SPORT

Thredbo Mourns 18 Souls, But There Is Cause For Celebration Too

The resort turns 60 this year.

30/07/2017 9:51 AM AEST | Updated 30/07/2017 10:05 AM AEST

There's a sombre tone around Thredbo this weekend. Australia's most famous ski village is in memorial mode, 20 years after the devastating July 30, 1997 road collapse which caused a landslide that destroyed several ski lodges and killed 18 beloved locals and staff.

An ecumenical remembrance service is planned for the Thredbo Chapel at 1:30pm on Sunday. There are also expected to be a number of private commemorations around the site of the road collapse at 11.40pm on Sunday -- which is now a memorial park.

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But despite this weekend's remembrances, this is also a year of celebration for Thredbo.

The resort turns 60, which is old by ski resort standards. Thredbo sure has come a long way since two blokes working for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme in the 1950s pointed at the closest thing Australia had to the big mountains they were used to in Europe, and said "we've got to build a ski resort here".

Thredbo

The two blokes in the image above are Tony Sponar and Charles Anton -- and they've both got ski lifts named after them at Thredbo nowadays. Thredbo has done plenty to celebrate its heritage this year, including releasing this video with the village's oldest resident, Frank Prihoda, who competed for Australia at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Italy.

You can argue all day about which is the best Australian ski resort. Most Melburnians would vouch for one of the hills on their side of the border, and many NSW folk would go for Perisher, which is not far from Thredbo and has the largest skiable area and most lifts in Australia.

But Thredbo has two things they will never have. Because of the huge vertical drop between the top and the bottom of Australia's only real ski "mountain", it has runs which are at least twice as long as those of any other Aussie resort. (And that goes for summer mountain biking as well as winter skiing and boarding.)

Thredbo
Mt Kosciuszko is the white hump in the top centre of the image.

The second thing? As they famously said in The Castle, it's the vibe. Thredbo has a real village atmosphere. It's one of those places that just works.

Thredbo is also the only Australian ski resort to have hosted (in 1989) a World Cup event in the traditional alpine skiing disciplines. That's something which places it alongside the top resorts in Europe and North Americas, and which no Kiwi resort has managed.

Oh, and it's also the best place to start your journey to Australia's highest mountain, as we told you 18 months ago on HuffPost Australia.

But it's still mostly about the skiing. That's why Thredbo came into existence and why it's such an iconic place to this day. This weekend is a time to reflect upon a tragedy. But Thredbo has much to be proud of too.


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