Fam­ily life at Falls

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - By KYLIE WIL­SON

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.

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