Two of the Ski Tourers Association's Main Range developments: Kunama Lodge and the Northcote Tow House.                                                                                                Photo: Baglin, published in Rick Walkom. Skiing off the roof: the kosciusko Chalet and it's place in the history of the Australian snowfields. [1st ed.], Arlberg Press, 1991.

Two of the Ski Tourers Association's Main Range developments: Kunama Lodge and the Northcote Tow House.                                                                                                Photo: Baglin, published in Rick Walkom. Skiing off the roof: the kosciusko Chalet and it's place in the history of the Australian snowfields. [1st ed.], Arlberg Press, 1991.

This article is on hold as I mainly write about subjects that have not been published before and a couple of recently published books now cover the subject. However I intend to come back to it and write my own interpretation of the subject.

At the moment it is just two short pieces I wrote some years ago on another site that closed down. Eventually it will be expanded to a more complete article.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE MAIN RANGE OF THE SNOWY MOUNTAINS IN THE 1950'S.

In 1950's it looked like a resort would develop on the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains. Three ski lodges and two ski lifts were built and nearby shelter and cattlemen's huts was also used for accommodation. However through misfortune and later bureaucratic zealotry, this vision of an accessible Main Range failed and nothing remains today.

Albina Lodge

Northcote Tow

Kunama Lodge

Gam T-bar

Rawson Hut, SoilCon Hut, etc.

Resumption and demolition of Albina and Rawson's

Legacy. Illawong Lodge and what happened to the Ski Tourers Association

 

The Northcote Tow.

The Northcote Tow.

From 1953 - 1956 the legendary Northcote Tow was operated by the Ski Tourers' Association (renamed the Australian Alpine Club in 1962). In addition to housing the engine for the lift, the tow house provided accommodation to skiers. Shortly after neighbouring Kunama Lodge was swept away in an avalanche that killed Roslyn Wesche, the tow house burnt down in August 1956.

The area was prone to particularly severe weather and there had been problems with the build up of snow. After the Kunama disaster, the tow operators stored gelignite in the hut to blast away snow to reduce the incidence of further avalanches. Three weeks later a faulty heater sparked an explosion which blew the hut apart, although this time there were no injuries.

Map of Main Range developments in the 1950's. Scan a sharper image.

Map of Main Range developments in the 1950's. Scan a sharper image.

After the fire, the remains of the Northcote Tow were salvaged and incorporated into the Crackenback Tow, the first ski lift at Thredbo.

For a few years there was quite a 'club field' out on this part of the Main Range and the tow served The Golden Eagle run where speed skiing records were set. In addition to the Northcote Tow and dozens of unlifted ski runs, there was accommodation in the Northcote tow house, Lake Albina and Kunama lodges and three comfortable huts nearby. Today only Seaman's Hut survives although the bunks and other fittings have been removed.

More information:

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. Pages 99 - 104 cover this 1950's development of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains.

Helen Swinbourne. Accordions in the snowgums: Thredbo's early years. Thredbo Hist Soc. 2006. Pages 5 & 15.




Kunama Hutte 1953 - 1956.

Kunama Hutte 1953 - 1956.

At 7:20 am on 12 July 1956 an avalanche swept down Mt Clarke on the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains. It destroyed Kunama Hutte, a ski lodge built by the Ski Tourers Association in 1953 on a small knoll at the base of the mountain.

Eleven people were in the lodge when the avalanche hit. A kitchen table saved some skiers from being crushed when the beams supporting the roof fell in. The lodge manager Peter Kelly said, ‘I really don’t know how we got out of it. We really should have all been killed… I was sitting on the edge of my bunk and all I noticed was the deathly silence. After the wind and noise of the previous night it was uncanny. I heard a sort of a whine like the wind might make and then, bang, we got it. The Hutte started hurtling downhill and tipped forward. People were being thrown around everywhere, and beams and furniture were falling down from the top. As soon as I could, I called the roll and everyone answered but Roslyn. Then we all knew that something was wrong.’

The ruin of Kunama Lodge circa 2007. Photo: Craig Doubleday.

The ruin of Kunama Lodge circa 2007. Photo: Craig Doubleday.

The interior of Kunama Lodge. Photo: Baglin, from National Library of Australia

The interior of Kunama Lodge. Photo: Baglin, from National Library of Australia

The survivors found refuge a few hundred metres away in the tow house of the Northcote Ski Tow which also had beds. A message was radioed to Charlotte’s Pass and the ski patrol sent out a rescue party.

Contrary to rumour, there have been several other avalanche deaths in Australia. Perhaps the best known is a fatality in the late 1970's on the Golden Stairs at Mt Mawson ski resort in Tasmania.

Roslyn Wesche, who died when an avalanche hit Kunama Lodge.

Roslyn Wesche, who died when an avalanche hit Kunama Lodge.

Roslyn Twynam Wesche, aged 20, was the only child of Venn and Anne Wesche, enthusiastic skiers whose writings on Australian skiing were widely published. Roslyn Lodge at Thredbo is named in her memory.