In July 1957, a group of young skiing enthusiasts decided to form a ski club – Neewalla.
Accounts of the reason Neewalla was chosen as the name vary. One version is that it is Halloween spelt backwards and altered slightly, the other is that it was inspired by a 1950s cowboy movie in which Neewalla, ‘the great white mountain’ was referred to. Maybe the truth is a combination of the two stories.
The group was uncertain about where they would build. During a chance meeting with local ski enthusiast Danny Collman, he persuaded the young skiers to build at Thredbo.
Shortly after, some of Neewalla’s members met Tony Sponar who helped them peg out the footings of their new club. And the rest, as they say, is history.
At the time only one other lodge had been built. When Neewalla was completed, there was a cluster of about 10 lodges sprawled over Thredbo village.
Neewalla’s foundation stones were brought from the ruins of the Wollondibby Hotel, which was built on the Alpine Way in 1880 during a brief gold rush. They were laid out in a ‘random rubble’ style, like a Drover’s Hut, in keeping with the (then named) Kosciuszko State Park Trust’s concept for the village.
These heavy stones were rolled down the mountain from the Alpine Way, using a sled system made by the Neewalla members – very inventive indeed. This work was started at the same time as work began on Thredbo’s first chairlifts.
By the June weekend of 1958 Neewalla was habitable. It was painted grey and for many years had a bright yellow roof – easy to identify in the picture postcards of the village of the time.
Neewalla was developed as a relatively modest, private club. The founding members each contributed £30, and many weekends of back breaking work to build the original lodge. The club’s membership has remained relatively stable at between 50 and 75 people, as older members drop out and new generations start skiing. When Neewalla families get together to ski, sometimes there are three generations on the snowfields at the same time.
As the village grew, developed and expanded, so too did Neewalla. It was extended in the 1970s and went through a major redevelopment in the late 1990s.
During the redevelopment application process an Assessment of Cultural Significance found “the Neewalla vernacular design was probably the product of necessity more than aesthetics”. How true!
It identified Neewalla Ski Club as having a moderate degree of cultural significance. Among the reasons given were that it was one of the first lodges built in Thredbo, it was one of only three intact surviving lodges dating from 1958, and it is one of a group of buildings in Thredbo representative of early ski clubs.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Neewalla Ski Club journalist Margaret Rice and historian Megan Dunkin have published the book "Neewalla - 50 years at Thredbo". The book provides a detailed account of the development of the club, as well as a unique perspective on the growth of Thredbo village.
Copies of the book can be purchased for $25 by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org