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Arctic Valley Ski Bowl

1941 to 2003

Name of Ski Area: Arctic Valley Ski Bowl, Fort Richardson Ski Bowl, Arctic Valley (Military) Ski Area, The Military Side of the Arctic Valley Ski Area
 
Naming confusion as of 2008:  This web page is for the lost military ski area, the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl.  The US Army created this ski area in 1941.  At a later date the Anchorage Ski Club created a ski area immediately to the north.  This new ski area was eventually named Alpenglow and is currently in operation.  In 2003 the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl was decommissioned, the lodge and lift remains were removed.  In 2008, for marketing reasons, the Alpenglow Ski Area renamed itself to Arctic Valley.  Bottom line: The current Arctic Valley ski area is not the same as the lost Arctic Valley Ski Bowl ski area.  They are adjacent ski areas, the new one operates to the north, the old one sits vacant to the south.
Location: Anchorage, on Fort Richardson, near the end of the Arctic Valley Road, to the south of the current Arctic Valley Ski Area (formerly called the Alpenglow Ski Area)
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Ski Jump
Dates of Operation: 1941 to 2003 (The military ski lodge was razed, and the chairlift was decommissioned in the summer of 2003 and stockpiled at the Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage).
Who Built It?: U.S. Army Special Services
Base/Top/ Vertical Drop:

Base: ~2350' / Top: ~3350' / Vert: ~984' (Note: Add the vertical serviced by the lower Poma lift that ran in the 60's below the lodge and it would be closer to 2000').

Lifts: Up to 3 rope tows at one time on this military ski area. Eventually the rope tows were upgraded to a Poma platter lift and then to a double chair lift.  Also, during the 1960's and early 1970's there was a Poma lift serving terrain BELOW the lodge and parking lot (see site photos below).
Facilities: Ski Lodge, shared skiing with the Anchorage Ski Club's ski area to the north during later years

A ski jump was built here in the 1950's, it was designed by Paul Crews Sr.

History: Here is an excerpt from Elizabeth Tower's book "Skiing In Alaska" that tells the history of the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl.

"Back in 1941, Col. M. R. ("Muktuk") Marston arrived in the Anchorage area as a U.S. Air Force major with special services in charge of recreation.  His mandate was to "do something for the morale of GIs in Alaska."

Before Marston arrived, Russell Dow, a former Dartmouth College skier, had been training Army ski troops on the City Ski Bowl slopes.  Muktuk and his staff - which included Bob Thompson, a member of the elite Alaska scouts known as "Castner's Cutthroats" - searched the country for a hundred miles around Anchorage for a better ski training area and selected the Arctic Valley site in the Chugach Mountains overlooking Anchorage.

The new ski area was developed and operated jointly by the military and Anchorage Ski Club members until the late 1940s.  When civilian skiers became so numerous that there wasn't enough room in the military warm-up building, the Anchorage Ski Club moved up the valley and built its own lodge and rope tows.  Bob Thompson, who had settled in Anchorage and became a leader in the development of the ski facilities, was killed during a summer work party in 1954 [Tim Kelley/Jim Renkert: 1955 actually].  The hill above the lodge has been named in his honor."

Sources of Information:

Elizabeth Tower - "Skiing in Alaska"; Jim Renkert; Rodney Crews; Stuart Grenier; Tim Kelley; Phillip Ruminski; Peter Porco; Jeral Sexton; Duane Luedke; Mike Hayward; Barbara McIlrath; Owen Wozniak; Fred Gray; Milt West; Ed Corey; Sandy Spitzer; Dawn Lowery; Ernest Gollan; Roy Nordyke; Bill Cooper; Bill Croke; Sam Anderson; Kenneth Alden; Jim Clavin; Rasmus Erdal; Michael Robbins; Dan Lane; James Miller; Bill Wood; Margery Black; Randy Sauder; Fred and Jeralyn Beardsley; Willis Callahan; Dick Sawyer; Mel Monsen; Ernie Jeffs; Doug Sweeten; John Moore; Beverly Luedke-Chan; Bill Emerson; Tracy Alan (Al) Terry; David Banker; Jim Cucurull; Alan Bryson

Photos: Does anyone have old pictures of skiing at the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?

~  PHOTOS  ~

(Click on any photo below to enlarge it)

AMHA_ArcticValley_1941_sign.jpg (136251 bytes)

(1941-1945)  [Left] View of the original entrance to the new Fort Richardson Ski Bowl

[Photo credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art] 

(1945)  [Right] View of buildings and the rope tow at the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl

[Photo credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

 

AMHA_ArcticValley_1945_ropetow.jpg (262272 bytes)

(1950 - Feb. 26) Skiers and buildings at Arctic Valley (the 3 pictures below)

[Photo credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

AMHA_ArcticValley_1950_skiers.jpg (255250 bytes)

AMHA_ArcticValley_1950_lodge.jpg (252381 bytes)

AMHA_ArcticValley_1950_quonset.jpg (73489 bytes)

AMHA_ArcticValley_1953-1954_sign.jpg (150336 bytes)


 

(1953-1954) Sign at ski area entrance  says: "Arctic Valley Ski Bowl".

