Non resort rope tows
The name of this article has become a little inaccurate as it now includes all Australian ski lifts outside resorts as well as the nutcracker tows at Mt Mawson 'club field'. Another page has a list of all 400 ski lifts to have operated in Australia, including lifts in resorts as well as those in backcountry areas.
All ski lifts on this page are rope tows unless otherwise noted. The dates listed are the ski seasons a lift operated (or if a particular tow didn't run in poor snow seasons, the seasons it was available to operate). Please correct any errors and add extra information. Alternately, email the details to sisson.dave at yahoo.com.au --© David Sisson 12:31, 24 December 2006 (EST)
- 1 Victoria
- 2 New South Wales
- 3 Tasmania
- 4 Australian Capital Territory
- 5 Other information
|Mt St Bernard||Wangaratta Ski Club||1955 - present||Mt St Bernard||Tow originally at Bull Run on Mt Buller|
|Mt St Bernard||Wangaratta Ski Club||1958 - present||Nursery Tow||-|
|Bogong High Plains||Rover Scouts||1968 - present||-||Langford West Aqueduct. Didn't operate 2003 - 2005|
|Mt Wills||Tallangatta Ski Club||1950's - c.2000||-||2 km north of summit near the lodge|
|Dinner Plain||Dinner Plain||1985? - present||Cobungra Platter||East of town. Formerly at Plains of Heaven, Hotham|
|Mt St Gwinear||Resort||2009 - present||-||Rumoured in local paper article, but not installed|
All Victorian ski lifts outside the resorts are nutcracker tows except the Dinner Plain platter. The pre-war ski resort at Donna Buang had about four ski lodges, cleared ski runs and wooden ski jumps, but it never had ski tows. Likewise the Feathertop Bungalow and Mt St Bernard Hospice were very popular commercial ski lodges until they were burnt in the 1939 fires, but no tows were built at either location until the 1950's when two were installed on Mt St Bernard. The cross country ski resorts at Lake Mountain and Mt Stirling have never had lifts either. A system of chairlifts was proposed for Stirling in the early 1980's and again in the mid 1990's, but sadly they were not built. --© David Sisson 15:37, 12 August 2007 (EST)
Mt St Bernard
Two lifts on Mt St Bernard are operated by Wangaratta Ski Club. The main lift originally operated on Bull Run at Mt Buller. From 1955 - 1956 it was on the main face of Mt St Bernard before moving to "La La Dash" for five years. It was then moved back to Mt St Bernard where it still operates today. It was 229 metres long with a rise of 70 metres, before a 25 metre long extension was built in 1989. It is powered 22 hp petrol motor installed in the early 1970's.
In 1958 a second tow was installed on the Nursery Slope downhill from the W.S.C. lodge and is visible from the Great Alpine Road if youn know where to look. It is 152 metres long with a rise of 20 metres. From 1982 - 1992 it was powered by a 1600 cc Volkswagen motor before being replaced by a 7.5 hp electric motor after the lodge was connected to mains electricity.
Plans have been floated to replace the rope tows with second hand pomas from ski resorts, but so far this has not happened. In recent years operation of the tows has been hampered by bureaucratic regulations and insurance difficulties. They did not operate in some years due to last minute changes that the club could not comply with at short notice. The St. Bernard Tow shed was slightly damaged in the 2003 fires and was rebuilt before the 2005 winter.
Further reading: Snow on St Bernard: 1930 – 1980 Wangaratta Ski Club jubilee book. W.S.C., 1980. Pages 50 - 51.
The best of them all: Wangaratta Ski Club 1980 - 2005 celebrating 75 years. W.S.C., 2005. Pages 77 - 78.
Bogong High Plains
A tow running across the Langford Aqueduct is operated by the Rover Scouts in conjunction with the adjacent Rover Chalet. The chalet was built in 1940 and has been extended many times. The tow was built in 1968 and extended in 1972. It is 302 metres long with an 80 metre rise and has lights for night skiing. The tow hut and motor were burnt in the 2003 bushfires and it didn't operate until the hut was rebuilt and a new motor (a Land Cruiser diesel) was installed before the 2006 ski season. Lodge caretakers have mentioned that if Lakeside Poma at Falls Creek is ever replaced by a chairlift, consideration may be given to buying it and using it to replace the present nutcracker lift.
There is a rumour that this tow originally operated at Mt Baw Baw before being moved to the Rover Chalet. But Baw Baw hadn't decommissioned any rope tows before the 1968 ski season, so this is unlikely. List of Baw Baw tows. It appears that the lift may have been renovated with parts (including the present bull wheel) obtained from Baw Baw in the late 1970's. However plenty of other resorts had replaced their rope tows by 1968, so the Rover tow may have had an earlier life at another location.
Thanks to Trevor K and others for help sorting out the tow's provenance.
