News and Events

Mt Hutt ‘all systems go’ for 40th season opening (13-Jun-13)
Immaculately groomed slopes and a genuinely warm welcome await avid skiers and snowboarders.....

Queenstown’s Coronet Peak ski area first to open in Australasia (10-Jun-13)
Queenstown’s Coronet Peak ski area today (June 8) celebrated in style as the first Australasian ski field to open for winter....

Coronet Peak first ski area in Australasia to open on Saturday (05-Jun-13)
Queenstown is officially open for winter as the 2013 season kicks off at Coronet Peak on Saturday (June 8).

Ski Areas Go Out With A Bang! (27-Sep-12)
Season extension and half price passes

July 14th 2011 - 60 Years Today Since The First Skiing In Broken River Basin (13-Jul-11)

Today marks 60 years since the first skiing in Broken River Basin by founding
Broken River Ski Club members. Leith Newell, founding member and wife of
founding President, the late Jack Newell, recalls the trip of July 14th 1951 vividly.

July 14th 1951. First skiing in Broken River Basin by founding Broken River Ski Club members. Photo by Leith Newell.

July 14th 1951. First skiing in Broken River Basin by founding Broken River Ski Club members. Photo by Leith Newell.

“The group of 10, from Rangiora, came up in the usual chariot, Jack’s V.8 truck –
four in the cab and the rest in the back under the canvas tilt. Geoff and one other
came through from Christchurch in ‘Aussie’, his 1928 Austin 7. We set off for the
Basin from the bush edge at the start of the current Broken River road. The workers
shouldered grubbers, picks and shovels to work on the future road and the seven
optimists, skis. We walked in about 15 centimetres of snow, following our new
roughly formed track for a short distance and then a blazed trail up through the bush,
over the ridge near ‘Jacks Pass’ and connected up with the rough track to Allan
Willis’s small bush hut. We continued on up the valley to Allan’s Hut, skis battering
from one tree to the next and the heavy-footed breaking though the crusted snow.”

“After lunch in Allan’s Hut the boys offered to clean up while the three girls – in the
manner of the Egyptians, women and children first – headed up the mountain. We
broke trail in breakable crust up to our knees, and following the bush edge reached
the ridge, above the site of the present accommodation huts. A fairly exhausted
group gathered here, fitted skins and made a high traverse into Broken River Basin
at 4 p.m.!”

“It was pretty cold at that time of day, so after a very quick slide round we turned
for home and had an exciting run back to the bushline. The experts in the group
could do stem turns and were learning to ‘Christie’. The snow, although right down
to the main highway, was sparse and tussocks poked through here and there. We
had learned to ski on tussocks and daisies at the south end of Lake Lyndon so this
hazard we merely ignored.”

“Then off with the skis and a bouncing trip down the hillside with giant strides and
into the bush in the dark. None of us had torches so thankfully it was moonlight and
head tracker Mehrtens was able to retrace our footsteps. It was a long, long climb
up to the ridge to cross near ‘Jack’s Pass’ and a very tired party arrived back to the
beginning of the present Broken River road to find Hass and the group of prospectivemembers huddled round a fire. He had them worried with tales of “side-hill” cougars and other prowling beasts of the mountains.”

No hi-tech gear in 1951

Contrast the hi-tech gear of 2011 with 60 years ago. The well-dressed adventurer
of 1951 wore gabardine ski pants of generous cut, long woollen army puttes around
the ankles to keep the snow out (“tiresome to put on” reflects Leith), woollen flannel
shirt, a windproof jacket with elasticised waistband, and a peaked ski cap. Ski gear
included N.Z. made O’Brien ski boots which were tramping boots with a square toe
for the ski binding and a strap across the instep for support. “At least they were
waterproof” says Leith Newell. Skis of the day were solid Hickory, Ash or Southland
Beech fitted with ‘legbreaker’ downpull bindings. Plush climbing skins were an
essential piece of equipment although one member of the group was known to use
binder twine.

Far-reaching goals

The 12 founding members began with a dream – their own Ski Club. Enthusiasm
and energy made up for the lack of money, road, or facilities. Within 5 years
members had cut 5 km of road, built a foot track to the ski field, built a 14-bunk hut,
installed their first ski-tow and built the first day lodge. Over the next three decades
came two more ski-tows, two new accommodation lodges and the present day
lodge. A good’s lift was designed and built in the 1980’s and this was upgraded to
carry passengers in 2009.

Reflections

In 2001, founding President Jack Newell commented “Little did we know what we
were beginning. We had no idea then that fifty years later our Ski Club would have
made such progress – gear transported up the mountain by tram, huts with showers,
flush toilets and electricity, and that our best skiers would race overseas in Olympics
and World Cups - or that three generations would all be on the mountain together.”

July 14th 2011. Unmarked snow just like in 1951 after a week-long storm that brought over 1.75 metres of new snow. Photo Doug McCabe.

July 14th 2011. Unmarked snow just like in 1951 after a week-long storm that brought over 1.75 metres of new snow. Photo Doug McCabe.

60 Years On

Sixty years on the ski gear and facilities may have changed, but not the great
friendships, passion for skiing and fun in the snow. “We’ve got a great Club that we
are very proud of.” says current President Ian Storer. “This past week has been a
wonderful start to our 60th year. The nor-west storms have brought us more than
1.75 metres of new snow. We’re looking forward to a great winter season.” The Club
will hold several events over the next few months to celebrate 60 years.

 
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