Where it Began.
In the late 1040’s and early 1950’s the Australian Government established research stations in Antarctica at Mawson, Davis and Casey on the continent and Macquarie and Heard Islands in the sub antarctic. These stations remain in operation today and are permanently staffed except for Heard Island which closed after only a few years of operation.
The expeditioners who helped establish those Australian Antarctic stations and support their scientific endeavour were resourceful and intrepid.
They formed close bonds with each other, achieved remarkable feats during their more than 12 months stints away. It is from those returned Antarctic expeditioners that the dream and reality of a Ski Club for Antarctic Expeditioners developed.
Prior to presenting a suggestion for an ANARE Club off-shoot, as a ski club back in mid-1963, Bill Birch (founding President) over several visits to the Victorian Forestry office on the corner of Latrobe and William Streets, found there were some suitable long-term lease-sites available at the developing Mt Baw Baw Alpine Village, recently made accessible from Neulyne’s Mill via a basic road constructed by the Forestry Commission. Site #14 seemed to be the best available, right next to the road.
He presented the outline of a plan to the ANARE Club AGM in mid-1963, Ian Bird and Frank Trajer immediately volunteered to be in it, and a ‘planning committee’ was formed to set up the club that had to be fully independent from the ANARE Club. Despite some early misgivings the newly formed ANARE Ski Club had a near full membership of a minimum 25 members within a couple of months. The Club journal, Aurora, and individual mail-outs were used to recruit ANARE Club members to the Ski Club.
Peter Schwerdfeger was an early and most enthusiastic recruit to the planning team. He presented a balsa wood model of an ‘A’ Frame lodge that he said would be easy to build and fit with the landscape. The committee agreed and Peter had detailed drawings made up from his architect friend Uldis Merits. The drawings of the proposed building were submitted to the Forestry Commission for building approval.
Peter also accessed a Mercedes Benz car crate, and arranged for it to be taken up to Mt Baw Baw to be fitted out as a work hut. Peter with a chain saw, and like a sculptor, neatly cut out a door and window opening and in no time the crate had a lockable door and opening window. Some rudimentary bunk frames soon followed, and provided a very serviceable hut for weekend work parties and later for basic ski accommodation.
In those days Bill owned an FJ Holden station wagon which was a valuable asset in carrying redgum foundation stumps up from Stoll Bros. sawmill in Rokeby.
Work started in late 1965 on the bush block and work parties over the next 5 years installed foundations, bearers, flooring, frames, cladding, windows, heating and a diesel generator. By 1970 the lodge was sealed sufficiently to allow for internal fittings and furniture.
Annual work parties continue with regular maintenance and over recent years reticulated gas and electricity have made the Lodge more comfortable along with the installation of a gas fire and ducted heating.