and by the 1961 season had replaced them with T-bars. ADH continued to expand the lift network until 1983 when the lifts were sold to Transfield. Then in 1996 B.C.R. took over and in 2004 the lift company was sold to MFS Living and Leisure, a listed Gold Coast land developer that also owned aquariums and treetop walks as well as the lift company at Hotham.
After MFS L&L went into liquidation in 2008, National Australia Bank sold Living and Leisure to Arctic, Jamie Packer's leisure industry holding company who took control for the 2009 season. As a Packer controlled company also owned Perisher, for a few years three of Australia's five large ski resorts were under one owner and a season ticket bought at one resort was valid at all three. In December 2011 L&L was bought by Merlin Entertainments, a UK based tourist group with attractions worldwide including theme parks and the LegoLand and Madame Tussaud’s chains. Merlin had not previously owned any ski resorts so what they planned to do with Falls Creek Ski Lifts Pty Ltd was unknown. They appear to have expressed interest in buying a New Zealand resort circa 2017, but ultimately decided that ski resorts were outside their core business. So in early 2019 Merlin Entertainments sold Falls and Hotham to Vail Resorts, the largest ski resort operator in North America which had also bought Perisher in NSW in 2015.
Misc lift trivia. The removal of the Big Dipper, Headwaters and Village lifts greatly reduced the amount of easily accessible lifted terrain compared to the 1990s. It appears it was intended to build the proposed Damsite fift from components of Big Dipper that were in storage. The storage shed was burnt in the 2003 wildfires and afterwards the rumor was that if Damsite was ever built, it would be a chairlift.
Alpine Chair Lift
Bob Hyman's 1957 Alpine Chair Lift was the first chairlift in Australia. Built from poles that might have been intended for use on the nearby Kiewa Hydro Scheme, it lasted until the 1960's when it was condemned by a state government lifts and cranes inspector. As a completely new mode of transport, it attracted a lot of interest. Here is one description of it.
Australian ski-ing history was made at Falls Creek on 21 July 1957, when the first passengers were carried on the first Alpine Chair Lift to operate on our snowfields. Available to all visitors, the lower end of the lift is about 100 yards above the Upper Kiewa Road and it rises 400 vertical feet to the top terminal above the race-line, a length up the slope of 1,280 feet. Forty chairs transport skiers continuously at a speed of five feet per second, the upward trip taking just over four minutes. Each chair has a safety bar above the rider's knees, so the maximum height above the snow of about forty feet is quite safe.
Outstanding impressions of every skier riding the lift is its simplicity, one's perfect relaxation, and the immense increase of downhill ski-ing it provides.
At the lower terminal a skier hands over his ticket to the starting attendant, stands on his skis on a slight snow platform, gives a glance over the left shoulder as a chair gently tucks itself under his bobo - and he is cosily chairborne and bound upwards. Four minutes and 400 vertical feet later he approaches the upper terminal in its huge shelter. As he his skis touch down on another snow platform, he slips out of his chair and obeys the attendant's request to 'move off to the right, please" - and he skis downwards again.
There are no jerks or tensions as the skier settles into his chair and commences his ascent up the hill. The chairs run smoothly in complete silence, broken only by the clicking made by their attachments passing over the pulleys at each pylon. The impression is of floating slowly and quietly in space in complete relaxation, independent of the surface conditions underneath. One may chat with the occupants of adjoining chairs and with others on the slopes below - or just continue to relax.
Bill Beatty. The white roof of Australia. Cassell, 1958. pp 62 - 63.
The International Poma is a 1,219 metre long Poma lift. It was built over the 1968-69 summer and was ready to operate in 1969, but due to a poor snow season, the 'Inter' didn't open to the public until 1970. It is a unique lift (or 'iconic' as the Falls Creek marketing department calls it) and even has its own fan page on Facebook.
It was called the International because it serviced the area where a F.I.S. international race was held in 1960. The race required 1500 feet of vertical descent, so a ski bridge was built over the road and the race ran from the summit right down to Rocky Valley Creek. The bridge was removed in the mid 1960's, but the name for the area remained.
The International Poma could have sticks attached every 6 metres along it's 1,219 metre length and it's original V12 diesel engine powered it at 4.2 metres a second, making it the second fastest drag lift in the southern hemisphere (after Buller's Summit Access / Howqua Poma). Kids riding the International could get serious air time going around the corner at tower 9. This had occasionally caused the cable to derail with consequent short term closures, but on 2 August 2015 a rider swung too far out on the corner, derailing the cable and causing it to snag and break as well as causing other damage. The lift was out of action for 13 days while 300 metres of replacement cable was sourced from Sweden and spliced into the remnants of the old cable by a team from Doppelmayr, the arch rival of the lift's manufacturer Leitner-Poma.
The combination of high speed and loading riders close together gave the Inter a similar capacity to the former Towers and Big Dipper duplex T-bars. Now the new (single speed) electric drive only powers the lift at a modest 2.4 metres per second, so it's much slower and slightly less fun.
But the International remains the longest cornered Poma this side of the equator and even with a much lower speed, it's lifting capacity still matches that of some chairlifts. The other reason why it hasn't been replaced, despite it's extreme age of over 50 years, is because its top half runs along an exposed ridgeline of Frying Pan Spur. This route is necessary to service ski runs in The Maze, but a chairlift on this route would frequently be on windhold.
McCallum lifts. After a two year stint as manager of what became Orange Lifts at Mt Buller, Ron McCallum was a founder of Alpine Developments, the company that unified the lift network at Falls Creek for the 1961 season. It appears that his first lift was the Skyline portable tow at Falls Creek in 1954. As an engineer, he went on to build about 20 chairlifts and T-bars in the 1960's and early 1970's including at least five at Falls Creek. Many of the earlier lifts were hybrids, mostly of McCallum origin, but incorporating parts from other manufacturers. The Village and Summit T-bars had McCallum towers and hydraulic drives but had a few bits from other manufacturers, including Dopp spring boxes (which caused a lot of trouble). The original Gully Chair had a Doppelmayr drive, but otherwise was McCallum. Initially the Saddle / Link Lift T-bar had T's hanging from Poma sticks until they were replaced with conventional T-bar spring boxes bought second hand from Buller (possibly of Dopp origin?). The Sun Valley T-bar was 100% McCallum and was one of the most reliable lifts to operate at the resort.
More on Falls Creek history:
Julian Newton Brown. Falls Creek: how it came to be. Janby Productions, 2005.
Bob Howe. Melting tracks: history and memories of Albury Ski Club and early Falls Creek. The author, 2004.
Thanks to Nick Manson for information on Big Dipper.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 9 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
8. Mt Baw Baw
|Hut||Rope tow||1955 - 1976||-||-||Baw Baw Ski Club. Cost £200. Replaced by a platter.|
|Painted Run||Rope tow||1960 - >1982||245 / 50||-||Baw Baw Ski Tow Club. Later duplicated. East of T-bar that replaced it|
|Access ||2-Chair-F||1970 - 1988?||960 / 320||-||Gippsland Chairlift Co. Access from carpark, also for skiing. Prob relocated to Stanley, Tas|
|Maltese Cross||T-bar||1973 - present||460 / 70||-||Dartos Ltd.|
|Hut Run||Platter||1975 or 77-present||395 / 57||-||Baw Baw Ski Tows. (formerly Baw Baw Ski Tow Club). Extended 2004|
|Beginners?||Rope tow||1977 - >1983||150 / 22||Between Hut & Maltese||BBST. Short tow from Base of Hut Run Platter towards Old Hut Run|
|Summit||T-bar||1979 - present||750 / 90||-||Baw Baw Ski Tows|
|Big Hill||Platter||1980 - c.2002||230 / 48||-||Dartos Ltd.|
|Big Hill Access||Poma||78><83 - present||250 / 50||-||Dartos. Used as tubing lift from 2002? until 2007. Now for skiers|
|Tank Hill||Platter||1983 - present||174 / 25||-||-|
|Painted Run||T-bar||1985 - present||300 / ?||-||B.B.S.T. Formerly at Mt Buller. Nicknamed Fawlty Towers due to alleged chronic unreliability|
|Access ||2-Chair-F||1989? - 1999||-||-||Access to village from carpark, also used for skiing. Parts are apparently now at Cooma aerodrome. Doppelmayr|
|Magic Carpet||Carpet||2003 - present||-||Behind Skiosk||-|
|Frosti Frog||Carpet||2018 - present||75 metres||Village centre||Double width Team Service brand carpet|
|Ski School||Carpet||2018 - present||60 metres||Lower Big Hill||Team Service carpet|
|Summit chairlift||?-Chair-F||2012||-||-||Mentioned on p. 104 of Alpine Resorts Co-ordinating Council Draft alpine resorts plan|
In the dates operated field "78><83" indicates that the lift was installed at some time between 1978 and 1983. Info on more precise dates appreciated.
From 1971 to 1980 skiers had to choose between two lift companies, Dartos and Baw Baw Ski Tows. The combined lift company merged with the chairlift in 1988. In 2001 the state government decided to not renew the lease of Mount Baw Baw Ski Enterprises, but as they were unable to find another company to bid for the lease, the lifts were operated by the government until Belgavia Leisure took over in 2014. Media release.
Except for the towers, the original Access chairlift was reused to build a chairlift on the Nut at Stanley in Tasmania. The second Access chairlift was almost entirely new. The towers of the first chairlift were removed, sand blasted and replaced, but everything else was new and sourced from Dopplemayr. It also had about 80 chairs rather than the 50 odd on its predecessor.
After the second chairlift was removed, its parts were in storage at Drouin for many years, but a chair from the lift is on display on the veranda of Kelly's Cafe. Local gossip said it may have been sold to Charlotte Pass and the owners of Charlotte Pass did have a double chair stored at Cooma airport in 2009, although what they would want with Baw Baw's 20 year old, fixed grip double chair is anyone's guess.
Current trail map. Thanks to “Onlybackscratchers”, "djam", Ray Chapman, "HiLo", "sooty68" and Andrew Graham for help.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 22 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
9. Mt Buffalo
|Cresta||Rope tow||1937 - 1938||180 / ?||Cresta||Built by Gill Afflick. 1937 = 108 m, ext to 180 m in '38 and changed to nutcracker. Burnt Jan 39|
|?||2-Chair-F||1964? - ?||-||Cresta Saddle||Part of Ollie Polasek’s Tatra development|
|?||T-bar||1964?-<1984||-||-||Part of Ollie Polasek’s Tatra development|
|?||Poma||1964? - ?||-||-||Part of Ollie Polasek’s Tatra development|
|?||2-Chair-F||>1984 - ?||-||-||Cost $200,000, many teething problems|
|Beginners||Montaz fixed grip||< 1983 >||180 / 27||-||-|
|Operating in 2006||.||-|
|Cresta||Poma||<1983 - 2006||427 / 127||-||Some of these are original 1960's Tatra tows|
|Gully||Poma||<1983 - 2006||165 / 33||-||Some of these are original 1960's Tatra tows|
|Cresta Valley||2-Chair-F||<1983 - 2006||302 / 80||-||Some of these are original 1960's Tatra tows|
|Valley||2-Chair-F||>1983 - 2006||160 / ?||-||Allegedely this lift was supposed to be twice as long but resort ran out of money when it was being built. Parks Vic claimed it was the 2nd shortest chairlift in the world, but this is probably exagerated|
|Novice||Poma||>1983 - 2006||-||-||Some of these are original 1960's Tatra tows|
|Dingo Dell area||.||-|
|The Nutcracker||Nutcracker||1949 - c.1966||-||-||Cost £300, originally a simple rope tow. Built by Canadians Herb Hall & Paul Heikkila using parts & Cadillac engine from Cresta. 6d ride, 10/- week. Revamped & repowered in 1951|
|Number One||Poma||196? - 1998?||240 / 40||-||Cost $20,000. Only operated on weekends from 1996 - 98|
|Number Two||Poma||? - 1998?||216 / 37||-||Only operated on weekends from 1996 - 1998|
|Bambi||Portable||? - 1989||90 / 6||-||-|
|Skyway||Gondola||2009||3 - 4 km||-||Proposed by tourist assoc. Newspaper article, Local TV news|
Dingo Dell’s last season was probably 1998 (or possibly 1988), at the time there was a rope tow and two Pomas there. Cresta’s last season was 2006 when five lifts remained. Final trail maps for Dingo Dell and Cresta areas before they closed.
None of the histories of Mt Buffalo pay much attention to the precise dates, location or names of ski lifts, so the information in this table is rather vague. Any accurate information would be appreciated. Please email australianmountains at gmail.com
In December 2006, The Buffalo Lodge (formerly known as Tatra Inn) burnt down and in January 2007 the lessees relinquished their lease of the Buffalo Chalet. At the time the Chalet (built in 1910) was still structurally sound, but it is unlikely to operate again. In 2007 the state government was unwilling to grant a lease long enough to justify the huge expenditure required to make the rather old fashioned Chalet attractive to guests. While they are now prepared to offer a long lease, it's probably too late. Unless the Chalet is occupied and maintained, it is only a matter of time until a storm or fire damages it irreparably. It all makes a sad end to Victoria’s first ski resort, Australia's oldest surviving ski lodge and the site of Australia's first ski lift.
In the summer of 2012-2013, the ski lifts were offered for sale . One was bought by Dinner Plain and will be used as a tubing lift from the 2015 season, while a Poma may have been bought by a caravan park outside Albury and adapted for use by mountain bikes. News of any others would be appreciated.