One tow was operated by Tallangatta Ski Club near their lodge on the mountain. The lodge and tow are well below the summit area, both were built in the 1950's. The tow does not appear to have been used in recent years.
The present town at Dinner Plain was established on the nearest large block of freehold land to Hotham. The pub and first buildings were operational by 1985. The Cobungra Platter lift was moved from the Plains of Heaven at Hotham and installed at Dinner Plain to allow beginners to learn the basics of skiing before venturing 10 km up the road to Hotham.
Mt St Gwinear
The small cross country ski area at St Gwinear has apparently installed a portable rope tow. The Warrigul Gazette was cited as a source, but no date given, so it is unconfirmed at this stage.
New South Wales
|Main Range||Ski Tourers Assoc.||1953 - 1956||Northcote Tow||Burnt 1956 parts used in Crackenback Tow|
|Mt Tate East Ridge||SMA Ski Club||1957 - 1965||SMA Tow||Burnt 1965. 213m long|
|Diggers Creek||Hotel Kosciusko||Late 1940's?-51?||-||Dates uncertain, near Hotel Kosciusko|
|Diggers Creek||Tony Sponar||Early 1960's||Poma||Dates uncertain, near Sponar's Lakeside Inn|
|Kiandra||Wally Reed||c1950 - 1957?||-||Township Hill|
|Kiandra||Colin Myers||1958-late 70's||T-bar||Two locations, moved to Selwyn|
|Kiandra||Colin Myers||?60's -late 70's||Rope tow||-|
|Kiandra||Colin Myers||?60's -late 70's||Rope tow||-|
|4 km SW of Kiandra||Tumut Ski Club||c.1960 - c.1970||-||-|
|Kings Cross||?||<1960 - < 1973||Rope tow||Half way between Kiandra & Selwyn|
|Cabramurra||SMHEA (Snowy Hydro)||1956 - ?.||-||-|
|Cabramurra||Cabramurra School?||1960's - present||Rope tow||Now operated by Cabramurra Ski Club|
|Cabramurra||Cabramurra Ski Club||? - present||Poma||-|
|Round Mountain||Corryong Ski Club?||<1966 - 1970's?||-||Some poles remain on site|
|Tooma Dam: Montagues Hut||?||<1968 - 1970's?||-||Pulleys attached to trees & removed in summer|
All non resort ski lits in NSW were probably nutcrackers except Sponar's Poma, the Kiandra T-bar and the Cabramurra Poma and handle tow. In the 1960's there were an astonishing number of home made rope tows operating in the area between Kiandra and Theiss Village at Tooma Dam (at least 10). They were all gone by the 1980's, although the Selwyn Snowfields resort in the middle of this area was well established by then. Information on these and the tows at the Hotel Kosciusko / Sponars is very sparse, so any more detail would be appreciated.
Thanks to Craig Doubleday for his work on uncovering these lifts on old maps and his inspection of the site of the Mt Northcote tow and locations between Kiandra and Tooma Dam.
--© David Sisson 15:34, 5 August 2007 (EST)
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, 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.
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.
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 Lodge WikiSki article.
The Hotel Kosciusko was built in 1909. After World War Two it acquired a rope tow. The hotel burnt down on the 18th of April 1951. The separate staff quarters were also burnt, but the concrete shell remained intact. In 1959 the shell of the staff quarters was leased by Tony Sponar. Sponar had been a ski instructor at St Anton in Austria from 1941 to 1948 and later was an instructor at Charlotte Pass, but his greatest claim to fame is as co-founder of Thredbo ski resort in 1957. After a disagreement with company directors at Thredbo, Sponar took up the lease on the old hotel's staff quarters and renovated them to become 'Sponar's Lakeside Inn'. He installed a Poma nearby. The dates of operation for both lifts are uncertain. The track of the lift is about 50 metres up the road from the Sponars driveway entrance. For many years the track was obvious, but it is now overgrown and you have to know where it was to see any sign of it today.
Wally Reed operated the Kiandra Chalet in the former courthouse from 1943 to 1953. In about 1950 he built a small 200 yard (183 metre) rope tow on Township Hill. It was converted from a gold mining conveyor and was powered by a motor bike engine. In 1956 it was operated by the Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club who charged 3 shillings per half day to members, 4/- to non members. The lift ran on a profit sharing arrangement prior to a proposed sale which did not eventuate.
Colin Myers and the president of the ski club, Peter Fountain then operated the rope tow, until they installed a new Mueller designed T-bar, which had been built in Newcastle by Jones Engineering. The rope tow was removed and the new T-bar was erected on it's site in 1958. The location was on the Tumut side of Kiandra, close to the Kiandra Ski Club. For the 1962 season the lift was moved to a location about 140 metres on the other side of the clubhouse. It appears the T-bar remained operational at Kiandra until the late 1970's when it was moved to Selwyn. The Kiandra Pioneer ski club moved to Perisher in 1966 and their lodge was destroyed by fire in 1969.
