Smiggin Holes Ski Patrol
By Pat Edmondson
The Smiggin Holes Ski Patrol is inexorably tied to the Illawarra Alpine Club. This profile of the Smiggin Holes Ski Patrol is taken as published from “Silver Tracks” the history of the club published on the club’s 25th anniversary.
The Illawarra Alpine Club and its members have been actively involved with the Ski Patrol at Smiggin Holes almost since its inception.
In 1960, prior to the formation of our Club, the Kosciusko Safety Ski Patrol (KSSPA) was formed by Snowy Mountains Authority employees, mainly from Cooma, to look after the Smiggin Holes and North Perisher slopes. In 1964/65 our Club members Don Oyston and Col Bruton became involved with this Patrol and enthusiastically recruited ski patrollers from the Illawarra region, many of whom were Club members.
A large meeting held at the Master Builders Club in Wollongong in 1965, decided that the Patrol should have branches in Cooma and Wollongong with a co‑ordinated central committee. This was done and in 1967 a Sydney branch was formed. Some of the Club members involved were: Col Bruton, (“a small well built man with overwhelming determination”), Club publicity officer and then secretary; myself secretary and then president; Don Oyston, Peter Swan, Barry and Laurelle Roberts, Adolf and Ria Ploss, Gobi Hubscher, Trevor Ashton and my wife Sue Edmondson. Dr Ian Dunlop assisted with first aid lectures and Dr Ken Doust did the examining.
Don Oyston, a Wollongong ambulance officer, was a tower of strength to the Patrol in passing on his knowledge and expertise to fellow Patrol members.
Col Bruton conducted a very active publicity campaign, with the help of Pat Edmondson, who was commended in 1969 by the Smiggins Ski Association for his work in developing the Ski Patrol.
In the early years of the Perisher Valley Enterprises tow at Smiggin Holes there was no professional patrol. The first professional patrol was not operational until 1969 and then, when members of the KSSPA were not available, the lift operators did the work. This arrangement continued when the Smiggins Hotel took over the lifts and the cooperation with the Hotel management was generally very good,
It should be noted that the KSSPA took a leading part in the formation of the NSW, Perisher and Australian Ski Patrol Associations. In fact Ski Australia, in August 1968, reported that, “the blueprint for such an association had been established by a group of dedicated skiers and has operated, very successfully, for the last six years in the Smiggin Holes area. The association was originally sponsored and organised by the Illawarra Alpine Club.”
During the 1966 season a constitution committee, comprising Pat Edmondson, Gobi Hubscher and Col Bruton completely revised the constitution. The constitution of the Illawarra Branch of the Surf Life Saving Association was used as a model for the Ski Patrol. John Fitzgerald, one of our Club’s founders, acted as honorary legal advisor.
In 1973 Kosciusko Alpine Resorts (Perisher) bought the Smiggins operation. The manager, Harold (Black Harry) Droga and the Patrol did not work well together, resulting in eventual dismissal of the Patrol in 1977. It is ironic that Smiggin Holes is now mainly serviced by professional patrollers with an occasional visit from a Perisher volunteer.
The Patrol also took an interest in search and rescue away from the piste. With donations received, it purchased cross-country skis and back packs of emergency equipment which were always available at Smiggin Holes. The Patrol also trained Kosciusko rangers, police, Snowy Mountains Authority and State Rescue personnel in first old in the snow, Alkja sled handling and survival.
As one can imagine, there are many stories that can be told relating to these formative years of the Ski Patrol.
One year a young lady by the name of Mary had wandered away from the slopes and was declared lost. Searchers, including our Herb Koshemakin, hollered themselves hoarse to no avail. When eventually found (after dark) Mary informed her rescuers that she had not answered the calls as her father had told her not to speak to strange men!
On another occasion we ran a training session behind Smiggin Holes. After a campfire and a good meal we retired to our snow caves (which some had built) and snow tents, except for one policeman. He had built an immaculate cave, but we discovered next morning that he had declined its comforts and spent the night with a ‘bird’ at the Smiggins pub.
I also recall that one day, before our Club was formed, I had skied down from Perisher and was riding back up the Smiggins T-bar. As I rode up the lift I saw no less than five broken legs! On reflection I am certain that the enthusiasm of our Club’s members has been largely responsible for the much safer skiing conditions we enjoy today.
Pat Edmondson – 1986