Reopening proposal. In winter 2015 a proposal was floated to reopen five lifts at Cresta by an outfit called 'Mt Buffalo Snow Resort Pty Ltd'. It's directors are Ben Mock and Jamie Cottee. Detaiis are on their website www.mtbuffalo.com
Thanks to "Wangaratta_bloke" and to Steve Kemp for information on Dingo Dell.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 3 August 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
10. Mt Buller
|Bourke St||Rope tow / Nutcracker||Home made||1949 - 1958||270 / 180||-||S.C.V & BMW Ski Club. Initially ran as a simple rope tow. Support towers added & upgraded to a nutcracker in 1950. Probably less vertical than 180m|
|Bull Run||Portable nutcracker||-||1953 - 1954||-||-||Blue. Extended in '54, relocated to Mt St Bernard, still operates|
|Bull Run||Nutcracker||-||1955 - 1961||-||-||Blue (John Hilton-Wood)|
|Baldy||Portable rope tow||-||1957 - 1961||-||-||Blue (Ernest & Aurel Forras, sold to John Hilton-Wood)|
|Tyrol / Little Baldy||Rope tow||-||1956?- 1962||c.300/ ?||Tyrol||Maurice Selle.|
|Skyline / Little Collins St||Rope tow||-||1959 - 1961||488 / 75||Skyline||Blue Lifts (then named Bull Run Enterprises)|
|Koflers / Transportation||Nutcracker||-||1959 - 1963||-||-||BMW Ski Tow Group later became Orange (then named Ski Lifts Mt Buller)|
|Bourke St||T-bar||Locally made||1959 - 1968||-||Bourke St||Orange. Parts later used at either Guthega or Ben Lomond|
|Federation||T-bar||-||1959 - 1980||? / 190||Federation||Orange Lifts. Replaced by Federation triple chair|
|Bourke St||Double rope tow||-||1961 - 1963||-||Bourke St||Orange Lifts|
|Chamois||Rope tow||-||1961 - 1963||180/ ?||-||Konrad Koch, bought by Blue and replaced with a Poma. Possibly 1st ran in '62?|
|Bull Run||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1962 - 1984||638 / 240||Bull Run||Blue Lifts. Maybe 610 m long/ 245 m vertical|
|Skyline||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1963 -present||480 / 90||South of Bourke St||Blue Lifts. Oldest lift still operating at Buller|
|Shaky Knees / Swanston St||T-bar||-||1963 - 2004||300/120||-||Orange. Replaced by Emirates / Shakey Knees quad chair|
|Bourke St||2-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1964 - 1983||610 / 90||Bourke St||Blue Lifts. First Doppelmayr double chairlift in the world|
|Summit||Poma||Pomagalski||1964 - 1983||244 / 68||-||Orange, rebuilt at Ben Lomond as 30 Sec & Big Ben|
|Summit Access/Howqua||Poma||Pomagalski||1964 - 83/90's||1070/ 136||*||* See notes below|
|Chamois||Poma||Pomagalski||1965 - 1987||608 / 213||-||Blue Lifts. Extended in 1968 or 69, originally 548 / 205|
|Boggy Creek||T-bar||McCallum||1967 -present||410 / 141||-||Orange.|
|Summit duplicate||Poma||Pomagalski||1968 - 1983||-||-||Orange, rebuilt at Ben Lomond as 30 Sec & Big Ben|
|Whittaker||Poma||Pomagalski||1969 - 1981||-||Near Village run||Blue. Replaced by Village T-bar|
|Baldy||Duplex Poma||Pomagalski||1969 - 1985||274 / 138||Heli Flat - Baldy||Orange Lifts|
|Tyrol / Tirol||T-bar||-||1972 -present||1610/ 356||Orig ran to Baldy||Orange. Shortened in 1987. Spelling change c.2004. New mid-load added 2014. Diesel engine replaced by electic 2015.|
|Beginners / Ski School||platter||-||1974 - 2003||-||Mid Bourke St||Orange. Replaced by Carpet|
|Baldy||2-Chair-F||Pomagalski||1974 - 1983||792 / 77||-||Blue Lifts|
|Beginners||Carousel||-||1976 - 1977||-||Helicopter Flat||Orange Lifts|
|Koflers||T-bar||-||1977 -present||300 / 130||-||Orange Lifts. Originally to the bottom of Howqua.|
|Enzian||Poma||Pomagalski||1979 - 1996||244 / 77||Upper Chamois||Blue Lifts|
|Grimus||3-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1979 -present||800 / 192||Nth side of Summit||Orange Lifts|
|Burnt Hut Spur||3-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1980 - 2009||310 / 105||-||Orange. Wrecked by lightning strike on 28/02/10. Pic. Replaced by Bonza quad|
|Sun Valley||Poma||Pomagalski||1980 - 1985||900 / 300||B/w Bull & Fed||Blue. Built pre '80 season, but may not have opened until '81. Accessed Federation slopes|
|Federation||3-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1981 -present||1000/ 332||-||Orange Lifts. Replaced & extended original T-bar|
|Horse Hill||3-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1982 - 1985||1700/ 390||-||Orange Lifts. Moved to Helicopter Flat in 1986|
|Village||T-bar||-||1982 - 2003||853 / 219||-||Blue Lifts. Replaced & extended Whittaker Poma|
|Beginners||Poma||-||1980 -present||310 / 105||-||Orange Lifts|
|Playground||Poma||-||< 1983 >||100 / 30||Helicopter Flat||Orange Lifts|
|Blue Bullet 1||4-Chair-D||Doppelmayr||1984 - 2018||c.560 / ?||Lower Bourke St||Replaced by a six pack. Wasn't oldest surviving detachable quad, as some Euro '83 lifts still exist|
|Blue Bullet 2||4-Chair-D||Doppelmayr||1984 - 2007||-||Baldy||Blue Lifts. Replaced Baldy double chair|
|Summit||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1984 -present||-||-||Orange Lifts. Replaced duplex Pomas|
|Howqua||4-Chair-F||Poma||1984 -present||-||Howqua/Family - Baldy||Orange. Eng, twr heads, bullwheels are for triple, other parts are quad|
|Spurs / Trainer||T-bar||-||1984 - 2011||-||Top of Horse Hill||Orange. Very short, allowed easier transverse to Bourke St|
|Bull Run||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1985 -present||-||-||Blue Lifts. Replaced Bull Run T-bar|
|Horse Hill / Northside Express||4-Ch/Gond-D||Doppelmayr||1986 -present||1700 / 390||Mid station at Chalet Ck||Dopp website claims it was first chondola in the world. Renamed 2012. 106 chairs, 20 gondolas, 4.0 m/s. 1st ski gondola in Aust. Film of lift in '86|
|Helicopter Flat / ABOM||3-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1986 - 2007||-||-||Replaced Baldy, moved from Horse Hill. Renamed 03. Sold to Selwyn|
|Dam||Rope tow||-||1987 - 2011||-||Near Spurs||Very short beginners lift, replaced by carpet from Burnt Hut|
|Southside||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1990 -present||-||Federation area||-|
|Ski Kindy No. 1||Rope tow||-||1991 -present||-||-||_|
|Chamois / Lydia Lassila / Lydia's||2-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1993 -present||-||Chamois bowl||1993 was a poor snow season & verbal reports say the new lift didn't run that year. Third lift on the route, a rope tow and Poma had been there previously. Has a mid station. Renamed before 2011 season|
|Canyon Rope Tow ||Rope tow||-||1997 - 2018||-||Sth of bus station||Link route between Chamois & Bull Run. Steeper than second lift, so it was replaced as some skiers had difficulty using it|
|Canyon Rope Tow ||Rope tow||-||1997 -present||-||Sth of bus station||Link route between Chamois and Bull Run. Gentle grade simple rope tow, rope gripped in a glove with no other assistance|
|Tube Park||Rope tow||-||1998 -present||-||-||-|
|Bluff View||Rope tow||-||2001 -present||-||Baldy rail park||-|
|Cattleman's 1||Carpet||-||2003 -present||-||-||-|
|Cattleman's 2||Carpet||-||2003 -present||-||-||-|
|Bourke St Carpet||Carpet||-||2004 -present||-||-||-|
|Emirates / Shaky Knees/ Discovery / SK / The Fox||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||2005 -present||633 / 151||Upper Tyrol||Speed 2.3 metres per second. Replaced Shakey Knees T-bar. Called Northside pre opening, renamed 2011, 2012, 2015|
|Holden / ABOM Express / Mercedes-Benz||6-Chair-D||Doppelmayr||2008 -present||1001 / 127||Heli Flat - Baldy||Cost $7m, speed 5.0 m/s Replaced BB2 & Heli/ABOM Initial press release Renamed 2014?|
|Burnt Hut 1||Carpet||-||2010 - 2011||160 / ?||-||Carpet (sourced from NZ?) after lightning destroyed BH chair|
|Burnt Hut 2||Carpet||-||2010 - 2011||160 / ?||-||Replaced by new fixed grip quad chair in 2012|
|Bonza||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||2012 -present||533 / 132||Burnt Hut||Repaced Burnt Hut triple chair. Cost $3.1 m. Speed 2.3 m/s. Link to webpage|
|Gliders||Carpet||-||2012 -present||-||-||Replaced Spurs T-bar. Located on Burnt Hut Spur 2010-11, previously in NZ|
|Happy Feet||Carpet||-||2012 -present||-||-||Replaced Dam rope tow. Located on Burnt Hut Spur 2010-11, previously in NZ|
|Canyon||Platter / handle tow||SunKid||2019 -present||c.100 / ?||-||Replaced Canyon tow  on traverse between Chamois & Bull Run as some people had difficulty using a rope tow. Lift is a SunKid Comfort Star|
|Bourke Street Express||6-Chair-D||Doppelmayr||2019 -present||c.560 / ?||Lower Bourke St||Replaced Blue Bullet 1|
|Kofler's||Rope Tow||-||1939 & 1940||122 / 60||Horse Hill||Foundations poured early '39. To be ready for '40 season, stopped by war|
|Kofler's||Funicular rail||-||1940||-||Mirimbah - Chalet||Hybrid of local logging cableways & 1930's European funicular railways|
|Shaky Knees - Helicopter Flat?||"Trolley sledge lift"=Funicular?||1954||Base SK/Slalom Gully-Heli Flat||Harold Cuming. Work began, but permission later refused. Loss of Welcome Inn to fire in 1955 led to Cumming transfering to Mt Mawson (SH 10/54 p6, 1/55 p3, 10/55 p2)|
|Federation||?||1954||Federation||Kooroora (Forras brothers). Application to build refused by Forests Commission. (Ski Horizon 11/54 p7)|
|Village||Gondola||2010 plan||Horse Hill-town centre||Page 24 of Final masterplan 2010, Draft masterplan early 2010|
|Playground||Unspecified||2010 plan||Spurs - Baldy||Draft masterplan 2010|
In common with Ben Lomond and Mt Baw Baw, Mt Buller had two lift companies for many years. They issued a joint ticket in 1984 and merged in 1985 when Bull Run Enterprises (Blue Lifts) took over Mt Buller Ski Lifts (Orange Lifts). The company is now called Buller Ski Lifts.
The interactive trail map for Buller's ski slopes.
At least eight old ski lifts from Mt Buller were relocated to other Australian mountains in three states. Buller is the only Australian resort with a consistent record of selling its discarded lifts.
Ben Lomond bought several lifts including the Bourke St rope tow, both summit Pomas and the Bourke St (or Baldy?) double chairlift.
The original 1953 Bull Run nutcracker tow was relocated to Mt St Bernard (near Mt Hotham) in 1955. It is Australia’s oldest operational ski lift and one of the oldest in the world.
Guthega bought a T-bar from Orange Lifts in the mid 1970's, (probably the Bourke St T-bar, as both had arch type frames).
I've been informed that Painted Run T-bar at Mt Baw Baw also came from Buller, but have not been able to confirm this.
More recently, the Helicopter / ABOM triple chair was sold to Selwyn Snowfields.
Bourke St and Baldy double chairs, Blue Bullet 1 and 2 quads. Working draft.
These lifts were amongst the most revolutionary to ever be installed in Australia. Not only were they amongst the first quad chairs, but they were also the first detachable chairlifts in the country.
Bourke Street has always been Mt Buller’s busiest beginners run and it was named after the similarity of its crowded slopes to the crowds on Bourke St in central Melbourne. The first lift on the slope was a simple rope tow which operated for the 1949 ski season which was rebuilt and upgraded to become a nutcracker tow for the 1950 season. With a host of new lodges appearing every year, Buller’s explosive growth meant that Bourke St became more crowded despite the construction of new ski lifts on other slopes, so in 1956 and 57 two more tows were built from the upper part of Bourke St to Baldy, (a distinctive hill that overlooks the run). These were joined by a T-bar in 1959 and a duplex nutcracker tow in 1961. There were so many lifts on some parts on the ski run that they reduced the room available for skiers. At the same time the multiple independent lift operators were consolidating into two companies.
So inhe crowded slopes of lower Bourke Street
Allegedly Dopp senior said chairlifts were a fad…
Cutthroat competition between the Blue and Orange lift companies meant they were always looking for points of difference and new innovations. One of these was the Bourke Street double chair installed for the 1964 season. This was the first double chair in Victoria and allegedly the first double chair built by Doppelamayr. In 1959 a T-bar on the route replaced a nutcracker tow considerably improving comfort, but the chairlift completely outclassed the T-bar.
Problems with rhime and icing and Dopps help with it. Include a photo.
The chairlift was successful and in 1974 the route was extended to the top of Baldy by a second chairlift, which appears to have been made by Poma. The top station of the Bourke St lift and the base of the Baldy lift were adjacent, allowing a quick transition between the two.
However while the Blue chairlifts offered the most comfortable route from the village to the top of Baldy, they were not the fastest as in 19xx Orange installed duplex fast Pomas to Baldy. By the 1980s the slow, fixed grip Bourke St chair often featured long queus as it was the only lifted access from much of the village to most of the ski slopes. In 1984 these two factors led to a solution even more radical than the installation of the double chair 20 years earlier
Triple chairs had operating in Australia since 19xx and the natural evolution from them were the quad chairs built at yyy and zzz resorts in 19xx. A quad chair would have solved the problem with queses on the Bourke Street chair, but Blue Lifts went several steps beyond that by installing a detachable quad. Before this all chairlifts in Australia were ‘fixed grip’ with chair permanently attached to the cable. Chairs could not move overly fast through loading and unloading points, so this limited the speed of fixed grip chairs to around 2 1/2 metres per second. This may not have been much of a problem, but Orange Lifts were operating their Baldy Pomas at twice that speed.