Ski operations at Kiandra continued well into the 1970's based around the Chalet Hotel. The forced closure of the Chalet around 1976 and the development of the T-Bar at Selwyn Quarry saw operations wind down in the village. Col and Mahony Myers continued to operate two rope tows and the T-Bar in Kiandra along with the rope tows and T-Bar at Selwyn, moving operations from Kiandra to Selwyn each season as the snow became patchy. Food was available from a caravan at both sites and the dunny at Selwyn was a pretty basic set up. Eventually the Myers family moved the whole operation to Selwyn including the Kiandra T-Bar and began the resort that became today's Selwyn Snowfields. List of Selwyn ski tows.
Norman W. Clarke. Kiandra: gold fields to ski fields. Norman W. Clarke, 2006.
Tumut Ski Club
A tow was built at Tumut High School by the Tumut Ski Club in the mid 1950's or early 1960's and moved to the site. The support poles were steel pipe and the rope ran though Holden wheel rims which were attached to Holden wheel hubs welded to the poles. The tow was powered by a tractor which was bolted to concrete footings and housed in a shed. It was a sturdy set up located on a nice south east facing bowl about 4 km up the Cabramurra road going towards Mt Selwyn. It was abandoned and left derelict before 1970. It appears on SMA maps from the 70's. The tow line was removed and relocated to Selwyn in the 1980's where it had a brief operational life. It dropped steeply to the left of the home run at Selwyn. It could well still be in place, but was only used for a season or two.
A rope tow once operated at Kings Cross, half way between Selwyn Quarry and Cabramurra. It is shown on the SMA Cabramurra map of 1960 and ceased operation at some time before 1973.
In 1956 the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority (now Snowy Hydro Limited) erected a rope tow just out of Cabramurra for the use of employees and their families. For a while night skiing was a feature. Later the tow was replaced by a Poma operated by the Cabramurra Ski Club. The run is located in Cabramurra township in an area where the original portable SMA buildings were located, the Cabramurra Ski Club have a lodge at the top of the run. In the 1960's there was also a small tow adjacent to the old school and it appears this tow was taken over by the ski club.
A ski tow once ran from north east of the mountain to the summit. It is shown in a map in the 1966 edition of Snowy Mountain walks and may have been operated by a ski club from Corryong. A survey of books on Snowy Mountains history hasn't provided any more information, but the poles are still there. Any further details would be appreciated. Possible dates are from the mid 1960's to early 1980's.
Tooma Dam: Montague's Hut
In the 1960's there was a tow near Tooma Dam. It is shown on the CMA Kosciusko 1:100,000 map of 1968. Montagues Hut (burnt in 1986) may have been the tow house. The tow was operated by a ski club based around Khancoban. The road between Khancoban and Cabramurra was closed in winter (it still is), but the club was allocated a key to the gate by the NPWS. It appears that the pulleys were attached to trees and the tow was dismantled at the end of each ski season.
|Cuming (?)||Rope tow||1958 - 1959||Golden Stairs - Picnic Boulder||Harold Cuming. Burnt January 1960|
|Mawson||Rope tow||1963 - present||-||Extended in 1982. Most southern ski tow in Australia|
|University||Rope tow||1968 - present||-||-|
|Rodway||Rope tow||1973 - present||-||Reputedly the steepest tow in Australia|
|Beginners||Rope tow||19?? - present||Sitzmark||-|
Mt Mawson ski area is located in the Mt Field National Park near Hobart and has seven lodges and four rope tows. Unlike Ben Lomond in northern Tasmania, Mt Mawson never developed into a full scale ski resort. It is the last 'club field' in Australia open to the public, (although there are still three club run, private nutcracker rope tows in Victoria and plenty of club fields in New Zealand). The tows are operated by volunteers drawn from the seven clubs with lodges on the mountain. In recent years they have only operated on weekends and midweek during school holidays.
The first tow at Mt Mawson was built by Harold Cuming in 1958. Some of the equipment was carried by helicopter from Wombat Moor, while the rest was winched up the hill from Lake Dobson. (The 4WD road was not extended until 1962.) The cost of building the lift was subsidised by ski clubs and the state government. However, the tow was burnt in January 1960 and Cuming returned to Falls Creek, where he had previously worked.
The article Skiing Tasmania for 78 Years by M. Jones gives a good historical background to skiing in the state.
