Family life at Falls
OVER the past 70 years, Falls Creek has grown from a remote alpine settlement to a tight knit village community and one of the most popular snow resorts in Australia.
And that transformation is due in no small part to the families that have made the mountain their home.
Among them is the long established Lee family, including matriarch Noelene, her children Kerry, Steve and Tracy, and their children.
Noelene first came to the mountain in the 1950s – and it was much more difficult to get there in those days.
With no ski-in, ski-out accommodation, visitors had to walk from Howman’s Gap with whatever gear they could carry with them. “Now you can drive right up,” she said. Noelene and then husband Bob settled and built their life there, eventually establishing Attunga Lodge in the late 1960s.
Although their first winter running the lodge was a bad season, and one of the leanest times for visitors Noelene had seen, it did not deter the family and they continued operating the lodge for many years more.
Like many other residents, being an active member of the community saw Noelene help establish Falls Creek’s primary school, giving local youngsters the chance to receive an education close to home.
Now retired, Noelene volunteers regularly at the Falls Creek Museum, sharing her memories and knowledge of the mountain with visitors.
She said the overwhelming sense of community is one of the best things about living at Falls Creek, and what has made it a great place to raise a family. “It’s like a little country town,” Noelene said. “I love the fresh air, the mountains, and the snow – it’s so pretty.”
NOELENE said the mountain offers an environment full of freedom for families, with her children being able to go out and ski safely around the resort “in all weather”, with everyone looking out for each other.
“All the guys up here were literally big brothers to the mountain kids,” she said.
One of Noelene’s children – Steve - has done everything from competing internationally as a ski racer, including at Olympic level, through to photography and leading ski tours for a living. He has even worked as a ski stuntman. Active all his life, he has loved physical activity and sport since childhood, from skiing to playing tennis and rugby.
“We had a lot of freedom as kids,” he recalled.
“It was like growing up in a little country town, but we had an amazing backyard.”
Steve said he has been fortunate to have had the experiences he has, including, at one point, getting a rare opportunity to do a stunt as a double for Jackie Chan on a movie and being able to chat and spend time with him.
He said he loved Falls Creek, “even when the conditions are average”.
“It’s just the lifestyle and the small town community,” Steve said. “I’ve been privileged to make a living from it. “To our family, it’s almost everything.” Current chair of the Falls Creek Historical Society, Karen Smythe, said everyone on the mountain is looking forward to celebrating Falls Creek’s historic 70th anniversary.
“The construction of Skyline Lodge in 1947 by six dedicated SEC families was the beginning of Falls Creek as a village,” she said.
“The pioneers of days past saw the amazing potential for Falls Creek.
“Today it is a vibrant community, a year round resort with a long and diverse history.”
Among the activities planned for the mountain’s celebrations are a re-creation of the walk from Howmans Gap in period costume of the 40’s, a trivia night to celebrate the 90’s, an 80’s disco and a 70’s Fireworks show.
Special visitors to the mountain during the celebrations will include descendants of the original family members of Skyline.
“We wish to include as many local residents, stakeholders and visitors to the resort to help us celebrate these events,” Karen said.
More information on the celebrations is available on www.fallscreek.com.au.
WE ARE FAMILY: Members of the tight-knit Lee family (from left) Steve Lee, Jamie Lee Clauss (daughter of Tracy), Patrick Dodd (son of Kerry), Noelene Lee, and Kerry Lee Dodd.
ON THE SLOPES: Falls Creek has been part of Noelene Lee’s life since the 1950s.