William (Bill) Salt
William Salt was a significant figure in the development of recreation in Tongariro National Park and a keen photographer. He died as a young man but his name is well known in the park in connection to the history of skiing.
As a founder member of the Tongariro National Park Board he had an immediate and lasting impact on the fledgling ski industry. Salt built the first cart track into Whakapapa and built the first buildings at both high and low levels, as well as the first hut above Ohakune.
In the lovely prose typical of the day, Ruapehu Ski Club’s annual report noted:
“There was deeply rooted in him a great love of the mountains, whither he would often betake himself and roam many a mile enjoying the wondrous beauties of their snowy peaks. “He was also a student of nature, and possessed an intimate knowledge of our native flora and fauna, besides being a geologist of no mean order.”
In April 2009, Project Tongariro presented an exhibition of Bill’s photographs at the Taupo Museum. The original photographs had been unearthed last year in the DOC offices at Whakapapa. They were lantern slides, in a red wooden box that looks purpose made and labeled William Salt, 1919, Ruapehu Ski Club. The exhibition was funded by Creative Taupo.
William Salt is present (along with the Mead brothers) at the first annual general meeting of the Ruapehu Ski Club and would go on to play a large part in the opening of Ruapehu to skiers.
The Department of Tourism and Health Resorts contracts (for £500) Bill Salt and T.W. Downes to build an access road from the highway to Whakapapa. With the help of several Ruapehu Ski Club members they construct an 8km cart track through the bush and across the tussock, and name it Bruce Road, in acknowledgement of the substantial donations made by R.C.Bruce, a Rangitikei farmer.
Salt and Downes built the first hut at Whakapapa (not far from where the Chateau now stands) – Whakapapa Hut – tramping and ski club members stayed in the hut.
Salt builds a similar cottage on the south-west slopes of Ruapehu at the head of the Ohakune track.
He was a founder member of the Tongariro National Park board and his tireless energy and enthusiasm was of material help in the development of the park as a national playground.
Salt helps build the original Glacier Hut for the Ruapehu Ski Club at 5800 ft.
Built the Springvale Suspension Bridge across the Rangitikei River on the Napier-Taihape road (previous to this, cars had to ford the river).
William Salt died July 12th as a result of a truck accident on the lower slopes of Ruapehu near Karioi on July 6th.
Salt Memorial Hut was built on upper Scoria Flat, 1550m (5080 ft) altitude. It was the only public shelter for 20 years, partly funded by funds left by Salt after his death.
First ski tow in New Zealand was installed near Salt Hut – failed after a few hours and never worked again.
Buildings at Whakapapa (including the Chateau) and Salt Hut were placed under the jurisdiction of the Health Department during WWII and were not available to skiers.
Ted Pearse built the first fixed ski tow in New Zealand – the Salt Run Tow.
Tourist Department began using ex-army trucks to transport visitors to Salt Hut (these were known as “mountain goats” and the name still sticks).
Salt Hut was closed.