So over the summer of 1983 - 84, Blue replaced both double lifts with detachable quads. Australian skiers and resorts had never seen anything like them before. Detachable chairlifts remove the chair from the cable and move them slowly through the terminal at a low speed of around a metres per second. This allows the main cable to move quite fast at around 5 m/s which is double the usual speed of a fixed grip chair. So detachable chairs are easier to load and travel faster. Everyone wins… except that the cost of building and maintaining them is much higher than fixed grip chairlifts.
Not all of BB1 was scrapped over the summer of 2018 -2019, the chairs were auctioned off and many found a new life as garden furniture. The bull wheel was reused in a private chairlift near Albury. Blue Bullet 1 photo gallery.
One of the first detachable chairlifts in the world
Both Doppelmayr and Poma introduced detachable chairlifts in the early 1980s, with other companies following the two industry leaders (such as Xxxx in 198* and Yyyyy in 199*). The first detachable in North America (and probably the world) was the Quicksliver quad chair that operated at Breckenridge in Colorado from 1981 to 1999.* This was followed by a Poma detachable quad at Serre Chevalier in France in 1982 and a Dopplelmayr detachable triple chair at Mt Bachelor in 1983. This triple appears to be the closest relative of Mt Buller’s Blue Bullets. So it appears that the Buller probably had the third and fourth detachable quads in the world.
* In 2000 Quicksilver was relocated to the Mont Owls Head resort in Quebec and renamed Lake. So the worlds first detachable chairlift still operates
Operations, effect on Buller.
Maintenance and spare parts difficulties. Detachable quads are very complex machines and as the early technology evolved it was quickly superseded. But unlike T-bars, nutcrackers and even Poma lifts, replacement parts cannot be easily made in a workshop. As the lifts aged, spare parts became more of a problem and hearsay suggests this was one of the reasons BB2 was removed, so parts from it could be used to keep BB1 running.
Replacement with 6 packs.
Summit Access / Howqua Poma. Background profile
Profile will be completed and the text further edited soon.
More than any other mountain in Australia, Mt Buller had a love affair with Poma lifts. By the early 1960s there was fierce competition between Blue and Orange lifts and both companies were quick to replace nutcracker tows as soon as there were reliable alternatives. So 11 Pomas were built at Buller between 1964 and 1980. One of Buller’s Pomas was the fastest ski lift to ever operate in Australia and was amongst the fastest in the world.
In 1959 the BMW tow group (Brighton Mountain Wanderers, not the car company) installed the Koflers/Transportation nutcracker tow to provide access to areas of the mountain further from the village and Federation T-bar was built in the same year. At the time, there was competition between Blue Lifts and the groups which would soon combine to become orange lifts, to access as much of the mountain as possible. The Transportation tow and Federation T-bar allowed Orange to claim part of the south west part of the mountain as their own. However T-bars of the time were not reliable, they ran at even slower speeds than they do today and there was trouble with every type of spring box on the market.
Blue lifts had been running trips to the summit area with skiers towed behind oversnow vehicles and by 1964 Orange were ready to establish a claim to the area. However their nutcracker which accessed Federation and the lower Baldy area did not have the capacity to serve further areas. So in 1964 the Koflers / Transportation nutcracker was replaced with a Poma lift and an additional Poma was built on terrain which had not seen a lift before, the same path as todays Summit quad chairlift.
The new Summit Access / Howqua Poma opened in 1964. What made it different to any other was that it was double ended. The lift started in the village at Helicopter Flat and climbed to the ridge just south of Baldy, then it descended along a path parallel to the present Howqua chairlift. The east side was named Summit Access, the west end was Howqua. Skiers could load onto the lift at either end and get off wherever they wanted to at the top of the ridge. While the new Poma served some ski runs, it was more of an access lift. And, because the Poma sticks detached from the cable and were spring loaded, the lift could operate at up to three times the speed of T-bars.
Pomas were a new type of lift and Orange were keen to emphasise their advantages. One of those advantages was speed and in it’s first years they often ran Summit Access / Howqua at its top speed of 6½ metres a second. This not only got their customers up to the Federation and Summit lifts faster, it allowed them to zoom past skiers on Blue Lifts Skyline T-bar or the expensive new Bourke St chairlift, neither operated at more than 2 metres a second. However this breakneck speed led to accidents and within a few years it was restricted to 4 m/s when open to the public, although it still operated at full speed for staff.
In 1984 the Poma was partly replaced by the Howqua quad chairlift and two years later the other end was removed to make way for the Helicopter / ABOM triple chair. From the late 1980's to the early 1990's, a truncated at both ends Summit Access poma ran from near Fawlty Towers to the top of the Howqua chair.
Howqua (this section was 536 long / 86 vertical).
More on Buller history:
Jim Darby. Mt Buller: the story of a mountain. tSm Publishing, 2008.
David Joss. Mt Buller: a history. Alpine Resorts Commission, n.d. (1995?). 36 page booklet.
Ernest Forras, Jan Henderson. Ernest escapades, or seriously for fun only: the autobiography of Ernest Forras. Ernest Forras, 1994.
Harry Stephenson. Skiing the high plains: a history of the ski exploration of Victoria's alpine area. Graphic Books, 1982. Pages 198 - 219.
I. C. Dillon. Tracks of the morning: a Timbertop history text. Geelong Grammar School, 1989. Pages 323 - 357.
Magazines. Most ski magazines have covered the development of Buller, but the Australian and New Zealand ski yearbook and two Victorian ski monthlies, Schuss and Ski Horizon were published during the formative years of the mountain.
Club histories. Club histories tend to focus on work parties, lodge construction and administration, but they also give a good idea of skiers experiences over the years.
Lynette Sheridan. University Ski Club 1929 - 1979. U.S.C, 1988. Chapter 9, pages 130 - 161.
Janis Lloyd. Skiing into history: 1924 - 1984. Ski Club of Victoria, 1986. Pages 93 - 197.
Ann Crawford. A proud achievement: 50 years of YHA on Mt Buller 1947 - 1997. YHA, 1997. 58 page booklet.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 10 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
11. Mt Hotham
|Lift name||Type||Manufacturer||Operated||Length / Vertical||Location||Notes|
|Blue Ribbon||Nutcracker||Hamilton||1952 -72, 3 or 4?||560or610/235or253||-||Cost £3000, capacity 12 at a time. Length & vert figures vary|
|Higginbotham||Rope tow||-||1958? - >1965||61 / -||Davenport||Probably owned by Ski Tows Ltd.|
|Basin||Rope tow||-||1958 or 9- 62?||61 / ?||Basin Run||Ski Tows Ltd. Replaced by a Poma|
|Jack Hedley's||Rope tow||-||1962 - 1964||-||Pimples - Swindlers||Lift had previously run as Dogpatch at Falls Creek|
|Basin||Poma||-||1963 or 4-1970||-||Today's Basin Run||Ski Tows Ltd. Moved to Davenport|
|?||Rope Tow?||-||1963 - ?||-||Above Blue Ribbon||Formerly "Novice tow at Hotham" before being moved|
|Jack's Tow||J-bar||-||1965? -1968?||-||Sun Run||Apparently unreliable. May have originally been a rope tow|
|Pole Line / Summit||Poma||Poma||1966 - 1987||790 / 95||Summit||Ski Tows Ltd.|
|Playground||2-Chair-F||Doppelamyr||1969 - 2018||614 / 199 shortened||< Originally 900 / 290||Initially planned for Aust Drift. Only ran from mid station to top in 1969. full length operated from 1970. Shortened for 1993. 1000 p/hr|
|Davenport||Poma||Poma||1971 - 1983||240 / 43||Big D area||Moved from Basin, replaced by Big D quad chair|
|Brockhoff||Poma||Poma||1973 - 1986||790 / 290||North of Heavenly Valley||Originally planned to name it Snake Gully Poma. Only Poma with 2 corners in Australia. Partly replaced by Heavenly Valley quad|
|Basin||Platter||Doppelmayr||1974 - 1992||175 / 44||-||Moved to Koala Park?|
|Sun Run||T-bar||Doppelamyr||1977 - 1994||350 / 98||North side of present Sun Run||-|
|Summit||T-bar||Doppelamyr||1979 - 1994||580 / 87||-||Moved to Australia Drift|
|Blue Ribbon||3-Chair-F||Doppelamyr||1981 - present||710 / 216||-||Capacity 1600 per hour|
|Plains of Heaven / Ski School||Platter||Doppelamyr||1981 - 1983||153 / 36||Lower Blue Ribbon||Moved to Dinner Plain|
|Big D||4-Chair-F||Doppelamyr||1984 - present||396 / 64||Davenport||Replaced Davenport Poma. Capacity 2400 per hr|
|Heavenly Valley||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1987 - present||845 / 314or395?||-||Replaced Brockoff Poma. Capacity 2400 per hr|
|Summit||4-Chair-F||Doppelamyr||1988 - present||595 / 98||-||May have been installed 1989, not 1988. Capacity 2400 per hour|
|Village / Audi Quattro||4-Chair-F||Poma||1993 - present||800 / 275||-||Name changed 2016. Capacity 2400 per hour|
|Koala Park||Platter||Doppelamyr||1993 - 1997||-||B/w Zirky's & White Cryst||Moved to summit. Renamed Summit Trainer|
|Road Runner||4-Chair-F||Poma||1995 - present||671 / 153||-||Capacity 2400 per hour|
|Australia Drift / The Drift||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1995 - present||370 / 88||-||Moved from Summit. Capacity 1285 per hr|
|Gotcha||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1997 - present||472 / 140||-||Doppelmayr lists length/vertical as 485 / 121. Speed 2.1 metres per second, capacity 2400 per hour|
|Keogh's||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1997 - present||383 / 188||-||Continues over valley as Orchard, loads in middle. Speed 2.1 metres second. 2400 passengers an hour|
|Orchard||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1997 - present||573 / 154||-||Continues over valley as Keogh's, loads in middle. Speed 2.1 metres second. 2400 passengers an hour|
|Summit Trainer||Platter||Doppelmayr||1998 - present||132 / 22||-||Formerly at Koala Park. Capacity 500 per hour|
|Big D Trainer||Rope tow||-||1999 - 2008?||-||-||-|
|Pups Playground||Carpet||-||? - present||17 / ?||Davenport||-|
|Harry's Hideaway||Carpet||-||? - present||50 / ?||Davenport||-|
|Australia Drift||2-Chair-F||-||1968||-||-||Planned location for double chair. Location changed before installation|
|Imagine - Summit||Chairlift||-||2014||-||Top of Slalom Gully-Summitt||In RMB plan (not lift co's). Aims to reduce congestion in Slalom Gully|
|Higginbotham||Chairlift||-||2014||-||North side of Higgi||Connects Village chair with Big D. In RMB plan (not lift companys)|
|Australia Drift||4-Chair--||-||2014||-||-||Proposal to replace Drift Lift T-bar with quad chair|
There is fragmentary evidence of a hand held rope tow operating in the Diamantina Hut / Murray Valley Ski Club area in the late 1960's or early 1970s. Any conformation of it's existence would appreciated, solid details such as it's route or a photo would be appreciated even more.
Information on lifts at Hotham in the 1960's is conflicting. After the monthly magazines Ski Horizon and Schuss ceased publication, there was no reliable record of exactly what was happening in Victorian skiing. Wendy Cross's excellent book Australian skiing: the first 100 years doesn't cover events after 1962, but she states that Basin was the second lift, running from 1958 - 59 before being moved to Davenport.
Lift companies. The original lift company: Ski Tows Limited was operated on a cost recovery basis by members of the University Ski Club and the Alpine Club of Victoria. It never paid a dividend. Jack Hedley also ran a couple of lifts for a few years. Ski Tows Ltd's lack of capital hampered further development of the mountain. After the 1968 season a controlling interest in the company was sold to Desmond Schumann who built the Playground double chair. It was originally planned for the Australia Drift / Avalanche Gully area, but the location was changed to the current site just before it was installed. In 1995 the Schumann family sold Ski Tows Limited to BCR Management so they could concentrate on Silver Star and Big White, ski resorts in B.C. Canada which Schumann family interests had acquired.
In the latter years of Schumann ownership a number of old surface lifts were replaced with chairlifts. When BCR Management took over, they continued the chairlift construction programme and in 1997 built Gotcha, Keogh's and Orchard in areas that had never had lifts before. Infrastructure development continued in 1999 with the opening of the airport at nearby Horsehair Plain.
All this development appears to have over extended BCR Management and in 2004 the lift company was sold to MFS Living and Leisure, a listed Gold Coast land developer that also owned aquariums and treetop walks. They had great plans for expansion of both lifts and buildings. As they also owned the lifts at Falls Creek, a lift ticket was valid at both resorts. However the plans came to nothing when MFS L&L went broke in 2008. The company was bailed out when a controlling shareholding was acquired by the Jamie Packer controlled outfit that owned the ski lifts at Perisher. In December 2011 L&L was sold to Merlin Entertainments, a UK based tourist group with attractions worldwide including aquariums, theme parks and the Legoland and Madame Tussauds chains. At the time Merlin did not own any ski resorts so there was speculation about whether they planed to hold on to the renamed Mount Hotham Skiing Company, but they still own Hotham and Falls, although there have no new master plans of the type announced by previous owners. An indication that Merlin continued to be interested in the ski industry is that they were negotiating to buy Cardrona ski resort in New Zealand in 2013, although it was later bought by a local company.
Recent trail map.
More on Hotham history:
Donald Bennett. Hotham horizon: the Alpine Club of Victoria. The author, 1987.
