The following summary of the Club history was taken from the Fiftieth Year Celebration Calendar of 1985.
In the winter season of 1935 an enthusiastic and intrepid band of skiers staying at the Hotel Kosciusko decided it would be a good time to begin a ski club.
The Southern Alps Ski Club was formed to promote the fun sport of skiing and to create a base in Sydney for social events during the year to continue the friendships formed whilst on holidays in the snow.
Under the guidance of President Rex Dunbar the first members worked towards improving the standard of the sport. In the pre-war years the club was very small, and met annually for a fortnight’s skiing at the old Hotel Kosciusko which was above the lake beyond Rennix Gap where Sponars now stands. There were no lifts and the skiing was decidedly social. Formal dressing for dinner was the accepted practice. The lake froze over very hard and the ladies always took skates so they could enjoy a waltz on the ice and perfect their figure-of-eights! Seasons seemed to be better in those days — it was very rare that snow did not cover the popular ski runs, the Kerry, and Grand Slam beside the Hotel; Alpine View, Mt. Sunrise and the Plains of Heaven. During the war the hotels were closed but in 1946 the Club resumed its activities. Races were run and members also enjoyed the adventure of trips on Alpine skis to the top of Mt. Kosciusko and back, or a run up the valley through Smiggin Holes and Perisher to have a day on the ski lift at Charlotte Pass— “a rope tow with a nutcracker arrangement, and then the run back down the valley in the fading light on trembling legs to reach the Hotel by 6.00 p.m. It was great to be young and energetic then — it was all done on alpine skis with skins attached for the steepest climbs. Equipment was very poor by today’s standards”.
1949 was a bumper year. Snow covered the Kerry run to a great depth and the old Hotel seemed as if it was built in an Austrian forest not the Australian Alps. George Nicholl was a leading light in SASC in the late 40’s and 50’s. He was always available to give help and encouragement to beginners — in fact the club has always been noted for its warmth and friendliness, on and off the snow.
In April, 1951 the Hotel Kosciusko — “The Pub” as it was known affectionately—burnt down, a sad blow to all skiers. After this, the SASC moved its skiing activities to Charlotte Pass where, after a ballot, the N.S.W. Tourist Bureau gave it a bed allocation in the Chalet. There was great overcrowding and a number of members had to be accommodated at Betts Camp and in the S.M.A. huts at Spencers Creek, in sometimes very hard conditions due to blizzards. Club members in the Chalet hosted a cocktail party for all at Charlotte Pass — a popular tradition which is still maintained during the annual Race Week Carnivals. During the 1950’s the club slowly expanded under the presidency of George Nicholl, the first Life Member. John Noblet, our longest-serving member who joined SASC in 1949, remembers it well — “they had overcome their transfer to the Chalet and were once again well established as a force in the snow. George was performing better than ever and his annual President’s Cocktail (snake juice) Party was the highlight of the fortnight. Harry Rupp assumed the position of official photographer, and Stan O’Malley from Bourke always ran the table tennis tournament. Back in Sydney the Annual Ball was held at White City in September”.
The move to Charlotte Pass brought about the end of formal dressing, as over-snow transport was very unreliable and the strong possibility of having to carry a pack on foot (or skis) from Smiggins or the old Hotel site meant the abandonment of all unnecessary gear.
SASC produced some fine skiers with the improvement in equipment, tows and instructors at the Pass, among them Adam Zapenski, Brian Davidson, Stan McGuinn, Leon Smith and Margaret Abel (Hookham). The first Club Championships were conducted in 1952, and a number of fine trophies were subsequently donated for competition among members. As well as touring in the Main Range, a feature of the Club’s annual fortnight at the Chalet were the extensive social activities — night excursions on skis, barbecues at the Red Hut torchlight parades, fancy dress, Treasure Hunts on skis, Harry Rupp’s movies and more.
Two very vital people in Southern Alps history joined the club during these years: Rex Cox in 1953 and Arnold Kahane two seasons later. Southern Alps has traditionally fostered competitive skiing. Rex Cox, a perennial Club Captain, and now again President, has always been a tireless worker for the club and has done a magnificent job promoting junior racing and cross-country skiing. No race would be complete without that rugged man, resplendent in oilskin coat, rucksack and a pile of racing flags, inspiring the young racers and conning the oldies into volunteering their services. His enjoyment of all aspects of skiing has already infected several generations. The donation in 1959 of the Paddy Pallin Shield by that popular and benevolent skiing identity saw the beginning of regular school holiday competition for juniors which is still much enjoyed.
After thirteen successful seasons at the Chalet, in 1964 the momentous decision was made which would greatly affect the future of the club — to build Southern Alps own lodge at Charlotte Pass. The vision of Arnold and Selma Kahane, Rex Cox and Joan Gardiner became a reality with the formation of the lodge co-operative whose foundation members also included Evelyn Pigot, Ken Williamson and Les Garfield. After surmounting tremendous difficulties the lodge was completed in June, 1965. The building and attendant publicity brought a host of new members, and the growth and great success of the club was largely due to the driving force of Arnold Kahane as chairman of directors of the Lodge CoOperative. His endless enthusiasm and dedication over many years helped the club to consolidate and expand to other resorts in N.S.W.
In 1969 Christiania Lodge in Thredbo was purchased, and rebuilt after burning down in 1976. At the same time Kunama Lodge in Perisher Valley was purchased, and renamed in 1982 Kahane Lodge in honour of his untiring efforts for Southern Alps.
The club remains after 50 years of activity as a bond between its many members both young and old, for friendship and the enjoyment of the fine sport which has united us all and the appreciation of the special pleasures Nature has for us all in the timeless Southern Alps.
Special thanks to John and Judy Noblet and to Rick Walkom for their great help in compiling this brief history.
People interested in joining SASC should view the membership page on this website.