Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ecuyer, Jean Claude (1932–1970)

by Peter R. Kobold

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Jean Claude Ecuyer (1932-1970), ski instructor, was born on 11 January 1932 at Lausanne, Switzerland, second child of Emile Henri Ecuyer, railway supervisor, and his wife Anna, née Haller. Jean grew up in the alpine village of Chernex where he was known as 'Cui Cui' (pronounced 'Qui Qui'). Educated at the local school and at Montreux, from the age of 16 he trained as a mechanic at the École des Métiers, Lausanne, then worked for Swissair at Geneva airport.

Like many people raised in the alpine region of Switzerland, Ecuyer loved skiing. He was 'Champion Romand Junior' in 1949 and joined the Swiss National Ski Team next year. Hoping to train as a pilot, he travelled to Australia in 1954. After working for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, he returned to Switzerland to obtain a ski-instructor's licence. He arrived permanently in New South Wales on 22 March 1956 and stayed at Snow Revellers Lodge and the Cooma Ski Club, Perisher Valley, instructing, doing odd jobs and racing for the clubs.

Through his entrepreneurial spirit, love of life and much hard work, Ecuyer developed several enterprises. With Jake Zweifel and Eric Mawson, he set up camp under a tarpaulin between two rocks and used second-hand materials from the authority's old depot at Island Bend to build Perisher View Motel (opened July 1960). A group of freelance instructors, who believed that a more professional approach to skiing should be taken, chose him as the first head of the Sun Deck (later Perisher) Ski School. He later joined the Dowling family in building a second lodge, Chalet Chez Jean, named after him.

Tall and of medium build, with an olive complexion and dark brown hair, Ecuyer retained his strong French accent and was proud of his Swiss-French heritage. He was an accomplished guitarist, could yodel and sing well, and was popular socially. Fly-fishing became his much-loved summer sport. His friend, the ski-lodge proprietor Tony Sponar, described him 'as a legend, a rare mountain specimen, now almost extinct'. In July 1960 Ecuyer appeared on the cover of the Australian Women's Weekly. He was naturalized on 18 October 1961. Two days earlier he had married Jennifer Dayrell Canning McCreadie at St Swithin's Anglican Church, Pymble; they were to be divorced in 1965. He married a 25-year-old secretary Elma (Ellie) Joan Bunt on 22 March 1969 with Methodist forms at the Wayside Chapel, Potts Point. Jean built for her one of the early over-snow transporters, the 'Pink Panther', which was a familiar sight in Perisher Valley.

Having recently returned from Switzerland, on 22 January 1970 Ecuyer went to catch trout (for the visit of his parents-in-law) in the Snowy River below Guthega dam. That day water was suddenly released into the river and he died from the 'effects of immersion as a consequence of head injuries accidentally received'. Survived by his wife and the daughter of his first marriage, he was cremated with Anglican rites. Some of his ashes were placed under a tree outside Perisher View Motel and the remainder were sent to his sister Yvette in Switzerland.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Women's Weekly, 20 July 1960
  • Ski Australia, 2, no 1, Apr-May 1970, p 12
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter R. Kobold, 'Ecuyer, Jean Claude (1932–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ecuyer-jean-claude-10092/text17809, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 18 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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