Jennifer McLennan. Not below 5000: a history of the Ski Club of East Gippsland. S.C.E.G., 2001.
Lynette Sheridan. University Ski Club: 1929 - 1979. U.S.C., 1988.
Gillian Salmon. The king of Hotham: my father. Lindsay Salmon - the Drift Chalet - Mount Hotham. Gillian Magnabosco, 2013.
Ticket prices in 1965. A 7 day ticket for all tows cost £7. Blue Ribbon nutcracker cost 30 shillings for 10 rides or 5/- for a single ride. Basin Poma and Higginbotham rope tow: 30/- for 40 rides or 1/- for a single ride.
Thanks to Tim Meier for help with information on lift manufacturers.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 19 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
Playground double chairlift
Ski Tows Limited was a non profit company that ran most of Hotham’s lifts from 1952. However operating on a cost recovery basis meant that after building the Blue Ribbon nutcracker tow, it barely had the money to build a few short surface lifts in the years that followed. The under capitalisation of the lift company became a serious impediment to the development of Hotham at a time when Buller and Falls Creek were booming. This changed after the 1968 ski season when a controlling interest was sold to Des Schumann who immediately began planning new lifts.
At the time Hotham had a few shortish beginner lifts but the Blue Ribbon tow was the only lift that served longer slopes with more difficult terrain. However the mountain had huge potential, with a wealth of challenging but unlifted slopes. It seems Schumann wanted to make a splash in his first season of owning the lift company, so he ordered a Doppelmayr chairlift, something that Hotham skiers had hardly dared to dream about. It was originally planned to install the new lift in the Australia Drift - Avalanche Gully area, but late in the planning process it was moved to the slope north of Zirkys leading down to Swindlers Creek
In 1969 the brand new chairlift only operated from the mid station. This may have been because it wasn’t quite finished, and anecdotal reports say it broke down a few times. But 1969 was a very poor ski season without much snow and the brand new International Poma at nearby Falls Creek ski resort never operated at all. So for whatever reason, the new chairlift only operated from top to bottom from the winter of 1970. Initially it was simply known as ‘the chairlift’ but after the Blue Ribbon chairlift was opened in 1981, it was given the name Playground.
The original base station was built almost on top of Swindlers Creek and in the late 1980s a flood destroyed the base station. As there had recently been a lot of earth works upstream to improve runs served by the new Heavenly Valley quad, and the disturbed area had not had time to revegetate, the flood also washed a lot of dirt down the creek, slightly raising the ground level near the chairlift. So after a bigger channel was built for the creek, a new base for the chairlift was installed that required a shorter first tower. While original lift towers had a rectangular profile, this newer tower was round.
The chairlift was successful in its first years of operation as it served a variety of runs. It also permitted development further up Swindlers Creek Valley and when Brockhoff Poma opened in 1972, it accessed a huge area that had previously required long climbs on foot. Both lifts were heavily used and in a way became victims of their own success. Long queues meant that more lifts were required to relieve crowding and in 1987 Heavenly Valley quad chair replaced the Brockhoff Poma. This placed even more pressure on the double chair as it had been used as an access lift for Brockhoff and then Heavenly Valley, with queues up to 30 minutes long after the newly built quad closed at 4.30. So in the summer of 1992 - 1993 the Village quad chair (later renamed Audi Quatro) was built close to the double chair.
While the top stations of the two chairlifts were over 200 metres apart, it was decided to build the Swindlers Creek base station of the new Village quad right next to the base of Playground, meaning that the loading point of Playground had to be moved. As the slope immediately above the creek was particularly steep, the old double chair had a new base station built further up the hill above the steep section. The new load platform was supported by reused towers from the former Brockhoff and Summit Pomas. At the same time the shortened lift got new chairs.
There was space for the bases of both chairlifts near the creek, so it is unclear why a route was chosen for the new quad that did not allow Playground to continue operating without being shortened.
When the Sun Run T-bar was built in 1979, Playground’s mid station was removed as the new T-bar duplicated the upper section of Playground. After Sun Run T-bar was replaced by the much longer Road Runner quad chair in 1995, an improvised mid station made from snow was utilised for a year or two before a proper mid station was rebuilt around 1996 or 1997.
However the new base of the double chair was never terribly popular and in its last few decades Playground probably loaded most of its passengers from the mid station adjacent to the base of the Sun Run T-bar and Road Runner quad. After Road Runner was built, Playground essentially operated as a replacement for the Sun Run T-bar.
From the turn of the century the old chair was used less and less and in its last few years it was only used occasionally, mostly when Road Runner was on wind hold or to move skiers when things became crowded. Playground ran for the last time on 7 October 2018 at the end of its 50th ski season. A video of a ride from the mid station can be found at this link.
There a few uncertainties about Playground. Please email australianmountains (at) gmail.com if you have more information
While the replacement chairs from circa 1993 were from Doppelmayr, I have been unable to confirm that the original lift was made by them.
The original lift was 954 metres long with a vertical ascent of 300 metres. The length and vertical of the shortened lift from 1993 is recorded as 614 and 199. However I doubt the shortened lift was less than two thirds the length of the original, so these figures may be a bit out.
Blue Ribbon nutcracker tow
Blue Ribbon was the first lift on Hotham. It was built in 1952 and operated until at least 1972. It appears the tow was never formally decommissioned, instead it may have just been used less and less. Some anecdotes claim it was still running as late as 1974. Relics remained on site for years after the replacement triple chairlift was installed in 1981.
Details: Hamilton 'Type B' rope tow. Cost of purchase and construction £3,000. 1836 feet (560 metres) long, vertical lift 770' (235 m.), average slope 25 degrees. Powered by a 28 horsepower (21 kilowatt) Bedford Truck engine which was housed in a hut at the top of the tow near the road. The tow rope was 1 inch ( 2.54 cm) sisal. It was supported on 9 poles with waist height pulleys that could be raised or lowered according to the depth of snow. Capacity 12 at a time. The trip took four minutes at a speed of 6.8 miles per hour (11 kph) compared to a 40 minute walk up the slope. A canteen was added to the tow hut in 1957.
Building the Blue Ribbon tow. Don Bennett
An extract from: Donald Bennett. Hotham horizon: the Alpine Club of Victoria: reminiscence. Pages 95 - 97.
The first ski tow on Hotham was a major development. This too was conceived and brought about by the joint efforts of the University Ski Club and the Alpine Club of Victoria...
... The subject of tows was first raised during a... meeting on 22nd June 1950. The minutes... state, 'George Chisholm opened the subject of a ski tow for Mt. Hotham and produced detailed information of the Hamilton tow widely used in New Zealand. A meeting of a group of interested people was arranged for Monday, 3rd July 1950, to discuss the type of tow and the financing of the project'.
George Chisholm had visited New Zealand in 1949 as Captain of the Australian Inter Dominion Team. He had been most impressed by the Hamilton rope tow manufacturers at Littleton near Christchurch. This rope tow was used at Coronet Peak and gave George ample opportunity to assess the practicability of the device.
A company, rejoicing in the name of Ski Tows Ltd., was formed in 1950 with four U.S.C. and three Alpine members earlier mentioned as directors. We determined to purchase a Hamilton Tow and, as usual, the immediate problem was finance. This elusive commodity was acquired by our joint contributions and the practice of a polite species of highway robbery, brow beating and moral suasion on our unfortunate friends. In all there were over fifty shareholders of touching faith.
Nobody ever expected that the company would pay a dividend. Their expectations were absolutely correct.
The Hamilton tow consisted of an endless one inch diameter sisal rope passing over pulleys, mounted on brackets adjustable in height to cope with varying snow depths. The pulley brackets were attached to nine inch steel pipes some 20 feet high, set at appropriate intervals down the slope. A 'nut cracker' attached to a waist belt, clipped onto the moving rope. These waist belts were fabricated from old war time aircraft belts. Power was derived from a 28 Horsepower, 6 cylinder, Bedford Truck motor, located in an engine house just below the road. The engine house also provided accommodation for the tow operator in separate living quarters.
A certain skill was required whilst stationary and awaiting uphill transport to clip the nut cracker onto the moving rope. Failure to adequately connect, or careless ski orientation, resulted in undignified collapse or being dragged up the slope on your posterior. Another hazard was the possibility of loose clothing being wrapped up in the moving rope. On its upward journey the rope sometimes revolved slowly compounded with forward motion. Legend has it that a lady of superb physical charms became thus caught up. First the parka was shed, then the pullover and finally the shirt. The tow operator, a man of rigid moral principles, is alleged to have stopped the tow some distance from the expectant uphill onlookers. This allowed the deprived damsel to fade gracefully into the bushes. Topless skiers were rare in those days.
Despite these hazards the ascent out of the Drag was reduced from 40 minutes on climbing skins to about 4 minutes over 770 vertical feet, the rope tow carrying ten skiers upwards at a time. Initially, there was much debate amongst the directors on a suitable location. After all, the tow was to be the longest in Australia at that time and the first at Hotham. The chosen site was on a slope now occupied by the Blue Ribbon chair lift and effectively serviced the Drag, Blue Ribbon and the Wood Run downhill descents. The final location was surveyed and cleared during the weekend of 16th and 17th February 1952.
An alternative site was considered near the later situation of the Brockhoff Tow. This was ruled out partly because of doubts if a rope tow and passengers could negotiate a bend in the tow line, obviously needed at this location because of the terrain. It is of interest to note that during our explorations in the valley around this area we discovered a small grass grown flat on which could still be seen the outline of a log cabin. The outline was nothing more than moss lines with cross-over points at four corners. We surmised that it had once been an overseer's quarters when the water race to Brandy Creek Mine was under construction in the sixties of the last [19th] century. Today, of course, the water race, partly dug into the hillside and partly supported by stone escarpments, is a convenient track for skiers passing between runs off Loch Spur.
The company was unique in that the Directors were also the installation engineers, fabricators and general labourers. A shop steward of the Builders Labourers Federation would have been completely non-plussed. A major labour was pole erection, much of it over a rock scree slope. In some locations base holes had to be blasted out of the rocky soil. Hamish Pearson was O/C gelignite and he developed a playful habit of letting off a charge with scant warning. If one was working down the pole line the drill, on hearing the explosion, was to immediately cease all activities and gaze intently at the blue sky. Thus the observer skipped nimbly aside to avoid falling rocks descending out of the heavens.
To assist in correct installation, we imported a New Zealander, one Snowy Hansen, to supervise the project. Snowy was a man of iron nerve, having been in a Bomb Disposal unit at the Middle East Front during the 1939-1945 war. However, like many New Zealanders, he had somewhat of a complex about snakes - New Zealand is free from these reptiles. On arriving at Melbourne Airport his anxious queries concerning snakes at Hotham were soothed by soft and oblique answers. Even we did not then know that the Blue Ribbon scree slope housed a significant number of tiger snakes and copperheads.
Snowy was installed at Hotham and all was peace and joy until one day he noticed various directors at work down the scree slope suddenly leaping downward or sideways for no apparent reason. Naturally he queried this eccentric behaviour and, perforce, we had to tell him about the snakes. His immediate reaction was to arm himself with a pale blue broom handle as a defensive weapon. This never left his side and rumour has it that he even took the broom handle to bed with him! Our duplicity pained him and he sorrowfully stated that 'if he had known he would not have left New Zealand'. Fortunately nobody was bitten and it is probable Hamish Pearson's mighty gelignite blasts dispersed the snakes to more peaceful quarters.
The tow commenced operation in the winter of 1952 and gave many years of service until 1965. Subsequently Ski Tows Ltd. was disposed of to Desmond Schuman. It was the forerunner of the network of chairlifts, pomas and T-bars now reticulating over Hotham slopes.
12. Mt Mawson
|Cuming||Rope tow||1958 - 1960||153 / ?||Golden Stairs - Picnic Boulder||Owned by Harold Cuming. Burnt Jan 1961|
|Mawson||Nutcracker||1963 - present||198 / 50||-||Extended in 1982. Most southerly ski lift in Australia|
|University||Nutcracker||1968 - present||250 / 58||-||Length & vertical figures may not be accurate as Mawson seems to be longer|
|Rodway||Nutcracker||1973 - present||275 / 80||Eastern end of Rodway Range||Reputedly the steepest ski lift in Australia|
|Beginners||Handle tow||1960s - early 90s||70 / 15||Between Mawson & University||Operated in conjunction with Sitzmark. When they closed, so did the tow|
Unlike Ben Lomond in northern Tasmania, Mt Mawson never developed into a modern ski resort. It is the last 'club field' in Australia that is still open to the public. (Although three club run nutcracker tows still operate in Victoria and a club owned Poma plus a handle tow operate at Cabramurra in NSW and there are plenty of club fields in New Zealand.)
The lifts are operated by volunteers drawn from the seven clubs with lodges on the mountain. In recent years they have only operated on weekends, although in the past they ran midweek during school holidays. Rodway is probably the steepest surface lift in Australia, but it often doesn't operate even when other lifts are open. This is due to shortages of volunteer lift operators and ski patrollers as well as government restrictions on summer grooming to remove rocks and scrub, meaning a heavy snow cover is often needed for the lift to run.
