60 Years of Rope Tows at BR

June 12, 2013 Share on Facebook

On 10th June 2013 we celebrated 60 years since the first tow - the Rugby Tow - ran at Broken River. The story behind getting the tow to the field is a classic "can do" story, typical of what went on in the early years of Broken River Ski Club.

Planning for the first tow began in April 1952, with nights spent working on the tow motor back in Rangiora. The tow was powered by a 1926 Rugby four cylinder car motor, hence the name "Rugby Tow".

Getting the tow motor to the mountain was an epic in itself because the Club road went less than half-way up to the current main carpark. It stopped at the steep corner below Jack's Pass. The tow motor was hauled cross-country on a sledge through the bush, towed by a crawler tractor. Travel was challenging and hazardous. Progress came to a halt when the tractor couldn't climb up steep snowy slopes.

The following summer (1953) a narrow foot track that members used to walk up to Broken River was used to get the tow motor to the basin. A winch was installed at the front of the tow motor unit and it winched itself up the foot track, guided by a group of Club members with crowbars to ensure the sledge stayed on the foot track. Just ahead, the foot track gang were working hard to widen and bench the foot track for the tow motor assembly. Above White Star Chalet and tree-line, the gang had to work even harder to stay ahead of the moving tow motor entourage because they were building the foot track from scratch.

All other tow components - tow standards, pulleys, and pulley brackets - were carried up to the basin by members. The heaviest of these were two large cast iron drive pulleys, which each took four people to carry up to the field. The effort was worth it as these drive pulleys are still used on the tows 60 years later!

Final preparations took place on Saturday the 9th of June 1953, including hauling the tow rope up through heavy snow to the return wheel and back down.

Sunday, the 10th of June 1953 was cold and overcast. Everyone had to skin or walk to the basin because the bottom of the tow started at the lip of Broken River Basin, near where the present tow shed is. The first task was for someone to clamber up to the spring half-way down Sunny Face and bring water back to fill the tow radiator (no anti-freeze in those days).  Early members still remember the thrill of finally using the tow. The skiing wasn't the best as the snow was heavy and not packed down but they still had fun. Come lunchtime the tow was stopped. Everyone sat out on a tarpuline to eat and the primus was lit to melt snow for a cup of tea.

Some things have changed in the intervening years, but the pulleys have continued to spin for 60 years since these humble beginnings.

Here's to 60 years of rope tows and cheers to our founding members!