70 years of Buller lifts from rope tow to 6 pack expresses

snow action team 24.06.2019

70 years of ski lifts at Buller! Where did that go? And have we all gone soft? The original Ski Club of Victoria rope tow installed back in 1949 was character building to say the least. Although shiny new express lifts do cope better with Buller’s 2019 popularity.

Our man on the mountain “Ask Doctor Pete” Stiebel put together this #tbt (= Throwback Thursday for those too old for hashtags) special from the SCV archives. One thing that hasn’t changed is that SCV is a great place to stay up there at their two lodges – you don’t have to be members, it’s friendly, affordable and in a perfect slopeside locations.

Historic shot of skiing Mt Buller c1950
Bourke Street back when the SCV rope tow was the lift network © Ski Club of Victoria

From humble and rough beginnings, our pioneers have helped shape Mt Buller into a thriving ski resort with new lifts this year, of 22 lifts in total, and an advanced snowmaking system. Mt Buller is a comfortable 3 hour drive from Melbourne and is complete with luxury hotels, ski lodges and apartments, with over 30 restaurants and bars. 

Next time the traffic is a bit slow heading up consider how it used to be – note the “Horse Ride” section © Ski Club of Victoria

But how did this all start?

The Ski Club of Victoria (SCV) was instrumental in the early development of Mt Buller. A lot of what you see today is because of the SCV. The Club envisioned the development of a village at Mt Buller and did develop the first lift, the first ski school and the first ski patrol. Organised racing was a feature of the SCV and still is today. In fact the early days the SCV was the official body for Australia’s Olympic hopefuls. 
The Club was formed in 1924, built its first hut near Boggy Creek in 1933 (SCV Hut Run), and the first lift, a rope tow on Bourke Street in 1949. 

In 70 years of ski lifts at Buller the trail map sure has changed from this original one
This must be the original Buller “Trail Map” – not quite James Nieuhaus artwork like the current one but pretty good for back then © Ski Club of Victoria

So this year, with the installation of the Bourke Street Express 6 seater detachable chair lift, marks 70 years of ski lifts at Buller, and is also the 95th anniversary of the SCV. 
Like today, the Bourke St area, with its rope tow in 1949, served beginner and intermediate skiers.

Whoever said “Never go back” was right in this case, we’ll take the 6 seater thank you very much © Ski Club of Victoria

Then came John Hilton-Wood’s portable rope tow on Bull Run to serve the needs of experienced skiers. This was later replaced in 1955 with a permanent tow which ran longer and into steeper terrain. Hilton-Wood eventually developed more lifts and formed Bull Run Enerprises, with their blue lift towers became known simply as “Blue Lifts” and also installed a lift on Skyline run. 

Plans for the original Mt Buller rope tow lift
Something tells us the plans for the new Leitner lift were just a tad more complex .. © Ski Club of Victoria

There was another lift company, Ski Lifts Mt Buller, known as “Orange Lifts” because of their orange lift towers. It was this company, formed in 1959, that purchased SCV’s original rope tow, replacing it with a double rope tow, and further developing Bourke St with a T-bar there and a T-bar on the newly created Federation run. They would also later acquire the Tirol rope tow. 

View of Bourke Street Mt Buller in 1968 ski season
The original SCV tow certainly sparked development – by 1968 Bourke Street was looking very different © Ski Club of Victoria

Lift developments at Mt Buller proceeded at a rapid rate from the 1960’s on and the eventual formation of the one lift company has resulted in what Mt Buller is today including the magnificent new 6 seat express. And all of this started by the SCV. 
A wonderful symbolic representation of the lift development history can be seen carved into the pelmets of Kaptain’s Restaurant at Pension Grimus at Mt Buller.

70 years of Buller lifts is the modern history of skiing there - without any lifts the SCV already had a hut since the 1930s
Buller real estate was a bit cheaper back in the day too .. © Ski Club of Victoria

Ski Club of Victoria today

Both SCV lodges – Ivor Whittaker Memorial Lodge (the Whitt) and Kandahar Lodge – enable you to ski straight to Shakey Knees and Bourke Street runs from your front door.

Kandahar Lodge is self-catering with comfortable bunkrooms, shared bathrooms and comes with full ski-in ski-out service.

The Whitt offers en suite bedrooms with in-house access to Mt Buller’s most popular social venues – our highly regarded restaurant and the historic, and thoroughly charming Dump Inn bar.

For bookings/more info check the SCV website here.

Double room at The Whitt © Ski Club of Victoria
Inside the original SCV hut at Buller
As many as squeezed in SCV hut © Ski Club of Victoria