Australia’s ski club culture goes back to the origins of snow sports in the country, and then some, with the Kiandra Snow Shoe Club, founded in 1861, often recognised as the first “ski club” in the world.

Join a ski club and experience coveted ski-in ski-out real estate at a fraction of the nightly cost of resort hotels. Many offer room and board with lodge managers and cooks, others are self-catering with a shared kitchen, some allow non-members, some remain exclusive and some have a ballot system for booking.

But they all provide years of family memories and friends for life.

New South Wales

Lodges at Perisher. Photo supplied.

Each week during winter, a new bunch of kids turns up at Perisher Huette, the lodge Roland Everingham manages, at Perisher in the NSW Snowy Mountains. Every week he sees them building a snow man and sliding down the hill beside the lodge on sleds. And it always makes him smile.

They are the same experiences the 64-year-old had there as a child, and the same experiences his three daughters had growing up.

Everingham’s parents fell in love with the snow when they spent their honeymoon at nearby resort Charlotte Pass in 1948. Soon after, his dad met Hungarian immigrant Charles Anton, who established the Australian Alpine Ski Club, which built several lodges, including Perisher Huette.

As a child, Everingham recalls long road trips from Sydney to Perisher, in which he and his sister would sleep on a mattress in the back of the family’s FJ Holden station wagon. He didn’t realise at the time how lucky he was to be part of a generation of children whose parents pioneered club lodges with special interest groups in the 1950s and ‘60s in a bid to make the sport of snow-skiing more affordable.

“Our lodge was built in 1963 and we’re now seeing the third and I think the fourth generations of families coming down,” Everingham says.

“The whole on-snow experience is pretty unique. People who are in clubs love the snow and they often arrange to come at the same time as other members they are friends with, so there’s a real sense of community and a sense of history.”

Growing up as a member of a ski lodge has had a fundamental impact on Everingham’s life. He and his wife lived in Breckenridge in Colorado for a couple of years and worked as volunteer guides on the mountain and on the World Cup circuit in Vail. Everingham also served as president of Perisher Huette for around a decade, before becoming manager.

“Being in the snow is just something that’s part of my heart and soul,” he says. “Every morning I see the sun rising over Mt Perisher, and it fills my heart with joy.”

Commonly, people become members of ski clubs because they know someone who’s a member and stay there as their guest. There are over eighty ski clubs in Perisher alone and depending on the club’s rules, members either buy shares or pay a joining fee, as well as an annual fee. Accommodation for members is cheaper than guests, who can stay with their approval, and generally more affordable than commercial lodges.

“They all have different rules and procedures,” Everingham says. “Our membership is currently closed because we try to make sure that you can book in the week of your choosing, whereas some lodges have more members and that’s not always possible.”

Everingham estimates around a quarter of club lodges are catered; others require you to bring your own food and cook.

“For people who like cooking or have dietary requirements, a self-catering lodge is preferable,” he says. “At dinnertime there will be three or four groups in the kitchen cooking up a storm and laughing, enjoying the experience of cooking together.”

How growing up in a ski lodge shaped my life


Mt Buller lodges and chalets. Photo: Mt Buller / Andrew Railton / Visit Victoria

Melbourne-based Richard Ross, founder of online snow equipment retailer Aussieskier, has a similar affection for ski clubs. His dad helped build Nomad Ski Club at Mt Buller with around a dozen of his mates in the summer of 1964-65. Ross was just a baby when he stayed there for the first time.

“We used to go down every school holiday and every second weekend,” he says. “The thing I remember most is the other kids and always having someone to play with and when we got a bit older someone to go outside and build a jump with. I remember one massive year when we dug all these tunnels and igloos outside the lodge. If it wasn’t for the lodge, I don’t think we would have skied anywhere near as much. It gave us some lifelong friends and led to a lifelong love of skiing.”

Ross ended up managing Spark Ski Club at Mt Buller for five seasons, and worked as a ski instructor for a decade, spending Australia’s summer working at Vail in Colorado and Deer Valley in Utah.

“The club I managed was built by a group of scouts, and the one across the road was lifesavers,” says Ross.

“There’s a Polish club and a Lithuanian one. APIRA Ski Club was started by the Australian Postal Institute, R.A.N was started by members of the Royal Australian Navy. You generally don’t have to be one of those people anymore, but that’s the heritage.”

Sadly, Nomad was sold to developers when the original 50-year lease expired, and the cost became untenable.

“A lot of other lodges are feeling the same pressure,” Ross says.

If you’re interested in joining a ski club, Ross recommends looking at websites such as the forum or the Mt Buller Ratepayers Association, or simply calling around lodges to ask.

“Quite a lot of them are actively seeking new members,” he says. “Some of them have an expensive buy-in and a low nightly fee, while others have a low buy-in and a high nightly fee. Some you’re buying an equity share, and some you’re paying an entry fee.

I think if you want to be more than a day tripper it’s the absolute number one way to be a regular skier in a cost-effective way. It’s a bit of a secret. A lot of people don’t know about these clubs. Their membership works in different ways but by and large they’re a very affordable way for families to get into skiing and ski more. Your alternative is to buy an apartment outright, and that’s unaffordable for many people.”

This article first featured in our 84 page FREE The Southern Issue emag. Download it here.
Taking a baby to your Aussie ski club lodge for the first time