— Wongungarra —
Built by 30 Skiers SINCE 1969
A very brief history of the start
The name ‘Wongungarra’ was taken from the river of the same name which rises below Mt. Saint Bernard and flows south to the Wonnangatta river. In the local Aboriginal dialect, ‘Wongungarra’ means ‘Eaglehawk’, which is our logo.
In 1969, two of our members gained a 25-year lease on a block of land on the Davenport Estate at Mt Hotham from the Dept. of Lands. They then canvassed their family and friends to form a ski club and build a lodge on the land.
At a meeting in Sept/Oct of that year, 11 hardy souls agreed to be part of the enterprise and by the time construction started on Boxing Day 1969 there were 19 financial bodies. Our members were a very multicultural group with many descendants from the British Isles, Germany, Austria, Latvia, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland and Hungary.
The cost of a share was $400, and all members were committed to spend 19 working days before winter when it was expected that the lodge would be completed.
In the initial group of members there were many who were (fortunately) involved in the building industry so we had a fair bit of experience to call on as we went along, including an architect, builder, electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, engineers and willing labourers.
By May, we ran out of money and members were required to contribute a further $50 to ensure we got the lodge to lock up stage before winter. The lodge was very cold that winter without any insulation, although we did have a gas bottle which gave us hot water and cooking facilities.
In the second summer we were all required to only do 11 work days, and we got the insulation. A hydronic heating system has since been installed to warm the entire lodge.
Most of the area below the top level was unused as it was basically just sloping land.
The development of that bottom level took place over a several years by excavating the soil and making the bottom level the same sized space as the top floor.
The original Hotham management rates payable were based on the number of beds in the lodge, and as we were all cheapskates, we built the double beds the width of the widest single beds permissible, so our “double” beds were rated as single beds. They were very squeezy.
In the 70’s and 80’s, many members were active in the Victorian Inter-Club races and won many flags in the A, B and C grades including some first places. Each team comprised 3 skiers who had 2 runs down a slalom course – this varied in location depending on the snow conditions at the time of the heats and finals. There was one year when the races were held on the Summit.
The extension at the western end of the lodge was built by one of our members and his staff around 1988/89. This added 25 beds, although we reduced the number of beds in the original bedrooms, taking our bed numbers from 36 to 44. It did however give each bedroom a lot more space.
Further renovations have been done since with 3 more bedrooms (12 beds) added on the third level, and then a new entrance, ski room, drying room and dining room on the ground floor. A total renovation of the kitchen was done in 2016.