Resort website: http://mtmawson.info/
Click for resort map showing the day shelters, three ski tows and seven club lodges.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 25 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
13. New South Wales, outside resorts
|Main Range||Ski Tourers Assoc||1954 - 1956||Northcote Tow||Hamilton Tow. c.500/160. Blew up. Parts used to build Crackenback nutcracker at Thredbo|
|Main Range||Ski Tourers Assoc||1957 - 1958?||Albina T-bar||Info in Cross Australian skiing: the first 100 years & Southwell-Keely Highway to Heaven. p.58|
|Diggers Creek||Hotel Kosciusko||Late 1940's?-51?||Port rope tow||Kerry Course, dates uncertain. Johnny Abbotsmith, moved to Perisher after hotel fire|
|Diggers Creek||Tony Sponar||1960 - ?||Poma||Kerry Course, near Sponar's Lakeside Inn. Promomotional film of its operation|
|Kosciusko Road||Unknown||1950's||Port rope tow||North of Kosci Rd between Sponars & Smiggins, probably Abbotsmith's portable tow|
|Kiandra||Wally Reed||c.1945- 1956||-||Township Hill, 60 m long|
|Kiandra||Kiandra S.C.||1957 - c.1977||T-bar||550 m. Township Hill, moved to other side of hill in '61, later moved to Selwyn|
|Kiandra||Tumut Ski Club||1958 - c,1977||Rope tow||New Chum Hill, lift originally located at Kings Cross|
|Kiandra||Colin Myers||?60's -late 70's||Rope tow||-|
|Unknown location||Tumut Ski Club||1949 - ?||Rope tow||Had 8 hp Ford engine. Refered to in Ski Horizon April 1950. p. 6.|
|Rules Point||Tumut Ski Club||1951 - ?||Rope tow||Refered to in Ski Horizon June 1951. p. 2.|
|Kings Cross||Tumut Ski Club||1954 - 1957||Rope tow||Half way between Kiandra & Selwyn, moved to New Chum Hill, Kiandra|
|Kings Cross||Cabramurra Ski Club||1961 - c.1970||-||One source says after closing this tow used to extend the SMA Tate tow at Guthega, but dates clash|
|Cabramurra||Cabramurra Ski Club||1955 - c.1974?||Village Tow||Built 1954 but didn't operate. Some material donated by SMHEA. Extended 56 & 60|
|Cabramurra||Cabramurra Ski Club?||1960's - c.2016?||Handle tow||Operated by Cabramurra Ski Club. Operation suspended, apparently at the behest of Snowy Hydro.|
|Cabramurra||Cabramurra Ski Club||c.1975? - c.2016?||Village Poma||Replaced Village rope tow. Operation suspended in about 2016, apparently at the behest of Snowy Hydro.|
|Round Mountain||Corryong S. C.?||1960's?- 1970's?||-||Some poles remain|
|Tooma Dam: Montagues Hut||?||1960's?- 1970's?||-||Pulleys attached to trees, dismantled each year|
All non resort lifts in NSW were probably nutcrackers or rope tows except the Lake Albina T-bar, Sponar's Poma, the Cabramurra Poma and handle tow and the Kiandra T-bar. Thanks to Craig Doubleday for his reports on sites near Selwyn Snowfields and the Northcote Tow. Thanks also to Kerry Symes for an email about the rope tow between Sponars and Smiggins.
The tow building activities in the 1950s around the Kings Cross - Selwyn area are a little confusing. An example is that the May 1954 issue of Ski Horizon reports that the Cabramurra Ski Club built a tow with 700 feet of vertical 'from the foot of a long valley'. But it is difficult to work out precisely where that tow was. The Tumut Ski Club appears to have built four tows (or possibly moved existing tows?), but again, I have unable to work out the details. If you have any further information, please email australianmountains at gmail.com. Thanks.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 24 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
14. Perisher (including Smiggin Holes, Guthega and Blue Cow)
|?||Rope tow||-||1952 - 1955?||-||?||Johnny Abbotsmith, moved from Hotel Kosci after it burnt down|
|Big Tow aka Tow Hut Tow||Nutcracker||-||1955 - 1961?||600 / 182||North Perisher||Cost £7,500. Perisher Valley Enterprises (Sverre Kaaten) Photo|
|Village||Rope tow||-||1956 - 1959?||-||b/w Cronulla & Telemark||J. Abbotsmith, moved 1957? & 59? Replaced by Sundeck T-bar|
|Cooma Ski Club Tow||Rope tow||-||c.1958 - 59?||-||Cooma S.C. lodge||Cooma Ski Club. Bought by Ken Murray and demolished|
|Sundeck (No. 1)||T-bar||Gam-Ski Tows||1959 - ?||-||Below Sundeck Hotel||Cost £5,000. Ken Murray’s “Murray Publishers”|
|Mt Perisher Double||2-Chair-F||Mueller +||1961 - present||1075/ 275||-||Mueller supplied plans & grips. Built & fabricated by Transfield Cost £80k. Chairs replaced circa 2016|
|? No. 2?||T-bar||Gam-Ski Tows||1962 - ?||-||-||Replaced Village tow|
|Big Tow||T-bar||-||1962 - ?||-||North Perisher||Kaaten. Replaced the Big Tow, sold to K. Murray for '63 season|
|Sundeck Poma||Poma||-||1963 - ?||-||Tom Thumb area||-|
|Lawson (No. 6)||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1963 - present||540 / 125||-||-|
|Blaxland (No. 5)||Duplex T-bar||Doppelmayr||1963 - present||510 / 110||-||Duplex with Wentworth|
|Sturt (No. 4)||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1964 - present||470 / 50||-|
|Flat||T-bar||-||? - c.1976||-||Perisher Creek||Used to access North Perisher|
|North Perisher||T-bar||-||1968 - present||565 / 175||-||-|
|Mitchell (No. 1)||T-bar||-||1968 - present||420 / 70||-||-|
|Sun Valley||T-bar||-||1969 - present||530 / 165||-||-|
|Wentworth (No. 5A)||Duplex T-bar||Doppelmayr||1969 - present||510 / 110||-||Duplex with Blaxland|
|Olympic||T-bar||-||1973 - present||345 / 65||Above Sun Valley||Cornered T-Bar, accessing difficult terrain|
|Eyre||T-bar||-||1974 - present||735 / 205||On Mt Perisher||Built summer of 1972-3, first ran 74. Furthest west lift in Perisher|
|Flinders (No. 3)||Duplex T-bar||-||<1976 - 2002||545 / 100||-||Duplex with Bass, replaced by Village 8|
|Bass (No. 2)||Duplex T-bar||-||<1976 - 2002||420 / 100||-||Duplex with Flinders, replaced by Village 8|
|Leichhardt (No. 7)||T-bar||-||1976 - 2018||540 / 40||-||Often called The Self Loader by those who recalled when it was. To be replaced by quad chair in 2019|
|Back Perisher||3-Chair-F||?||1976 - 1985||? / ?||-||Opened by Tamie Fraser, wife of the Prime Minister. Replaced by Perisher Express|
|International||T-bar||-||1977 - present||890 / 255||Between Eyre & Mt P double||-|
|Tom Thumb||J-bar||-||1977 - present||140 / 55||-||May have been a T-bar circa 1983|
|Pretty Valley||2-Chair-F||-||1978 - present||990 / 153||-||-|
|Pretty Valley||3-Chair-F||-||1978?-1985?||1707/ 264||-||Moved to Mt Dobson NZ, replaced by Perisher Exp Photo|
|Mt Perisher Triple||3-Chair-F||-||1979 - present||1230/ 280||On Mt Perisher||-|
|Happy Valley||T-bar||-||1979 - present||697 / 111||-||Ext by 90m in 2010. Eviro Effect Statement Was 608/96|
|Home||Handle Tow||-||1982 - 2018||-||-||To be replaced by a quad that also replaces Leichhardt|
|Telemark||Poma||-||<1976 - 1981||240 / ?||-||Moved to Selwyn where it operates as Home Run Poma|
|Telemark||T-bar||-||1982 - present||455 / 65||-||-|
|Piper||Poma||-||<1976-1981||-||Same as Piper T-bar||Marked on '76 trail map, replaced by T-bar. Poma was moved to Selwyn where it operates as Powerline|
|Piper||T-bar||-||1982 - present||640 / 70||-||Built on site of a Poma|
|Perisher Exp /Freelander/Forester||4-Chair-D||-||1986 - present||1540 / ?||-||Changes names according to sponsorship|
|Interceptor||4-Chair-F||-||1995 - present||862 / ?||-||Connects Perisher Valley to Blue Cow area|
|Village 8||8-Chair-D||Doppelmayr||2003 - present||548 / 104||-||Speed 5.0 metres per second. Replaced Flinders and Bass T-bars|
|Borer||Portable rope tow||-||< 1983 >||-||-||-|
|Ski Carpet||Carpet||-||? - present||-||-||-|
|Ski School||Rope Tow||-||? - 2007||-||-||-|
|Ski School 2||Carpet||-||2007 - present||-||-||-|
|Kids Carpet 1||Carpet||-||? - present||-||-||-|
|Kids Carpet 2||Carpet||-||? - present||-||-||-|
|Carousel||Carousel||Sunkid||2012 - present||-||-||Manufactured by the Austrian company Sunkid.|
|Leichhardt||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||2019 - present||490 / 121||-||Replaced Leichhardt T-bar. Has load conveyer similar to Freedom quad at Guthega. Lift price not disclosed but lift & nearby snow making = $4.2 million|
|Mt Perisher||6 or 8 chair||Announced '08||-||Mt Perisher||To replace 2 old chairs|
|Ski Haven Tow||Rope tow||-||1952 - 1959||-||?||Johnny Abbotsmith, moved to Guthega|
|?||Poma||-||1960 - ?||-||-||Moved slightly in 1961 to where Cook J-bar now is|
|No. 1?||T-bar||-||1961 - 1968?||-||Replaced by Burke/Wills duplex||-|
|?||T-bar||-||1963 - ?||-||B/w the a lifts above||-|
|?||T-bar||Mueller||1961 -present||-||Mt Piper||Possibly move this to Perisher section?|
|Link||T-bar||-||1964 - present||610 / 130||-|
|Hume||T-bar||-||1964 - present||520 / 80||-|
|Burke||Duplex T-bar||Doppelmayr||1968 - present||610 / 155||-||Duplex with Wills|
|Wills||Duplex T-bar||Doppelmayr||1969 - present||610 / 155||-||Duplex with Burke|
|Scott||J-bar||-||1973 - present||280 / 35||-||Converted from a Poma pre 1983|
|Captain Cook||J-bar||-||1975 - present||275 / 35||-||Converted from a Poma pre 1983|
|Kaaten||3-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1979 - present||477 / 85||-||-|
|Ski School||?||-||? - ?||-||-||-|
|Harry’s||Rope tow||-||? - 2007||-||-||-|
|Herman’s||Rope tow||-||? - 2007||-||-||-|
|Zappy’s||Rope tow||-||? - 2008||-||-||-|
|Zoe’s||Carpet||-||? - present||-||-||-|
|Harry's & Herman's||Carpet||-||2008 - present||-||-||-|
|SMA Tow||Nutcracker||-||1957 - 1965||800 / 330||Mt Tate East Ridge||Island Bend Ski Club. Extended 1960 & 63, burnt 1965|
|Beginners Tow||Rope Tow||-||1961 - 1975||-||Above Walter's Hut||Ex Ski Haven Tow at Smiggins Cost £600. YMCA SC then W. Spanring|
|Blue Calf||T-bar||Pomagalski||1965 - 1980?||-||Western Blue Calf slopes||Poma brand T-bar. Walter Spanring|
|Cow Pastures or Powder Val?||Rope tow||Bruckschloegl||1976 - 1981||-||Near Cow Pastures||Bruckschloegl Austrian tow|
|Beginners?||Rope tow||Bruckschloegl||1976 - ?||-||Near Cow Pastures||-|
|Blue Cow||T-bar||McCallum||1976 - 1980||-||Mt Blue Cow||McCallum brand, ex Mt Buller. Replaced in 1981|
|Blue Cow||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1981 - present||670 / 149||Mt Blue Cow||Replaced the 1976 T-bar|
|Cow Pastures||J-bar||Doppelmayr||1981 - 2013||320 / 70||Cowpastures basin||Replaced by Freedom fixed grip quad chair|
|Blue Calf||T-bar||-||1981 - present||570 / 133||-||Built as a duplex T-bar|
|Beginners||Rope tow||-||1982 - ?||150 / 10||Top of chair (Saddle area)||Cow Pastures tow relocated after J-Bar built|
|Beginners||J-bar||-||< 1983 >||140 / 30||Off home run||Served runs named Romeo, Juliet and Fred|
|Car Park||2-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1982 - present||610 / 130||Carpark-base Mt Blue Cow||-|
|Rope Tow 1||-||-||<1992 - 1993?||-||-||-|
|Rope Tow 2||-||-||<1992 - 1993?||-||-||-|
|Freedom||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||2014 - present||825 / 200||-||Speed 2.0 metres per second. Announcement Replaced & extended Cow Pastures. Has a load carpet|
|Ski Tube||Rack railway||-||1988 - present||8500/ 755||Bullock's Flat - Blue Calf||Official webpage, Tunnels webpage, Wikipaedia|
|Ridge||4-Chair-F||-||1987 - present||1074 / ?||-||-|
|Summit||4-Chair-F||-||1987 - present||612 / ?||-||-|
|Early Starter||2-Chair-F||-||1987 - present||296 / ?||-||-|
|Terminal||4-Chair-F||-||1987 - present||547 / ?||-||-|
|Pleasant Valley||4-Chair-D||-||1987 - present||1193 / ?||-||-|
|Brumby||T-bar||-||88><92- present||487 / ?||-||Moved from Guthega - formerly ½ of Blue Calf Duplex|
|Pony Ride 1||Rope tow||-||88><92- present||-||-||-|
|Pony Ride 2||Rope tow||-||>92 - present||-||-||Previously named Ski School?|
|Donkey Ride||?||-||>92 - ?||-||-||-|
It has been difficult to sort out often conflicting anecdotal stories about lifts at Perisher Valley and Smiggins up to the mid 1960's, so any help with this would be greatly appreciated.
Perisher Valley Unlike many resorts that have replaced lifts on the same site several times, Perisher has mostly stuck with the original lifts and some of them are over 50 years old. By 1964 Perisher had 12 lifts and by 1972 there were 14 lifts. Ken Murray sold the resort to Australian Consolidated Press after the 1972 ski season. Originally, the Perisher T-bars on Front and Centre Valleys were not named. Number 1 was Wentworth on Front Valley, and they were numbered consecutively westward to what is now Leichhardt. The Mt Perisher T-bars, Sun Valley, International, Olympic and Eyre have always had those names. Current Perisher and Guthega trail maps.
