Bluebird Day for Broken River 60th
February 21, 2012 Share on Facebook
Calm, warm and balmy conditions were the “icing on the cake” for the more than 100 Club members that gathered up at Palmer Lodge, in Broken River basin to celebrate 60 years since for the formation of Broken River Ski Club. Saturday February 18th 2012 turned out to be a perfect summers day for such a special occasion and a real bonus considering there has been so much bad weather this summer.
Guests included: Leith Newell and Mark Lamb - two of the 12 founding Club members, Club President Ian Hunt, 90-year old Betty Womersley - mother of Olympic ski racing representatives Cecilia Jenkins and Chris Womersley, three New Zealand ski racing representatives (Leith Newell, Chris Womersley, Richard Womersley), eight past presidents as well as numerous past Committee members and Broken River staff.
It was relaxed, "family” day, with youngsters running around the alpine tussocks while parents, grandparents and old friends reminisced on the deck of Palmer Lodge nearby.
The welcome by President Ian Hunt was followed by appetisers and a sumptuous lunch of spit roast pork and salads.
The formal part of the day began with founding member, and wife of the first present, Leith Newell giving a brief account of the events that lead up to the formation of Broken River Ski Club, and the development of the ski field in the Broken River basin. Leith described the first full season of skiing in 1953. “Some of us worked to 9pm on Friday nights and then set off from Christchurch or Rangiora, often not getting to the White Star Chalet at tree line until after 1am… In the morning skins were fitted to skis and off we went, often in a foot or so of new powder. Some people walked up to the basin in snow up to their knees and sometimes waists. The ski tow was stopped for lunch and we sat on a tarpaulin as there was no lunch hut yet”. Mrs. Newell said it has been 60 years of great skiing, close friendships and fun. “Back then we never imagined that 60 years on we would have a passenger rail transporting people up the mountain, the facilities running on electricity, three accommodation huts, five ski tows and see our grand children skiing.”
Long-time members Sally Dickson, Dave Laing and Dave Rodgers also shared some personal stories of their years as Broken River members. Dave Rogers recalled breaking his leg in the mid 1950’s and the long trip into Christchurch Hospital that followed. The initial pain stablisation period included a temporary rest in Grasshopper Lodge (Broken River’s first day lodge) so the stretcher carriers could have a few more ski runs. Dave described the long carry down the foot track through the bush to the car park in the valley below and then a stop to eat pies along the way. Sally Dickson spoke of coming up to Broken River as a junior and recalled ski weeks in the 1970's where two packing trips were required on a Sunday at the beginning of the week to carry all personal gear and ski week food up the foot track to the accommodation. Dave Laing talked about the fun social times he has had over the years, including being part of the infamous "A Team" in the early 70's.
Everyone talked about the strong sense of “family” that Club members have and the fun had by all. Ian Hunt noted the love of skiing and having fun that continues to create the strong bond between Club members. Representing the younger and newer Club members, second generation member Claire Newell thanked the founding and early members for Club and it's facilities, and for their energy, enthusiasm, and sense of adventure. The formal part of the day finished with Betty Womersley and great granddaughter Lily Womersley (8) cutting the birthday cake.
What a great day. It was a real Club celebration of the finest kind – fantastic weather with plenty of laughter, excellent food, and good times catching up with great friends. Cheers to 60 wonderful years!