Foundation of the Club
At a chance meeting on the steps of the New South Wales Public Library, whilst enjoying a break from their late night studies but still reeling from the expense of a ski holiday at Thredbo organised by the Second Rover Crew in the winter of 1960, the idea of a ski club with its own lodge was born.
Maurice Buckley, Paul Edwards and Robert Miller, members of the Second Gordon Rover Crew, decided that if skiing was to be affordable they should form a club and build their own ski lodge.
At this time, leasehold sites for club and commercial ski lodges in Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes were being allocated under the management of the Kosciuszko State Park Trust – later (1967) to become the Kosciuszko National Park.
Several trips were made to the Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes by the above three – always calling to see the Park Ranger, Jim Govern and the Park Superintendent, Neville Gare – to obtain a site and ascertain the Trust’s requirements for development. Several available sites were inspected and one, alas already allocated, especially caught their imagination. After some smooth talking and creating the impression of enthusiasm, the favoured site was recalled and made available. That was, of course, the present site of Ku-ring-gai Alpine Lodge, without doubt, one of the best anywhere in the snowfields.
Plans were hurriedly prepared, an estimate of cost obtained, arrangements for a loan negotiated and a prospectus drawn up and printed in record time.
Ku-ring-gai Alpine Lodge Co-operative Limited was incorporated on 22nd June 1961 and then the hard sell began. The aim was to find 80 members, each to put up $160, to provide the funds and at the same time to meld together a band of volunteers to actually build the lodge. After months of haranguing friends and friends-of-friends the eighty members (substantially students) were found and committed themselves to this huge personal expenditure.
The name “Ku-ring-gai” was chosen, first because it indicated the source of the bulk of the membership and secondly because it recognised the beginning within the Second Gordon Rover Crew which was, at that time, in the Ku-ring-gai Scouting District.
The plans which had been prepared by several of our members were put into final ‘shape’ by a young member architect, Jeff Jonas, who also prepared the specifications for construction and called tenders for the foundations, framework, roof and external cladding. It was decided that the members themselves would do the rest.
Work commenced just before Christmas, 1961, with a work party camped on the site to dig the septic and drainage trenches. The builders soon followed and then began the long task of the members finishing the building and furnishings between their studies and exams. Strangely, until many years later, the club did not have a single tradesman among its members.
The official opening of the Lodge by the Park Superintendent, Neville C. Gare, took place on the Queen’s Birthday weekend, 1962, with the hut just weatherproofed but housing some 80 people.
Over the more than 50 years of the Club’s existence there has been a transition of the membership from mostly single students to engaged and later married young couples, then young parents to the present, where we are now not-so-young parents watching our children grow up and showing us how to ski.
The original dream of good accommodation and skiing at an affordable price had been realised.
The 1962 building provided accommodation for 14, in two 4-bunk rooms and three 2-bunk rooms.
In 1970, there was a new allocation of beds from the National Park, and the club was able to get approval for a further 9 beds. To build these, half the under-floor area of the original building was excavated, and the footprint of the original building was extended to the north and east at this new basement level. This enabled the addition of a 4-bunk room and two 2-bunk rooms.
The additional population created a problem in the kitchen/dining area at peak times. The lodge had been economically designed for an occupancy of 14 people and there were now up to 22 staying in the lodge. Meals had to be organised in shifts to accommodate all 22 at a dining table with a capacity of only 10. This problem remained unaddressed for 20 years until 1990, when a major extension, designed by our new architect and member Jason Reid was built. This extended the building to the south and west while maintaining the character of the original building design. At the top level, the loft was enlarged, and the main diagonal ridge line of the roof extended. On the living level, the kitchen was doubled in size, and the dining area now had space for two large dining tables. On the ground level, the 4-bunk room under the kitchen (then room 5, later renamed to room 6) was enlarged to allow 4 beds on the floor instead of the original double-bunk arrangement.
By the nineties, expectations around accommodation standards had started to change, and there was pressure to provide more beds on the floor instead of bunks, as well as more en suite bathrooms. Another extension in 2001 enabled these and a couple of other problems to be addressed at the same time. The ski room was initially on the same level as the living room, and the external stairs to it on the south side were frequently icy and dangerously slippery in winter. It was also small considering the lodge now had a capacity for 22 people. The internal spiral staircase connecting the living and bedroom levels had always been a bottleneck, especially with the frequent need to transport luggage up and down.
The introduction of a new level halfway between the living and bedroom levels solved a number of these problems – two new bedrooms at this level allowed for disabled access, it provided a safer and level ramp access to a larger and better equipped ski room and drying room, and the spiral stairs were replaced by a stairwell with tall feature windows. The main bedroom level was rearranged by deleting the 4-bunk room in favour of adding more en suite bathrooms and providing for beds instead of bunks. As well, the old ski room was now repurposed as a lounge room extension, also much needed due to the 1970 increase in bed numbers.
A decade of developments from 2013 onwards followed, continuing the theme of improving the comfort in the lodge, and remembering the philosophy of our late long-time treasurer Philip Nygh – that it’s important to keep the amenity of the lodge up-to-date in order to remain viable.
In 2013, the electric heating and hot water systems were replaced with hydronic heating powered by gas boilers. While this was supposed to reduce costs, its more significant effect was to make the lodge warmer and more comfortable.
In 2014, the basement bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry and lockers were renovated. The sauna was removed in order to provide space for these improvements.
In 2015, the wooden deck had started to deteriorate significantly and was replaced with a modwood and steel structure.
The fireplace was always the main feature of the living room, and as it had always been very smoky, there had long been discussions about how to improve that. In 2017, a Cheminees Philippe fireplace was installed, and this eliminated the smoke problem. Over the next couple of years, the living room furnishings were upgraded, with new benches, re-upholstered chairs, and stonework facing on the fireplace surrounds.
The original lounge room windows were timber-framed, and had deteriorated significantly over nearly 60 years due to the harsh climate. In 2019, these were replaced with double-glazed windows with UPC frames. As there was a large glass area this had the effect of making the lounge room much warmer and more comfortable.
These new windows proved so successful that in 2020 the basement windows were also replaced with double-glazed windows and UPC frames, making these rooms also warmer.
As of 2023, the maintenance and upgrade program will continue, with the next major upgrade probably being to update the kitchen.
You can also visit the Perisher Historical Society for more information.