Secret project celebrates 70th year
HISTORIANS and families of some of Falls Creek’s pioneers will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first lodge at the resort on opening weekend.
Skyline Lodge was scavenged from derelict high country huts and built in secret at night and weekends by hydroelectricity staff to avoid their boss’s scrutiny.
John Meyer, the son of Kiewa Hydro-Electric Scheme chief surveyor Ray Meyer, said it was a humble beginning to what is now a vibrant European-style ski village that attracts thousands of snow enthusiasts each winter season.
“An intrepid number of likeminded State Electricity Commission had a common interest that revolved around the skiing potential of the snow-covered high plains that included what is now the 450-hectare resort of Falls Creek,” he said.
“The six SEC employees Toni St Elmo, Ray Meyer, Jack Minogue, Lloyd Dunn, Adrian Ruffenacht and Dave Gibson together with their families banded together to secretly build a ‘hut’ that was the first ski lodge at Falls Creek.
“Using a road built in 1930s to gain access to Falls Creek the hut project was a bold move and was carried out in secret owing to earlier efforts by other skiers being stymied by H.H.C. Williams – the engineer in charge of the Hydro Scheme.
“Another significant event in the erection of the first ski lodge at Falls Creek was a trip to the Lands Office in Mel- bourne by Ray Meyer in 1946 (the same year the name of the resort was officially changed from Horseshoe Creek to Falls Creek).
“It proved to be a masterstroke, he came away with a 99-year lease on three acres that was ideally suited for a hut designed by Lloyd Dunn.”
Falls Creek museum curator Karen Smythe said Skyline was located between pole 1 and Pole 2 of what is now the International Poma.
“If you were to look up from the road, the ground flattens out a little and the lodge was just on the edge of the bushes and trees there,” she said.
“At the time of construction, it was hidden behind lots of trees and the skiers would hike up the gully and onto the Summit.”
Mr Meyer said hydro scheme design engineer Adrian Ruffenacht suggested where the group should build owing to easy access to a spring and much of the building material required was scavenged from derelict huts on the high plains.
“Owing to the need for the work on the lodge be kept as secret as possible, because Williams was not particularly supportive, they toiled away in the evenings and weekends knowing very few SEC staff would be about,” he said.
“Another significant aspect of this remarkable feat was the decision to rename the hut.
“During the building period the group had met at Echidna Rock ( now known as Eagle Rock) where Skippy St Elmo announced ‘This is my favourite skyline’.
“Adrian Ruffenacht, agreed, saying it would be an appropriate name for their club.
“But Toni St Elmo suggested it was a time when the name Hut should be dropped and replaced with Lodge and it became ‘Skyline Ski Club Lodge’ the first ski lodge at Falls Creek.”
PIONEERS: Skyline Lodge, the first built at Falls Creek, was a secret project among hydro electric workers 70 years ago this year.