The late W.F. “Bill” Waters Rover Commissioner of Victoria (1930-1965) was introduced to skiing in November 1930 at the International Scout Chalet at Kandersteg in Switzerland. He believed the activity would be an interesting activity for Victorian Rovers and would provide them with a means to see their own mountains in winter.
1931 saw the first group of Rovers undertake skiing instruction on some grassy slopes at Mooroolbark, an event that was reported in the Melbourne Argus of the 4th May 1931. A few months later on the 25th of July the first Rover ski trip took place at Mt Donna Buang. Whilst there was no snow on that occasion, Donna Buang was to be the venue for a number of early ski trips. The early days of Mt Donna Buang skiing are highlighted in the photo.
The first Rover ski trip to the Bogong High Plains was in the August of 1932 when a party of four, Roy Driver, H.E. Williams, K.I. Graham and Ian Nichol, crossed the High Plains from Omeo to Harrietville via Tawonga Huts, Cobungra Gap, Mt Loch and Mt Feathertop.
In 1933 the first Rover Winter Party departed Melbourne travelling in a furniture van through Gippsland until the group was deposited at the Fitzgerald property in Shannonvale. From Shannonvale it was pack horse, courtesy of Fitzgeralds, until the snow was too deep for the horses and skis took over. The final destination was Cope Hut in the Bogong High Plains, which the Rovers would call home for the best part of two weeks. The winter of 1933 saw the formation of the Bogong Rover Crew. The inaugural Bogong Rover Crew was captured in photograph at Cope Hut.
During the period 1933 to 1939 the Winter Parties grew in popularity so that Cope Hut and Wallaces Hut were both utilised as accommodation.
In 1938 funds were collected and life memberships offered to raise funds to build a Rover Chalet for the purposes of skiing. The most significant financial donation at the time was from a visiting Englishman, Brigadier General Mockler-Ferrman, who donated a sum of £300.
Over a five week period during February and March of 1940 the Chalet was built at a cost of £700, and utilising volunteer labour. It was the first ski lodge in the area and at this point in time the ski village of Falls Creek was not even planned.
Since its original inception the Chalet has undergone renovation and improvement, with some of the major milestones being the erection of a ski room, in 1953 the building of a new kitchen with a huge cast iron stove being pushed from Rocky Valley into the Chalet on greased poles, the installation of an electrical supply, an environmentally friendly waste system and in 2000 the replacement of the kitchen.
Over the years skiing styles and equipment have changed considerably, as have the patterns of usage for the High Plains. The Bogong Rover Chalet, which was developed to educate and teach young people about skiing and the mountains, which has played a unique role in the history of skiing in Victoria, has also changed in style and usage. It continues to offer skiing to young people but increasingly is seen as a non winter venue, offering things such as environmental education, hiking and mountain biking opportunities. Despite the changes the Chalet’s purpose remains true to its aims, the most important of which are to educate young people, and to be a “fellowship of open air and service”.