Proposed lifts on Mt Rufus
During the Second World War, skiers working on nearby hydro-electric projects had occasionally skied at Mt Rufus near Derwent Bridge and Lake St Clair. When the war ended, rationing of petrol and building material eased and hydro projects were expanded. This led to the formation of the Rufus Ski Club in 1947. The club built a surfaced road beyond the Navarre River, Joe Slatter Hut and Gingerbread Hut, which was intended to be a tow hut. Plans were well advanced for a ski tow, but hydro employment in the area began to decline and the permanent population of the area had always been low. So the proposed tow was never built. Rufus Ski Club amalgamated with Wellington Ski Club in late 1955.
About 1971, Parks did a feasibility report into skiing at Mt Rufus. One of the main recommendations was to build a gondola from Lake St Clair to the skifields, so as to avoid building a road into the area. A number of chairlifts were proposed and the skiiable area was quite large, with vertical drops of 200 metres. Sadly none of this was ever built.
The Mt Rufus Ski Development Feasibility Plan (1971) is available here.
Proposed lifts on Florentine Peak
Also in the early 1970's, Florentine Peak (near Mt Mawson) was assessed for it's viability as a modern ski resort, but sadly nothing eventuated there either.
Proposed lift on Black Bluff
In 1960 the Ellis brothers proposed building a double story chalet and 16 cabins at Lake Lea near Cradle Mountain. The development was to cost £10,000 and include a skating rink and a ski lift on nearby Black Bluff. However the project did not go ahead.
Australian Capital Territory
|Mt Franklin||Canberra Alpine Club||1957 - late 60's||Brumby Tow||Operated on Little Ginini, Slalom Run, Nursery Run|
|Mt Franklin||Canberra Alpine Club||1965 only||Austin A40 Tow||Operated on Slalom Run|
|Little Ginini||John Dowling||1959 - 1960||-||Moved to Mt Selwyn|
|Mt Ginini||RMC Ski Club||1957 - mid 60's||-||-|
|Corin Forest||Corin Forest||1980's & 90's||-||-|
All A.C.T. ski tows were rope tows although the Corin Forest tow may have been upgraded to a Poma. --© David Sisson 16:47, 31 July 2007 (EST)
Mt Franklin and Mt Ginini
The Canberra Alpine Club built the Mt Franklin Chalet in 1938 and the building survived until it was burnt in the 2003 fires. The Chalet was rebuilt in a more modern style in 2007. Four tows have operated on nearby slopes. They were Australia's northernmost ski tows.
Brumby Tow. 1957 – late 1960’s. Powered by a motor bike engine, the tow could handle two or three people at a time. Skiers were attached to the tow by an aluminium hook rather than the usual ‘nutcracker’. It operated on Little Ginini, the Slalom Run on Mt Franklin and the Nursery Run until waning interest in downhill skiing in the area caused it to cease operation.
Austin A40 Tow. Powered by a car bought from a wreckers yard for £20, the tow operated in 1965. The tow was not a success and this, combined with theft and vandalism over summer, led to it not running in later years. The remains of the car are still at the top of slalom run.
A third rope tow owned by John Dowling operated in the Little Ginini area a few kilometres south of Mt Franklin in 1959 and 1960 before being moved to Mt Selwyn.
Soon after the RMC ski club was established by army cadets in 1951, it purchased Ginini Hut. By 1953 the club had built a 30 bed lodge next to the hut and cleared a wide ski run. In 1957 a tow was errected using an old truck for power and motorbike wheels for pulleys. However the engine was very unreliable and when it broke down, skiers were occasionally towed uphill behind a Land Rover. Concerns over buildings in Canberra's water catchment combined with vandalism, demanding building maintenance and declining use due to the attractions of resorts on the Main Range, led to the lodge being demolished in 1969.
Further reading: Matthew Higgins. Skis on the Brindabellas. Tabletop Press, 1994. Pages 60, 77 - 81, 124.
A rope tow operated in the 1980's and early 1990's, it may have been upgraded to a Poma at some stage. The rather ambitious 'future plans' section of the Corin Forest website has a wishlist including three 600 metre long chairlifts! The Corin Forest website
Most backcountry rope tows utilise "Nutcrackers" to attach the skier to the tow, but some skiers who don't venture beyond the main resorts are unfamiliar with nutcracker rope tows. Most resorts in Australia and New Zealand began with nutcracker tows. While they have been replaced at the big resorts, nutcrackers can still be found at 'club fields'.
Nutcracker tows are not T-bars, Pomas or platters. A nutcracker 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 is adjusted according to snow levels. While a nutcracker may not be necessary on short, gently graded beginner tows, it is impossible for a skier to hold onto a rope with only their hands on steeper tow lines or where the rope passes over a pulley. The name derives from a slight similarity to the kitchen implement. Nutcrackers explained.
Portable ski tow
There is now a portable ski tow for sale in Australia. It can be up to 300 metres long, only weighs 50 kg and takes an hour to set up. Have fun dreaming about the places you would like to put it! http://www.snow-stuff.com.au/skilift.html