History of Broken River Ski Club

The post-WWII era of New Zealand in the late 1940's/early 50's was of tough times and not much money. If you wanted something you had to go out and do it yourself – and this is what founding Broken River Ski Club members did. They wanted to ski, but existing ski fields didn’t suit so they decided to create their own ski field. They were young (between 20 and 28 years of age) but keen. Hard work, dedication and ingenuity were fuelled by fun, companionship, adventure and a dream. The dream grew from very humble beginnings into well-established ski club with well-designed and often innovative developments, Olympic representatives, a close-knit community and more than half a century of amazing skiing.

 

How it all began…

Founding Broken River Ski Club members first explored the Broken River Basin in October 1950, guided by members from neighbouring Canterbury Mountaineering Club (now known as Craigieburn Valley Ski Club). Originally known as the North Canterbury Ski Club, Broken River Ski Club was formed by members of the Winter Sports section of the Rangiora Youth Recreational Club. The Winter Sports group initially focused on skating, mostly at Lake Lyndon, but the lure of the snowy slopes above the lake was too great and they soon exchanged their skates for skis.

In early 1951 the 12 founding members began creating an access road through native forest into Broken River Basin. Picks and shovels were used, later joined by an ancient truck, and crawler tractor. Trees cut off the road by cross-cut saw were milled back in Rangiora, 30 kms north of Christchurch. The milled timber was transported back up to the Ski Club, and then physically carried on members’ backs through the forest for 1.5 hours to the tree line site of White Star Chalet.


Founding Broken River members on "Gertie". Newell Family archives.

 

 

The first two seasons of skiing

Members first skied in Broken River Basin in July 1951. Skiing in 1951 and 1952 involved walking approximately 6 kms from near State Highway 73 through the forest to tree line and then skinning up into the basin. Two runs were the order of the day, consisting of snow ploughs, long traverses and a few stem turns.

 

By the mid 1950’s

Within 5 years members had cut about 5 km of road through the beech forest to the base of the mountain, built a foot track to the ski field, built a 24-bunk hut (White Star Chalet), installed their first ski-tow (Rugby Tow), built the first day lodge on the ski-field (Grasshopper Lodge), and moved their skating hut from Lake Lyndon to the Club road entrance. All the work was undertaken by members. Projects were funded by running monthly dances throughout the Rangiora district. By the mid-50’s the membership had grown to 200 and ski weeks, including family weeks, were held complete with ski instructors from Europe.

 

Developments through the 1960’s and beyond

Hard work, dedication and ingenuity of Club members have been a tradition since the beginning. Voluntary Club labour has been used to design, build and maintain the Club’s road and all major developments and facilities.

By the end of the 1960's members had built a 24-bunk lodge at tree line (Broken River Lodge), installed two more ski tows, and had completed the access track up into Broken River basin. In the 1970’s the second, and present day-lodge (Palmer Lodge) was built in the ski basin. The third accommodation lodge (Lyndon Lodge) and staff lodge were also built during that decade.

The major development of the 1980’s was the design and completion of the goods lift in 1985. This funicular rail system transported gear from the main car park 335 metres up through the forest to the accommodation lodges. Further design work in the late 1990's upgraded the funicular to carry passengers and this service was officially opened to the public in late July 2009. The other major project of the late 1980’s and early 1990's was laying electricity cables to connect Broken River and its facilities and ski tows up to the main electricity grid.

In the 21st century Broken River Ski Club has a membership of approximately 400, many of whom are the 2nd and 3rd generation members. Members are passionate about their club, their ski club friends and the wonderful mountain environment.

Watch our welcome video to see a snapshot of what has gone on over the last six decades.

If you are interested in reading more interesting stories about the early days of our Club you can purchase “Castles in the Air. The early history of skiing at Broken River” by clicking here.