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All photographs and text below is copyright.
Reproduction is permitted for private, non commercial purposes - provided the author, Bruce Mason, the Rock & Pillar Hut Trust and individual photographers are acknowledged.
Rock & Pillar Skiing
The Rock and Pillar Range had the first ski field in Otago.
It is also the home-ground for the Otago and Otago University Ski Clubs.
From 1932 until 1953 there was heavy patronage before activities shifted to Coronet Peak.
A new ski area at Castle Rock was instigated in 1958 - this being abandoned by 1966.
A legacy of huts and history remains.
North from the summit. 1934. Photo: C R Nicolson
The first ski hut to be built on the Rock and Pillars, and the first stone ski hut in New Zealand, was a rock and mud 'pug' mortar structure built against a rock tor. This is a few metres east of the present Big Hut. Construction started in December 1936. All timber and roofing iron had to be carried uphill from the Bottom Hut on ski club members' backs. The new hut was opened in June 1938. Having shelter and overnight accommodation for 28 greatly bolstered skiing on the range - the hut was heavily used and quickly proved inadequate for a growing number of ski enthusiasts.
Top hut was a well-used refuge between 1938 and 1945, then it became a store room for the new Big Hut.
Photo: M Burke
Plans were commenced during 1944 for a new and much larger Top Hut. Originally a stone hut for 140 skiers was envisaged however this was dropped as being too ambitious. Half that capacity was settled upon. The main construction was over Christmas 1945 - January 1946. The hut was largely completed by Easter 1946.
Otago Ski Club members building Big Hut. Top Hut rear. January 1946.
Photo: Stuart Boyd Collection
The innovation of ski tows greatly advanced the sport at Rock and Pillar. With more time for skiing, rather than laboriously climbing the slopes, ski skills advanced rapidly - eventually to the demise of the range's gentle slopes as a skiing venue.
The first tow was erected in 1948 by the Otago University Ski Club in Big Gully west of the summit, only a year after Coronet Peak obtained its first tow. This was a sledge-based drive unit that enabled ease of relocation - to and from 'The Home Run' and the east face.
The final resting place of the portable tow at the bottom of the Home Run.
In 1958 it was relocated to become the tow for the new Castle Rock Ski Field.
Photo: David Paulin
Castle Rock Ski Field
In 1958 the last ski development on the Rock and Pillars commenced. A steep gully under Castle Rock, two kilometres north of Big Hut, was selected for development. This required the shifting of an abandoned hut and ski tow to the new site. A major undertaking was the construction of a car road up the leading ridge from Lug Creek.
The new field was well patronised for the first two years. Thereafter the tow was buried by drift snow and the slope avalanched. By 1966 the field was abandoned. The limited terrain and facilities of Castle Rock were no match to the attractions of Otago's rapidly developing commercial ski fields.
1959 ski season at Leaning Lodge: Photo: David Paulin
A full history of ski field development on the Rock and Pillars is displayed at Big Hut.
Rock and Pillar Hut Trust Inc., R D 1 Omakau 9376, Central Otago, New Zealand