HISTORY OF BROKEN RIVER SKI CLUB

Post-Word War II New Zealand in the late 1940's-early 50's was an era of tough times and little money. If you wanted to achieve something you had to get out there and do it yourself – and this is exactly 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 old - and 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. Here's the story.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Founding Broken River Ski Club (BRSC) members first explored the Broken River Basin in October 1950, guided by members from neighbouring Canterbury Mountaineering Club (known now as Craigieburn Valley Ski Club). BRSC, originally known as the North Canterbury 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 BRSC members began creating an access road from State Highway 73 through native forest up to 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.

History Of Broken River Ski Club

THE FIRST TWO SEASONS OF SKIING

Members first skied in Broken River Basin on July 14th 1951, walking up through the bush and challenging deep, crusty snow to arrive in the basin at 4pm. Skiing in 1951 and 1952 involved walking in from near the main road (State Highway 73) approximately six kms through the forest to tree line. From there they attached the seal-skins to their skis and skinned up into the basin. Two runs were the order of the day, consisting of snow ploughs, long traverses and a few stem turns from the experts in the group.

Broken River Ski Club history

BY THE MID-1950S

Members worked hard and the dream evolved. Within five years they had cut about five km of road through the beech forest to the base of the mountain, built a foot track by hand to the ski field and built a 24-bunk hut at tree line (White Star Chalet) using wood that had been cut while building the road. On the field the first ski tow (the Rugby Tow) had been installed and the first day lodge, called Grasshopper Lodge had been built. The materials for both huts and the tow were carried by hand from the base of the mountain. They also moved their skating hut from Lake Lyndon to the Club road entrance and this was used as a base while working on the Club road. All the work was undertaken voluntarily 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.

1960 and beyond

The tradition of hard work, dedication and ingenuity established in the early days has continued through the decades. Voluntary Club labour has been used to design, build and maintain the Club’s road and all the Club's major developments and facilities.

By the end of the 1960's members had built a 24-bunk lodge, called Broken River Lodge, at tree line, installed two more ski tows, and had completed the summer access four-wheel drive track up into Broken River basin through some exceptionally tricky terrain. In the 1970’s the second day-lodge (Palmer Lodge) was built in Broken River basin and we continue to enjoy this facility today. The third accommodation lodge (Lyndon Lodge) and staff lodge were also built during that decade.

The focus of the 1980’s was the design and building of the goods lift, which was completed in 1985. This funicular rail system transported gear from the main carpark 320 metres up through the beech forest to the accommodation lodges and Ticket Office. Further design work through the 1990's upgraded the funicular railway to carry passengers. Our passenger service was officially opened to the public as The Tyndall Tramway in late July 2009. In the late 1980’s and early 1990's the Club took on the big project of laying of electricity cables to connect Broken River and its facilities and ski tows up to the main electricity grid.

Today Broken River Ski Club has a membership of approximately 400, many of whom are the 2nd and 3rd generation members. Members are still passionate about their Club, their Ski Club friends and the wonderful mountain environment at Broken River. We all invite you to be part of this special place.