Frank Prihoda Honoured with Frank’s Face Run
ACCOLADES have often flowed for Thredbo’s favourite resident Frank Prihoda. He was inducted as one of the Faces of Thredbo in 2014, operated a gift shop in the village for many years and is a past Winter Olympian for Australia.
Frank was bestowed another honour this season with the naming of Frank’s Face, a run next to the Karel’s T-bar which was cause for more celebration on his 99th birthday on July 8.
When asked was it exciting to have a run named after him, Frank responded, “Yes, look I was very touched and pleased when I heard about it.”
“It is more poignant in as much as Karel (Karel’s T-bar) was my brother in law, and Sasha’s Schuss, Sasha was my sister and my slope will be in between. So, it is sort of a family affair and very pleasant and exciting yes.”
Thredbo general manager Stuart Diver revealed the news when offering Frank a guided tour of the new Merritts Gondola.
“Yes, enormous gondola ride and photo taken at the bottom station with Stuart. It was an honour for me, and I appreciate all the gestures of Stuart and of course the KT company,” said Frank.
Karel Nekvapil and wife Sasha were inducted as the Faces of Thredbo for their contribution of what Thredbo is today. The Frank’s Face run along with Sasha’s Schuss and Karel’s T-bar will now form a Czech triangle.
The intermediate blue run is skiers right of the Karel’s T-bar and starts from Australia’s highest lifted point.
Frank had fled his home in Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) with his brother-in-law Karel in January 1949 when a Communist government was established in Czechoslovakia.
Tony Sponar, another Czech and friend had escaped in December 1948 in Frank’s jeep to St Anton in Austria. Later in that same winter of 1949 Sasha Nekvapil simply slipped off a train in Switzerland after a race meeting in Grindelwald; unbeknown to her fellow team members of the communist Czechoslovakian Ski Federation.
The jeep that Tony drove during his escape was cleverly utilised as the engine-power for the first ski-lift in the adjoining village to St Anton, the village of St Christoph.
They would all be integral to the history of Thredbo, and a huge link to the St Anton region in Austria whey they spent many years after their escape from Czechoslovakia.
Frank’s last day of skiing in 2011 also included the Thredbo master’s race at age 91, which he said was “the last hurrah”.
LEGEND: Frank racing in the Thredbo Masters on his last ski day, aged 91. PHOTOS: Steve Cuff.
There were many hurrahs on July 8 when Frank gathered with friends to start his 100th year where he noted, there “maybe a glass or two” of champagne. “I am looking forward to it and as I say, age is age.”
“Unfortunately for me, I can’t even get drunk these days. My body doesn’t take kindly to it. Anyhow, yes, we shall try to celebrate in quiet style and in accordance with general regulations at the time.”
Having resided in Thredbo since 1974, Frank said, “I love the place that’s why I am here. I love the people. I love the nature. I love the snow. I love the skiing sport. When I look back on my life, I see that lot of my life was connected either directly or indirectly with skiing.”
“Yes the changes in Thredbo itself are tremendous, the technology, the lifting, the roads, the building, all the surrounding and all the people and all the generations, actually in my time – I saw at least two generations of skiers go through, so it’s something to look forward to…yes.”
A ski champion himself, Frank represented Australia at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina, Italy, placing 54th in the slalom event and is now Australia’s oldest living Olympian. He has also just been awarded the new Snow Australia Medal for past representatives of Australia in snow sports.
He said he was honoured to accept his Snow Australia Medal. “I shall be proud of it,” he said.
HONOUR: Thredbo general Manager Stuart Diver with Frank Prihoda in June. PHOTO: Boen Ferguson/Thredbo Resort.
Frank Prihoda has devoted many years of service to the Thredbo Alpine Museum. On their website you can find more information on the connection between Frank, his family and Tony Sponar with St Anton in a separate story by alpine historian, Jerry Krejzar.
The Czech community have had a strong relationship with Thredbo, Tony Sponar himself was born 100 years ago this year.