Guthega. For an updated history of Guthega and its ski lifts, see Guthega History on Wikiski.
Mergers. Perisher and Smiggins merged after the 1972 ski season. Blue Cow and Guthega merged in 1991 (under the ownership of Transfield Kumagai). Both these combined companies in turn merged to become Perisher Blue in 1995. In 2009 'Blue' was deleted from the resort name and it became just 'Perisher'. In 2015 the unified resort was bought by Vail Resorts for A$176.6 million. The company owns over a dozen ski resorts in North America.
Perisher. Thanks to "VSG", "Ian S", "Golds70", "shadow1" and especially the person who wishes to remain anonymous who supplied many of the dates.
Guthega. Thanks to "Atlantisau" for contributions that helped to untangle the confusion of hearsay and conflicting information.
More on the history of the greater Perisher area:
Peter Southwell-Keely. Highway to heaven: a history of Perisher and the ski resorts along the Kosciuszko Road. Perisher Historical Society, 2013. Some of the information on early lifts conflicts with other sources.
- Appendix F, pp. 249 - 251 lists all club and commercial lodges built in the area (although it excludes staff accommodation, retail premises, etc.)
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 20 August 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
15. Selwyn Snow Resort
|?||Rope tow||1961? - ?||-||-||John and Helen Dowling, tow formerly ran in the A.C.T.|
|The Quarry||Rope tow||1966 - ?||-||Township run||Colin Myers.|
|Car park||2 x rope||< 1983 >||250 / 27||South of Selwyn Centre||-|
|Beginners||2 x rope||< 1983 >||200 / 20||Near New Chum chair site||-|
|Township 1||T-bar||1972 - 2008||500 / 75||-||Moved from Perisher. Replaced by Township chair in 2009|
|Township 2||T-bar||1978 - 2008||500 / 75||-||Moved from Kiandra. Replaced by Township chair in 2009|
|Bullock Head||Poma||< 1983 >||450 / 90||North of Selwyn Centre||-|
|Racecourse||Poma||< 1983 >||500 / 110||-||-|
|Racecourse||T-bar||<1984 - present||-||-||-|
|Ski School||Rope tow||<1984 - present||-||-||-|
|New Chum||2-Chair-F||1988 - present||-||-||-|
|Powerline||Rope tow||< 1983 >||300 / 42||-||-|
|Powerline||Poma||c.1984 - present||-||-||Moved from Perisher where it ran as Mt Piper Poma. Was to be replaced by an extension of triple chair, but it never happened|
|Homerun||Poma||? - present||-||-||-|
|Boomerang||Platter||? - present||-||-||-|
|Home Run||Poma||1983 or 84 - present||-||-||Moved from Perisher where it was originally Telemark Poma|
|Snowflake||Snowtube||? - present||-||-||-|
|Wombat||Rope tow||< 1983 >||250 / 35||-||-|
|Wombat||T-bar||<1984 - present||-||-||Converted to snowtube circa 2003, back to T-bar 2009|
|Gentle Annie||Carpet||? - present||-||-||-|
|unknown||?||<1998 - ?||B/w Ski Sch & Home Run||-|
|Township||3-Chair-F||2009 - present||709 / ?||Township||Buller's Helicopter Flat / ABOM chair relocated|
Either Powerline or Homerun Poma was moved from Smiggins. Colin Myers and his family built and operated all tows on Mt Selwyn from 1966 to 2015. In October 2015 it was announced that the resort had been sold to the Blyton Group, owners of Charlotte Pass. More information on dates of lift construction would be appreciated. Current trail map.
In the past there were 11 other lifts nearby at: Kiandra (4), Tumut Ski Club (1) Kings Cross (1), Cabramurra (3), Round Mountain (1) and Tooma Dam (1). All were removed long ago except a Poma and a handle tow at Cabramurra.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 12 August 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
16. Tasmania: proposed ski resorts and proposed gondolas
Proposed Tasmanian ski resorts
|Mt Rufus||Late 1940's||Rufus Ski Club. Work began on two lifts but was never completed|
|Black Bluff||1960||Part of Ellis brothers scheme to build a chalet & 16 cabins at Lake Lea near Cradle Mountain|
|Mt Rufus||1971||Planned to include a gondola, 4 chairlifts and 2 pomas. Access from Lake St Clair area|
|Florentine Peak||Early 1970's||Proposed resort development with several lifts. May have been intended to link with Mt Mawson club field|
|Mt Wellington||1993||Planned as part of a $31 million, fourth scheme to build a Mt Wellington cable car. The ski field was to be at the back of the mountain|
Despite a number of proposals, there have been no successful attempts to build ski lifts at locations other than the ski resort at Ben Lomond and the club field at Mt Mawson. More information would be appreciated, especially for Florentine Peak or either Mt Rufus proposal.
Proposed Tasmanian ropeways (gondolas, funiculars and aerial trams)
|(1) Mt Wellington||1905||"Aerial railway" from The Springs to Pinnacle, planned by Arnold Wertheimer|
|(2) Mt Wellington||1931||"Aerial cable tramway". The Springs was to be the base station|
|(3) Mt Wellington||1987||A 4.6 km 'skyway' with Cascade Brewery to be the base station, proposed by Tim Burbury|
|(4) Mt Wellington||1993, 2004 - 10||Extensive revisions of Burburys plan. to be part of a $31 million, fourth scheme to build a Mt Wellington cable car. The ski field was to be at the back of the mountain|
|(5) Mt Wellington||2012 - present||Initially planned from the Springs, then Cascade, final submission is from Springs again. Cascade plan was for gondola on lower third of route with aerial tram above. Final plan is for aerial tram the whole way. The promoter is Adrian Bold|
|Mt Roland||Current||Proposes an aerial tram|
|Launceston||2015 - 2016||Would have run from Penny Royal - First Basin of Cataract Gorge. Newspaper report|
|Maydena||c.2005- 2007||Maydena Hauler funicular railway was based on success of Forestry Tas tourist developments such as Tahune Airwalk & Dismall Swamp|
|Cradle Valley||2015 - present||Gondola proposed to replace shuttle buses from Visitor Centre to Dove Lake. Road would be closed to all but PWS vehicles|
There are a surprising number of proposals for Tasmanian gondolas and aerial trams at the moment. Of course, obtaining funding and then passing innumerable bureaucratic, legal, environmental and most of all political obstacles are the big problems for the proponents. The ones most likely to be built are probably the Mt Wellington aerial tram and the Cradle Valley gondola. A brief 2017 article covering most of the historic proposals for Mt Wellington can be found here. It includes a 3 minute video of the 1987 plan.
|Crackenback||Nutcracker||Various||1957 only||c.800/ 287||Mid half of Kosci Express||Cost £1870, used parts of Northcote Tow *|
|Gam Tow||T-bar||John Gam||1957 - ?||275 / 76||Below C/back nutcracker||Light & underpowered. Probably 1957 only|
|Crackenback / Chairlift 1||2-Chair-F||Mueller / Riblet||1958 - 1989||1835/ 560||Same as Kosci Express||Originally to Kareela, lengthened 1962. Orig vertical = 435 m. *|
|?||Rope tow||-||1958 - 1963||. ? / 122||Kareela - Upper C/back||Relocated 1957 Crackenback nutcracker lift|
|Middle||T-bar||-||1962 - 1967||-||Middle Snowgums||Later moved to Merrits, renamed Ski School|
|?||Rope tow||-||1963?||-||Upper Snowgums||Original Crackenback rope tow moved again|
|Basin||T-bar||-||1963 - present||650 / 145||In Basin, top of mountain||-|
|Ramshead / Chairlift 2||2-Chair-F||Riblet||1963 - 2011||1770/ 480||Base to bottom of Basin||Top stat moved uphill, orig prone to drifts. Notice of closure|
|?||Rope tow||-||1964 - 1967||-||B/w Kosi Ex & Ramshead||4th location for 1957 Crackenback rope tow|
|Merritts / Chairlift 3||2-Chair-F||Civil & Civic using Riblet design & parts||1968 - 2019||1350/ 299||Base area to Merritts||Speed 2.5 m/s. New Dopp drive in 2003|
|Merritts Duplex 1||T-bar||-||1968 - 1994||696 / 162||Merritts, Walkabout run||Replaced by Cruiser Chair|
|Merritts Duplex 2||T-bar||-||1968 - 1994||753 / 180||Merritts, Walkabout run||Replaced by Cruiser Chair|
|Ski School / Easy Rider||T-bar||-||1968 - present||now 275/65||Merritts Spur||Shortened & renamed in 1995. Originally 410/80|
|Anton's||T-bar||-||1977 - present||800 / 230||Central Spur||Originally self-loading (= chaos)|
|Harusch?||Rope tow||-||1978 - 1995||-||Valley Terminal||-|
|Harusch 100||Rope tow||-||< 1982 >||220 / 15||Beyond Harusch 500||-|
|Harusch 500||Rope tow||-||< 1982 >||131 / 15||Top C/back - top of Basin||-|
|Harusch 1000||Rope tow||-||1978 - 1995||148 / 40||West of Merrits T-bars||Under Merritts top station, remains still visible in 2006|
|Mitey Mite||Rope tow||-||< 1982 >||163 / 28||Merritts Spur||May have been a handle tow rather than a rope tow?|
|Karel's||T-bar||Doppelmayr||1979 - present||464 / 83||-||Highest remaining ski lift in Aust|
|Sponar's||T-bar||-||1979 - present||942 / 260||Central Spur||-|
|Snowgums / Chairlift 4||2-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1980 - present||1735/ 472||Parallels Kosci Express||Fastest chair in Aust when opened|
|Gunbarrel Express||4-Chair-D||Doppelmayr||1988 - present||1679/ 426||-||-|
|Easy Does It||4-Chair-F||Doppelmayr||1988 - present||448 / 49||Friday Flat||-|
|Crackenback/Kosciusko Exp||4-Chair/Gond-D||Doppelmayr||1990 - present||1860/ 560||-||Replaced original Crackenback chair, renamed 2001|
|Cruiser||4-Chair-D||Doppelmayr||1994 - present||1000/ 214||Merritts Spur||Superseded Merrits duplex T Bar.|
|Snowrunner 1||Carpet||-||2000 - present||. 80 / 13||Friday Flat||-|
|Sundowner / Snowrunner 2||Carpet||-||2000 - present||. 85 / 10||Friday Flat||-|
|The Burrow||Enclosed carpet||-||2013 - present||. ? / ?||Friday Flat||-|
|Twin Valleys||?||-||1983 plan||-||Nth east of Friday Flat||-|
|High Noon||Sextuple chair||-||2006 plan||-||Upper slopes||-|
|Golf Course Bowl||Chairlift||-||2006 plan||-||Upper slopes||c.1820 - c.2030 metres|
|Lower Golf Course||Chairlift||-||2006 plan||-||9th hole-mid Ramshd Chair||-|
|Golf Course Beginners||?||-||2006 plan||-||Near Crackenback estate||-|
|Fiveways||T-bar||-||2006 plan||-||500 m west of Sponars||-|
|New Kosciusko Express||6-Chair-D||-||2006 plan||-||-||Replace & extend current quad|
See the Charlotte Pass section for details of the two chairlifts that operated between Thredbo Valley and Charlotte Pass in 1964 and 1965.
Crackenback nutcracker, double chair and chondola
This profile is being expanded and rewritten. Complete by late Oct 2018
Other major ski reports took years to consolidate after they were established before they built their first ski lift, (Mt Hotham began in 1925 but didn’t have a lift until 1952). But Thredbo was different. In the first winter accommodation was available they had two ski lifts. One was an unreliable T-bar, but the other was the longest ski lift in the country.
This was partly because Thredbo was the last resort to be established in Australia but mostly because of the terms of the lease. Its founders were required to build a chairlift and a hotel with X00 beds within ?5? years. So there was no opportunity to build a basic lodge and let demand slowly build, Thredbo’s founders had to build a fully operational ski resort and build it much faster than any other resort in the country. So they hit the ground running.
In [month] 1957 the syndicate built a basic lodge and installed the Crackenback tow.
However the enormous capital required to meet the requirements of the lease was beyond the syndicates means and in 196X they sold their operation to…
The original Crackenback tow was built from components of the Northcote Tow. Gelignite was used in the Kunama Basin to stop further build up of the avalanche causing snow which had demolished nearby Kunama Lodge. When faulty heating in the Northcote Tow hut caused a minor fire, the occupants bolted outside before the gelignite ignited, blowing the hut to smithereens. But the poles and sheaves were in good condition and these were utilised in the Crackenback tow. The engine for Crackenback was second hand from a rock crusher which had been used on the Snowy Hydro Scheme, the gear wheels and bullwheels were from cranes. The engine was put on a sled and winched itself up to the top station where it was installed in a shed made from bush timber and second hand iron. The lift was designed by Geoffrey Hughes who had been chairman of the Ski Tourers Association's Northcote Tow sub-committee. It cost £1870 to buy and install. After it was replaced by the Crackenback double chairlift, the nutcracker tow was moved up hill to provide access to the higher slopes.
The Crackenback double chair was originally 100% Mueller product, as was the 1962 extension. There were many operating difficulties with the lift including an occasion in 1962 the cable lost tension causing people to fall into the snow. Later the towers and sheaves on the upper section were later replaced with Riblet components due to what was described as 'technical issues' including derailing. The lift was built by Transfield with on mountain transport provided by Helicopter Utilities. The cost (before the extension) was £35,000 (one source says £45,000).
A few areas of this listing are still incomplete. Names are missing for some Thredbo rope tows and dates for a few lifts on the same sites overlap, so they may be a year out. Current and historic trail maps.
Thanks to 'Ian S' for help and to 'Richardo' for details of manufacturers of early chairlifts.
