Wooden skis and a rope tow

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He was there on wooden skis when Coronet Peak opened 62 years ago – last week he returned for his 80th birthday.

With Leicester Chilton on several runs last Thursday were (pictured from left) daughter Juliet Chilton and grandkids Skye Lancaster, 19, and Daniel, 10.

“I still can’t keep up with him,” his daughter says.

Christchurch-based Chilton recalls paying “two and sixpence” on Coronet’s original rope tow in 1947.

You got a belt with a “nutcracker” to hook on. “You had to be careful your knuckles didn’t go through the pulley.”

Then living in Invercargill, Chilton joined the Southland Ski Club and recalls nights in its Coronet Peak club hut, ironing wax on to the base of his skis round a Romesse stove.

Skiers learned stem and parallel turns after carving tracks sideways in snow, “and we used our shoulders, not our hips, to turn”, he says.

A Southland rep gymnast, Chilton left for two years overseas in 1952 – his trip highlights included celebrating with Kiwi long jumper Yvette Williams after she won gold at the Helsinki Olympics, climbing the Matterhorn and witnessing the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Nowadays he skis Canterbury’s Mt Hutt – “My skis with pointed tips are the oldest on the field.”

Last week’s visit to Coronet was his first since the mid-1980s.

“It’s changed a lot.”