This Saturday, Perisher Resort will celebrate its 70th birthday.
70 years ago the first rope tow and the first two ski lodges opened in Perisher, marking the birth of Perisher as a ski resort. The Telemark Lodge, a pre-fabricated ski lodge imported all the way from Norway, and the Snow Revellers Lodge, a 20-bed ski lodge that had started construction the year before, opened in 1952.
The only ski lift at the time was a single rope tow called Ski Haven Rope Tow, which was essentially a dog-sleigh operated by savvy ski-pioneer Johnny Abbottsmith. Johnny proceeded to build several more ski lifts over the years.
It is incredible to think that two small lodges and a single rope tow marked the beginning of what is now the largest Australian ski resort with on average 16,000 daily visitors in winter and 47 ski lifts.
Many decades before, the first mountaineers had hiked and skied in the area but it wasn’t until the construction of the Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme commenced in October 1949 that plans were laid to turn the area into a commercial ski resort. The Snowy Hydro, a hydropower network of seven power stations, brought many European immigrants to the region who saw the potential to turn some of the work bases into ski resorts. These immigrants along with local snowsports visionaries like Johnny Abbottsmith were the pioneers who gave birth to Perisher.
Celebrate the amazing history of skiing in the Snowy Mountains this Saturday August 20 from 6 pm with a retro ski night at Perisher. A book about Johnny Abbottsmith has also been released this year to mark this occasion and is available at the Snowy Region Visitor Centre in Jindabyne.