More on Thredbo history.
Jim Darby. Thredbo 50: 1957 to 2007. tSm Publishing, 2006.
Helen Swinbourne. Accordions in the snow gums: Thredbo's early years. Thredbo Historical Society Inc., 2006.
Geoffrey Hughes. Starting Thredbo. The author, 2008. pp. 28 - 33.
Roger Andrew. Thredbo: my story. The author, 2011.
Chas Keys. Thredbo: pioneers, legends, community. Halstead Press, 2017.
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 31 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
18. Victoria: outside resorts
|Mt St Bernard||Nutcracker||Wangaratta Ski Club||1955 - present||Mt St Bernard||Tow was originally at Bull Run on Mt Buller|
|Mt St Bernard||Nutcracker||Wangaratta Ski Club||1958 - present||Nursery Tow||-|
|Bogong High Plains||Nutcracker||Rover Scouts||1968 - present||-||Langford West Aqueduct. Didn't operate 2003 - 2005|
|Mt Wills||Nutcracker||Tallangatta Ski Club||1954-late 90's||-||2 km north of summit near club's lodge. Wire rope nutcracker with 28 hp Reo bus engine|
|Mt Wills||Rope tow||Tallangatta Ski Club||. ? - c.2000||_||Hand help rope tow. Used after club was unable to get insurance for main lift|
|Dinner Plain||Platter||Dinner Plain||1985? - present||Cobungra Platter||175 m, 18 m rise. Capacity 731 p/h. Formerly at Plains of Heaven, Hotham|
|Dinner Plain||Tubing lift||D.P. / Alpine Shire||2015 - present||-||Ex Mt Buffalo. Delivered to D.P. on 11/12/14|
|Lake Mountain||Carpet||The resort||2018 - present||.||75 metres long, double width. On Village toboggan run. Made by Team Service||Lake Mountain||Carpet||The resort||2018 - present||.||25 m long. Burton Riglet Park. Used for kids snowboarding instruction. Made by Team Service|
|Mt St Gwinear||Rope tow||.||2009||Portable rope tow||Claimed in Warrigul Gazette article in 2009, but no sign of it yet|
There is fairly reliable anecdotal evidence for a hand held rope tow operating at Diamantina Hut near Hotham in the late 1960's or early 1970s. Any conformation of it's existence would appreciated. Solid details such as its route, a map, a photo or printed information would be appreciated even more
© David Sisson 2007 - 2019. This list was first published on 30 July 2007 and has been updated regularly since then.
19. Other passenger ropeways (non snow)
|Area||Name||Type of lift||Dates||Length/vert||Notes|
|New South Wales||.|
|Sydney||Taronga Zoo||Gondola||2000?-present||Sky Safari Cableway. Web page. Photo gallery on Poma website.|
|Sydney||Former showgrounds||Gondola||1970's - 1997||Reinstalled at Wonderland.|
|Sydney||Former showgrounds||Double? chair||1960's? -1997||-|
|Sydney||Wonderland theme park||4 pas gondola||1997 - 2002||Ex showgrounds, renamed Skyrider|
|Sydney||Moore Park grass ski||Rope tow?||? - 200?||There is a possibility this may have been a chairlift|
|Kurrajong||Grass ski & cart||Drag tow?||<1983-present||Now only carting. link|
|Camden||Razorback Grass Ski||?||< 1983 >||Located on Mt Hercules Road|
|Fernleigh||Fernleigh Grass Ski Pk||?||?||Located on Fernleigh Road|
|Port Macquarie||Grass ski||Drag tow?||?||-|
|Katoomba||Skyway||Cable car||1958 - 2004||330 / -||270 metres above valley floor. Amusement park directory|
|Katoomba||Scenic Skyway||Aerial tram||2004 - present||390 / 15||Doppelmayr & CWA Constructions, partial glass floor. Web page. Amusement park directory. New larger cabin installed 2017. (85 passengers, previously 78). Speed 4 metres per minute from 2017, previously 5 metres a minute|
|Katoomba||Scenic Cableway||Aerial tram||2000 - present||545 / 216||Doppelmayr. Known as Sceniscender 2000 - 2004. Renamed "Scenic Flyway" 2004 to late 2005. "Scenic Cableway" 2005 - present. New, larger cabin for 84 people installed 2018. Speed 5 metres per second. Web page. Amusement park listing|
|Katoomba||Scenic Railway||Incline elevator||1994 - 2013||310 / 206||Hybrid funicular & cable haulage, single track with an aerial counter weight. Steepest incline lift in the world. First built 1878, passengers from 1928. Different parts were renewed at various times, but totally rebuilt in 2013
||310 / 206
||Single track, cable hauled. Rebuilt rebuilt by Doppelmayr-Garaventa 2013, new cars by CWA. Web page. Amusement park lising
||Jamberoo Action Park
||1980 - present
||500 / 130
||Part of former Charlotte Pass - Thredbo Valley chairlift. Lift history & Amusement park directory
|near Urunga & Mylestom||Grass skiing||c.1982||.||.||Ettomogah||Grass skiing||Platter||< early 90s >||.||Powered by a tractor, platters built from PVC plumbing fittings. Slalom races were held|
|Albury *||Grass ski/wheeled toboggan||?||86 or 7 - 2006||At Great Aussie Holiday Park To be recommissioned in 2013 for mountain bikes|
|Jindera||.||Quad chair||2018 - present||400 / 70||Private chairlift with six towers|
|Melbourne||Showgrounds||Double chair||1975? - 2005||549 metres||Removed during major redevelopment when part of the site was sold.|
|Montrose||Fox's Point Scenic Railway||Funicular r/way||1956 - 1962/3||3 rail & passing loop, 34m vertical, 45° angle. More information and photos|
|Dromana||Arthur's Seat||Double chair||1960 - 2003||950 /225||Cost £20,000. Speed 0.8 metres a second. Made by Australasian Ropeway (Dr Vladimir Hayek). 11/01/1961 promo video http://www.britishpathe.com/video/scenic-chair-lift-opened-in-victoria/. Rebuilt 2003 - 2004|
|Dromana||Arthur's Seat||Double chair||2004 - 2006||950 / 225||Speed 0.8 m/s. The website is still available|
|Dromana||Eagle Skylift Arthur's Seat||8 pas gondola||3 Dec 2016||1030 / 231||Speed = 3 metres per second. 1,130 passengers per hour. Announced 30 Oct 2010 Cost $5 million. Herald Sun article Age article. Web page|
|Portsea||Back Beach||Double chair||1962- c.1971||Built by Ron McCallum. Article. Photo. Colour promotional photo|
|Frankston||Whistle Stop Amusement Pk||Double chair||1969 - 1970||Land in Skye Rd sold & redeveloped, lift relocated to Carribean Gardens|
|Scoresby||Carribean Gardens||Double chair||c1970-present||Built by Ron McCallum. The Frankston chairlift relocated|
|Torquay||Grass Ski Torquay||Handle tow?||1980's||Located on Duffields Road|
|Marysville||Marysville Fun Park||?||< 1983 >||Grass skiing. Located on Buxton Road|
|Yinnar South||Dunalton Grass Ski||Rope tow||1970's - >1983||Located on Brewster Road|
|Rubicon||Hydro Scheme||Tracked cable haulage||1927 -c.1999||Only timber / hydro funicular or cable haulage to regularly take passengers. Now unused|
|Hobart||Showgrounds||Double chair||c.1980-c.2009||Made by Dr Vladimir Hayek's Australasian Ropeway|
|Hobart||Hobart Grass Ski Centre||?||< 1983 >||Austins Ferry|
|Launceston||Cataract Gorge||Double chair||1972 - present||457 / -||Claimed longest chairlift span in world (308 m), builder Australasian Ropeway. Web page|
|Launceston||Cataract Gorge||Incline elevator||2009 - present||? / -||Inclinator. Track runs parallel to long staircase, assists the disabled (or lazy). Builder P.R. King & Sons. Inclinator Web page Cost $2.31 million|
|Stanley||The Nut||Double chair||c1988-present||250 / 95||Web page. Lift previously located at Mt Baw Baw|
|Queenstown||Double chair||1995 - 2001||Built 1994, opened May 1995. It was hoped to boost tourism as the mine wound down, but was not a huge success. Controverially sold to NZ company and removed, although what happened to it is unclear. Photo.|
|Adelaide||Mt Thebarton||Conveyor/carpet||1987 - 2005||c. 120 metres||World's first indoor ski slope|
|Adelaide||Showgrounds||Double chair||1980 - 2002||Installed when Wayville Pavilion built, ran from Northern gate to east of oval|
|Kersbrook||Kersbrook Grass Ski Pk||Drag tow?||< 1983 >||Located on Kersbrook Road|
|Adelaide||Grass ski park||?||1980's?||Unconfirmed second grass ski park. A Burnside Grass Ski Centre also existed, these might have been the same place?|
|Victor Harbour||Granite Island||Double chair||1964 - 1996||Link to dates|
|Perth||Showgrounds||Double chair||1971 or 72- pres||546 / -||Built by McCallum Engineering. Cost $80,000. Originally named Cambridge Chair Lift after a cigarette brand. In danger of being removed due to planned redevelopment|
|Wooroloo||El Caballo Blanco||Double chair||>1974-<1993||Current website. Moved to Adventure World|
|Bibra Lake||Adventure World||Double chair||1993 - present||Sky Lift, 43 chairs, made by Mueller. Amusement park directory|
|Wanneroo||Grass skiing||Rope tow||1980's|
|Brisbane||Showgrounds||Double chair||1971 - 2009||Made by Australasian Ropeway. Removed when showgrounds redeveloped|
|Brisbane||Samford Grass Ski Pk||?||1983 - 1993||link.|
|Brisbane||World Expo '88||Double chair||1988||Provided a 10 minute ride throught Swiss pavillion, outside to a park, travelled over a Von Roll monorail. Any more info such as the manufacturer, length, etc. would be appreciated|
|Brisbane||World Expo '88||Handle tow||1988||40 / 9||Operated on indoor ski slope in Swiss pavilion. Photo below. Any more information such as the manufacturer, length, etc. would be appreciated|
|Gold Coast||Magic Mountain||Double chair||1962 - 1987||Reinstalled at Dreamworld|
|Gold Coast||Dreamworld||Double chair||1989 - 2005||312 / -||Skylink ex Magic Mountain. Designed by Ferrari Engineering Australia, 38 chairs. Parkz Web page.|
|Gold Coast||Sea World||Open pulsed gondola||1989 - 2015||480 / -||Sky High Skyway. 4 Pass gondola. Parkz directory says made by Arrow Dynamics, a roller coaster maker, but reliable source informs me made by Ferrari Eng to Doppelmayr design|
|Woombye||Grass skiing||?||?||Apparently it didn't last long. Located on Kerlin Lane Woombye|
|Mt Bellenden Ker||Telecommunications||Open gondola||1971?-present||5229 / ?||Maker, Waagner Biro. Used by Broadcast Aust. Provides access to antenna on summit. Photo|
|Kareeya Power Station||.||Aerial tram||1957 - present||Near Tully. Used by Stanwell.|
|Caravonica-Red Peak||Skyrail||6 seat gondola||1995 - present||Combined||2 separate cableways, total 114 cars, capacity 700 hour. website|
|Red Peak - Kuranda||Skyrail||6 seat gondola||1995 - present||= 7.5 km||2 separate cableways, built by Leitner-Poma. website|
In addition to these passenger lifts, there were dozens of aerial freight cableways and hundreds of tracked steep cable haulages built for dam construction, timber harvesting, mining, hydro electricity, etc. Thanks to Pascal Hess who has visited many of the surviving chairlifts and sent me details of them and for his investigation into the Queenstown chairlift.
Expo ‘88, Brisbane
Background. Two lifts operated in the Swiss Pavilion during Expo ‘88 in Brisbane. World expos were exhibitions of the industries and achievements of nations, the first was the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851. They remained popular throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The eighth “International Exposition”, and the only previous one in Australia, was the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880 and Brisbane’s expo 108 years later was part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations. 36 nations, 14 states and provinces and 29 companies and organisations built pavilions on the south bank of the Brisbane River with 16 million people visiting the Expo over the six months it operated.
As a point of difference the 1,453 square metre Swiss pavilion was themed ‘Come along to enjoy skiing’ and included an early indoor ski slopes using artificial snow (the first in the world was Mt Thebarton in Adelaide which opened in 1987). Skiers used a handle tow to ascend a 40 metre long ski run with a 9 metre vertical fall. On Sundays ski races were held, one correspondent with this web page reported that the ‘race course had about 4 gates and took 4-5 seconds. First place apparently was a $800 Swiss watch, second place was a T-shirt. Anyways I've got a T-shirt’. Ski instructors were available to assist Queenslanders unfamiliar with the cool climate sport. Not surprisingly, the handle tow remains the only lift ever used for skiing in Queensland.
The second lift is more interesting, as it was the only chairlift with corners to operate in Australia. Operating at 11 metres above the ground, ts route was a 10 minute circuit beginning outside the Swiss Pavilion, entering the building, passing exhibits before leaving the building, then running through parkland and returning to the starting point. The marketing information said that ‘Visitors will see the variation in Swiss landscapes with the alpine regions especially highlighted’. However an actual visitor described it as being ‘painfully slow with horrendous queues’. But the queues were a sign of its success and the cornered chairlift was a novelty, even to experienced skiers.
The manufacturer of the lifts is unknown, although the Swiss cableway manufacturer Von Roll built the monorail which transported visitors around the huge expo site, so they may have been responsible for the handle tow and cornered chairlift as well. After six months the expo closed, everything was demolished and the site was transformed to become the South Bank Parklands.
Arthurs Seat chairlift (1960)
From 1959 to 1960 Czech migrant engineer Dr Vladimir Hájek built a chairlift at Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula to the south of Melbourne. He built a house next to it in 1962 and used the area as a base for his company Australasian Ropeways which built several other chairlifts at tourist locations and his Cataract Gorge chairlift at Launceston in Tasmania still operates every day. It appears that none were built at ski resorts.