[Photo credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

(1940s) Greeters at an Anchorage Ski Club meeting / party.

[Photo credit:  Russell Dow Archives, University of Alaska Anchorage]

 

(1941) [Right] Skiers were always safe at the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl - thanks to the well trained Denali Ski Patrol.

[Photo credit:  Russell Dow Archives, University of Alaska Anchorage]

Anchorage Ski Club patch

[Photo credit:  University of Alaska Anchorage, Archives]

Anchorage Ski Club patch

Anchorage Ski Club patch

[Photo credit:  University of Alaska Anchorage, Archives]

Spring 1945
[Photo credit: Parisi Collection / UAA Archives]

Beulah Marrs Parisi, Spring 1945
[Photo credit: Parisi Collection / UAA Archives]

Spring 1945
[Photo credit: Parisi Collection / UAA Archives]

(1941) Right - The base structures at the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl.

[Photo credit:  Jack Edward McIlrach / Barbara McIlrath]

(1952) Far Right - An August view of the ski hill, lift and buildings.

[Photo credit:  UAA Archives]

Vintage (assumed WWII era) Military "Arctic Valley Ski Club" patch

1963 Arctic Valley Ski Club Winter Carnival "1st Place Sourdoughs" trophy
[Photo credit:  Bill Cooper]

Arctic Valley Ski Club patch, date unknown.

Arctic Valley Ski Bowl patch, 1971
[Photo credit: Jim Clavin]
Arctic Valley Ski Club patch, 1971
[Photo credit: Jim Clavin]

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Hans Metz Ski School Instructor patch, 1950s
[Photo credit: Margery Black]
 

1st Lieutenant Edith A. Spitzer, Army Nurse Corps (1943)
Photos courtesy of Sanferd "Sandy" Spitzer

 

William Ross Photos from 1945

Arctic Valley Ski Bowl

Post Ski Run

Waxing Up

Sign: "Warm-Up Hut Coffee ..."

 

Ken Alden Photos from 1951-52

(left, L-R) Bryan Tribou, Richard Gould, Ken Alden - all from Auburn, Maine stationed at Elmendorf AFB.

(right) Aerial View of Anchorage

  (above) Ken Alden skiing

 

Arctic Valley Skiing Photos Courteously of Veteran Skier, Ski Patroller and Anchorage Ski Club Member Harvey Turner 

[Photo credits:  Harvey Turner]

Arctic Valley rope tow in 1950

Harvey Turner running slalom in 1952

GI ski racer at Arctic Valley, 1952

[Above] Arctic Valley torchlight (road flares) parade in the 1970's.  [Below] ASC membership card.

 

 

 

1956 Photos of Skiing at Arctic Valley
Photos courtesy of Bill Croke

Skiers at the base area Ambulance Looking down the ski slope View of Site Summit area

 

1960 Photos of the Construction of the Arctic Valley Ski Lodge
Photos courtesy of Roy Nordyke
Arctic Valley Road (1) "Timber!" ... start of ski lodge (2) Log peeling (3) Moose checks out log peelers (4) Then decides not to help (5)
Nielsen, Wilson, Keopke, planning (6) Foundation and substructure (7) Wrecker used to move logs to building (9) Walls half way up.  Working 12 hour days (10) Baca, Evans and Pryor placing log on side (11)
Window view towards Anchorage (12) Window view towards Ship Creek Canyon (13) Start of kitchen (14) Evans, Baca and Fullser setting beams in the rain (15) Roof structure complete (17)
Oct. 10th, roof on, kitchen done.  Grand opening in Nov.! (20) More materials being delivered (21) "We're too busy to make a latrine!  Have signal corps do it!" (22) Ceiling of lodge Getting the windows and doors in
Centerpiece fireplace Inside of lodge "Kilroy was here" Overlooking valley, Oct. 1960 Lodge with 1st snow, day of dedication
Front entrance Entrance off limits until the dedication tonight! Grand opening night Inside entrance
Lighting the first fire Looking out at first snow of the season Grand opening, Keopke's Ski lodge grand opening
General MaCalius Plaque and lodge Ski slope winter 1960-61 Fort Richardson sign


My name is Roy Nordyke and my wife made me an album of my Army time. This brought memories of the Artic Valley ski lodge.  I looked on the internet and found your group and also found you were looking for pictures.  I was attached to Headquarters & Headquarters USARAL Headquarters command and our small group (platoon, squad, ragtag band, or whatever fits) built the ski lodge in 1960.  As near as I remember there were mainly 12 of us but  4 or 5 others helped at different times.  We were given a lot of time off during the winter for the 12 hour days we put in during the summer for General McCalius(sp).  I wish I could remember some of the guys names to give them their due, but its been so long I can't.  My wife scanned the slides that I took of the lodge going up and I put them in  order as I remember.