The 950 metre long chairlift had 60 chairs and cost £20,000 to build, it was only the third chairlift in Australia. It moved at a rather leisurely 0.8 metres a second, a third of the speed of most fixed grip chairlifts at ski resorts. However as it was used for sightseeing, the modest speed was a bonus for passengers who had plenty of time to take in the views of the Mornington Peninsula and Port Phillip.
The chairlift opened in December 1960. It was successful and became an established tourist attraction on the Mornington Peninsula.
Hájek died in 1976 and in 1979 the chairlift was sold to Richard Hudson
Chairlifts were still first generation in those days. So by the time of the first incident in 2003~ish, it was over 40 years old and the design was very archaic
One of my correspondents wrote saying that in the 1990s, his company had been trying to buy it for some time, but the owner didn't want to sell. There is an implication that the owner didn't want to pay for updates / upgrades and that maintenance may have been skimped on.
Anyway, after a tower collapse in 2003 which injured over a dozen people, Arthurs Seat chairlift was partially rebuilt using Doppelmayr parts and reopened in 2004. However later that year a chair slipped back along the rope and in 2006 the chairlift stopped for 3 hours leaving passengers stranded. It closed permanently later in 2006.
The "Arthurs Seat Eagle" gondola was built along its path and that opened in December 2016. It is quite popular with tourists and well worth a ride if you are on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne.
But even the geriatric and allegedly poorly maintained old chairlift on Arthurs Seat never dropped chairs.... unlike Thredbo's Gunbarrel.
2.50 Fairfax video on the old chairlift and new gondola history, I can't get it to embed here.
More on the proposed Albury grass ski lift. The original owners of the park Peter King and his brother Graeme employed a local engineer in Albury named Jock Hutton to design the lift and it was built by a local engineering shop. He thinks they commissioned it in 86-87 for grass skiing and after grass skiing died a natural death in the late nineties, a local guy along with Peter built some wheeled toboggans and park guests paid to use it on and off up to 2006 when the park changed ownership... It was planned to be recommissioned by the end of 2013 for a mountain bike park...
Thanks to Tim Moore, Jason Ford and ‘Legs Akimbo’ for details of the Expo ‘88 lifts, Pressman for info on Adelaide Showgrounds chairlift, Russell Diffey for details of the Albury lift, Maurie Copsey for info on FNQ ropeways and these posters from http://ski.com.au/forum for help with this section: SnowAndrew, ians 158, HiLo, jt-ski, Heinz, Dive, BLB, cashie, SAL, Claude Cat, pigface, Rowdy, PolePlant, K10, TACKIE, Mamabear, kimberlee81, currawong, D-eye, the following from http://www.railpage.com.au/f.htm : Johnmc, 2001, watchdog, and these posters fromhttp://www.parkz.com.au/forums : reanimated35, pinksmile, AlexB
20. Proposed ski developments outside snow fields
|Perth area, W.A.||2007 - 2010||Proposed indoor 400 m ski slope. website|
|Kooralbyn, Qld||1990's||Proposed outdoor 300m slope on artificial snow. website|
|Hobart, Tas||2010||Revival of 1990's plan for Mt Wellington cable car with slick video and Facebook page|
|Sydney, NSW||c.2007?||Proposed snow dome, was proposed to open in 2016. website|
21. Cross country ski resorts (no lifts)
Surprisingly, the resort logos shown at the start of the sections on downhill ski resorts have been remarkably popular. So to complete the record, here are logos from cross country resorts with links to their websites.
Please send any older logos not shown on this page to: australianmountains (at) gmail.com
Corin Forest (ACT). Resort website.
Dinner Plain (Victoria). Resort website.
Lake Mountain (Victoria). Resort website.
Mt Donna Buang (Victoria). No resort website, no skiing since 1950s. Donna Buang ski history article.
Mt Stirling (Victoria). Resort website.
The Australian page of Skimap.org contains 80 historic lift and run maps of all Australian ski resorts and the club fields at Mt St Bernard and Mt Mawson.
A useful illustrated glossary of ski lift terms. It's American, so some terms may be a little different.
The well illustrated site Australian oversnow equipment has information on oversnow vehicles used in Australia, with a blog and a directory of manufacturers.
Chairlift identifier. Identify the manufacturer and age of lifts by parts such as grips, terminals, sheaves, etc.
Other ski lift directories
List of New Zealand Ski Lifts. A page which started well, but is no longer maintained, possibly due to overzealous interference from Wikipedia editors.
An incomplete directory of North American ski lifts. Choose US or Canada on the left of the page.
A directory of Swiss ski lifts. Despite a basic English interface, much of the text is in German.
Lift World includes lifts in most countries, but there are lots of omissions and only two Australian resorts have (incomplete) entries.
23. Older news stories.
See the top of this page for recent lift related stories.
21 December 2018. The media is full of reports that Merlin Entertainments may sell the Mt Hotham and Falls Creek lift companies to Vail Resorts. It appears that Colorado based Alterra Mountain Company may have also been interested in buying the resorts.
Merlin is the worlds second largest owner of tourist attractions (including Legoland, Madame Tussauds, theme parks, over 50 aquariums, etc.). It acquired Falls and Hotham as part of a package deal of attractions in 2011, but has never owned any other ski resorts. Unlike Merlin’s broad approach, Vail is a specialist ski company and the worlds largest owner of ski resorts including Perisher in NSW.
Neither Merlin nor Vail are saying anything and the media is reporting widely divergent prices for the alleged transaction, so whether this is a real sale or just speculation that has got out of hand will presumably be revealed in the next few months. The best summary of the speculation and what is known is in the Financial Review.
UPDATE. The deal was finally confirmed on 22 February 2019 (Australian time). Vail’s media release gives the price as A$174 million for both resorts. The deal received ACCC clearance and was finalised on 5 April 2019.
1 December 2018. No new projects were announced in the spring, however this page has been updated to include a chairlift that went around corners and a handle tow that operated on indoor ski slopes in the Swiss pavilion at Expo ‘88 in Brisbane (Section 18). Additionally a list of the 16 lifts built by Australian ski lift manufacturer McCallum Engineering has been added (Section 22.1). Finally I’m still looking for confirmation of a ski lift that may have been operated by the Murray Valley Ski Club around 1970 at Diamantina Hut near Mt Hotham. It was reported by a rather reliable person, but any further conformation of its existence would be useful, solid details such as its route, a map, a photo or printed information would be appreciated even more. Please send details to australianmountains (at) gmail.com
7 October 2018. It appears that Mt Hotham’s Playground chairlift ran for the last time today. While the resort has not made an announcement, staff have verbally confirmed its fate. Hotham’s first chairlift (and the oldest surviving chairlift in Victoria) operated for 50 ski seasons, although it was shortened from 954 to 614 metres after the 1992 season. A new profile of the chairlift is under the table of lifts in Section 10. Mt Hotham.
16 August 2018. The final design for the Mt Wellington Cableway in Hobart was revealed today. It replaces the previous plan for a two stage system of an aerial tram and a gondola. The new plan will have a 2.7 km aerial tramway with a vertical gain of 920 metres featuring a span of 2040 metres between support towers. Passengers will be transported in two 80 person, 7 x 4 metre cabins travelling at a speedy 10 metres a second. The top station will be recessed into the mountain with a more discreet profile than the current shelter. Details of the plan on the MWCC website.
9 August 2018. Mt Buller has announced that Blue Bullet 1 will be replaced with a six pack. It will be built during the 2018 - 2019 summer at a cost of $6 million. Dating from 1984, BB1 was one of the first detachable quad chairlifts in the world and is one of the oldest surviving ones. No announcement yet on which manufacturer will produce the new lift, but given Bullers remarkably consistent brand loyalty to Doppelmayr, no one will be surprised if the detachable six pack is another Dopp. Link to media release. UPDATE 15 March 2019. Lift will be called Bourke St Express.
17 May 2018. The Rodway Tow at Mt Mawson, Australia's steepest surface lift, has been repaired. The tow was buried under snow for most of the 2017 ski season and was caught in a slow moving 'slab avalanche', resulting in the poles that support the tow rope being severely bent and several pulley arms and sheaves were destroyed. The Southern Tasmanian Ski Association has straightened the poles and replaced the arms and sheaves, allowing the tow to operate on weekends in 2018, provided sufficient volunteers are available. STSA news report. In other Tasmanian ski news, the pub at the northern resort of Ben Lomond burnt down last night. ABC news report.
16 May 2018. A 9 km, $60 million gondola 'transport system' will be built to replace crowded shuttle buses on the gravel road from Cradle Mountain visitor centre to Dove Lake. The road is closed to public vehicles but still has heavy traffic as buses take 250,000 tourists annually to the the lake. A viewing shelter will be be built on the revegetated site of the present car park. The Prime Minister announced that the Commonwealth would fund half the cost, matching a state government commitment for the same amount.
22 February 2018. Thredbo has filed an application to replace Merritts fixed grip double chairlift with a Doppelmayr designed gondola costing $10.67 million. The gondola will follow the same path as the chairlift, but with a slightly higher mid station. The lift will have 50 cabins able to carry 8 passengers each. It be 1311 metres long with a 299 m vertical rise and have 13 towers compared with 17 for the old chairlift. It will run at 5 metres per second providing a 6 minute ride, much faster than up to 20 minutes at present. Capacity will increase from 520 to 2000 passengers per hour.
Construction is planned to begin with demolition of the old lift in October 2018 and the gondola will debut at the start of the 2019 ski season. It will be the first new lift at Thredbo (excluding carpets) since 1994. The current Merritts chairlift first ran in 1968 and is Australia's last remaining Riblet lift. The vast number of documents necessary to satisfy modern bureaucracy can be viewed at this link, the first 8 pages of the Statement of environmental effects summarise the project. UPDATE June 2018. Merritts will live another year, the gondola will now be installed in the summer of 2019/2020.
20 January 2018. In stark contrast to other resorts building quad chairs and gondolas this year, Lake Mountain, a cross country ski resort , will be installing its first lift, a moving carpet on a toboggan slope. On 28/12/17 it was announced that the carpet would be on the Park slope, but this has been revised to the Village toboggan run. Link to the latest announcement and the original announcement. UPDATE. Two carpets were installed, although the resort never formally announced this.
8 December 2017. Perisher announced a new fixed grip quad chairlift to replace the Leichhardt T-bar and Home handle tow for the 2019 season. 18 months notice before opening allows skiers the 2018 season to farewell the old lifts. which were built in 1976 and 1982 respectively. Media release. The budget for the chairlift and "significant" additional snow making is a relatively modest $4.2 million, reflecting both the short length of the new lift and that it will be fixed grip rather than detachable.
26 September 2017. Falls Creek has announced that it will replace its Eagle triple chairlift dating from 1980 with a new $9 millon Leitner-Poma detachable quad chairlift. The new lift will be operating by the start of the 2018 ski season. This will be the first lift built by Merlin Entertainments since they bought Falls Creek and Mt Hotham in 2011. Media releases in Snowsbest and the Border Mail.
3 December 2016. The Arthurs Seat Eagle gondola formally opened. Located at Dromana to the south of Melbourne, it is the first dedicated gondola in Victoria, although a 'chondola' (a hybrid gondola and chairlift) has operated at Mt Buller since 1986.
28 October 2016. A fund raising campaign has been launched by a company wishing to buy Ben Lomond's Alpine Enterprises (lifts) and Snow Sports (ski school, ski hire & cafe). The campaign offers discounted season passes to subscribers if it is successful. There are plans to increase slope grooming and install 15 extra snow making machines on the five busiest runs and on a toboggan slope.
14 September 2016. The 'Eagle Skylift Arthurs Seat' will open on 3 December. Video of load testing is on their Facebook page. Rides in the first 8 seat gondola are being auctioned on their website with proceeds going to charity. The next gondolas will be filled by VIPs before the lift is open to the public.
27 May 2016. Corin Forest on the outskirts of Canberra has installed a 75 metre long carpet, the first ski lift for 20 years at this mainly cross country skiing and snow play destination. It is Australia's only new ski lift for 2016 although construction of the Arthurs Seat tourist gondola in Victoria is nearly complete. Canberra Times article.
2 October 2015. Selwyn Snowfields has been bought by the Blyton Group, owners of Charlotte Pass. Media release. The resort logo was changed for the 2016 season.
21 July 2015. The $16 million Arthurs Seat Skylift has passed all planning hurdles, a 50 year lease has been signed and construction is due to begin shortly with a planned opening in 2016. It appears it will be a 'chondola', a detachable quad chair that also features gondola cabins. Link to newspaper article.
14 June 2015. Sea World on the Gold Coast closed its 'Sky High Skyway' pulsed gondola and removed the open cabins from the ride. Aus Parks report.
15 December 2014. $14 million Arthurs Seat gondola near Melbourne granted planning approval. This one looks likely to go ahead, the syndicate appears to be well organised and to have adequate funding. There is an informal NIMBY group, however they don't appear to have any tangible moral or legal arguments against replacing the old chairlift with a gondola. Newspaper article.
11 December 2014. A tubing lift (ex Mt Buffalo) arrived at Dinner Plain and will be operating for the 2015 snow season.
30 June 2014. Perisher's new Freedom chairlift at Guthega operated for the first time today. Report and video.
17 April 2014 The Hobart Cable Car proposal has been formally launched. It will involve a Doppelmayr gondola from the Cascade brewery to Golden Gully Park, approximately a third of the way up the mountain. Activities such as mountain biking and a high rope course will be based there. From Golden Gully an aerial tram will head up to The Pinnacle at the top of the mountain. (an earlier proposal was for a funitel twin cable gondola) Details at their Facebook page and website.
Finally, this listing is regularly updated, so if you notice any errors or omissions, please send an email to australianmountains (at) gmail.com
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