1. The Artic Valley road looking towards Anchorage.  As you can see the road was not paved and it was a very dusty drive, especially for the troops in back of a duce and a half.
2.  Cutting "TIMBER" for the the lodge.  As I remember the cutting area was 6 to 10 miles out on the Richardson Highway not to far off the road.
3.  We peeled the bark off the logs before we took them to the lodge.
4-5.  As we were cutting and peeling I got the feeling someone was watching and I turned slowly because I thought it was one of the company's pranksters but it was a cow moose.  I ask if she wanted to help but you can see her answer.
6.  Spec 4 Neilson, Spec 5 Wilson (second in charge) and Master Sgt. Keopke (in charge) and if you didn't think so you might be talking to General McCalius no matter your rank.  It must have been a staff meeting on what to do with all the logs.
7-8.  Foundation and sub structure.  We started digging the foundation but all we hit was solid rock.  We decided to get the base engineers out to see how deep the rock structure was.  They decided we hit a granite boulder that took up a large portion of the mountain and all we had to do was set forms, drill holes in the rock and install rebar and pour concrete.  Sometimes you wonder about engineers but the building was still standing after one mighty earthquake and 125 mph. winds. 
9.  The motor pool wreaker was used to move the logs to the walls of the lodge as needed.
10.  Half way, 12 hour days, and November coming fast.
11.  Baca, Evans, and Pryor(sp), placing logs on the wall.  The log first got a V cut out of it the long ways with chain saws.  Then the log went to the wall and using hatchets and draw knives the bottom of the log was shaped to fit over the log below it.  The V was then filled with insulation and holes were drilled in the log and steel stakes were pounded into place.  No one came close to keeping up with this crew and with hatchets and draw knives one kept your hands in your pocket.
12.  Rough opening of view looking towards Anchorage. 
13.  Rough opening of view looking towards Ship Creek canyon.
14.  Getting ready for attached kitchen.
15-16.  Evans, Baca, and Fuller setting roof beams (logs) and if you are going to work on a roof, it doesn't matter the season, you will get rained on and it will continue to rain.  This part of the operation was very dangerous with everything being wet and then add the slimy logs.  Same crew Baca and Evans, these guys could get it done.
17-18-19.  Finishing touches on the roof structure and notice only cloudy. All beams set and no rain in sight.  Roof and kitchen finished and looking good.
20-21.  October 10th and the grand opening is in November, you have to be kidding.  Keep those trucks moving we need more material.
22.  Someone told Sgt. Keopke that a latrine was an oversight and there had to be a latrine.  He told them no way, we are touch and go to get the lodge finished on time.  Give the Signal Core something to do.

The balance of the pictures are pretty self explanatory with the captions below the pictures.  I thought you would like to here about some of the things that went on when we were building the lodge and some of how it was put together.  Our crew had a great time building the lodge and it was as if we had been working together for years.  If something couldn't be done one of us would figure out a way to do it.  As you noticed the photographer does not get his picture taken.

I hope this will be of some use to you and thank you again for the site.  If you get any response from anyone that worked on the building please have them contact me at (photojock2@minetfiber.com).

I had to bust out laughing when I read the Ed Cory article about the NOTORIOUS BATHROOM and the big hole in the ground which he didn't want to know anything about.  I never stepped foot in that bathroom (latrine) and all I can say is what can you expect from the Signal Core.  As you can tell we had a thing going with the Signal Core, and it wasn't nice, but fun.

Thanks again
Roy

 

Ed Corey Pictures and a great description of skiing at the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl in 1961-1963

[Photo credits: Ed Corey]

The Bear Paws Lodge View from the top of the T-100 lift

[Ed Corey - 11 and 12 September 2007 emails]   Here's a photo of the Bear's Paw Lodge. In its time it was a pretty nice place. You can see a chimney in the middle of the lodge on the photo. There was a HUGE open fireplace inside with tables and chairs arranged all around it on all sides. Hidden behind the man in the bomber jacket was a row of double pane picture windows where you could park yourself with a cup of hot coffee or chocolate and watch everyone on the slopes while you regained your body temperature.

If you look up to the top of the T-100 pomalift you can see a little house at the top of the mountain. This was just a place to get in out of the weather and warm up a little, usually very little. The house you described at the bottom of the B-20 was for the same purpose. The B-20 poma was notorious for breaking down. When it was working, the B-20 trails were the best thing since sliced bread. When it broke down, it was quite a struggle through incredibly deep snow to get back up to the lodge area. If you didn't or couldn't climb back to the top, you had to wait and when the wind was blowing, it was very frigid. The house was there to provide a little shelter, very little.

See all those poles on the mountain? Every one of those poles had a street light on it. This place was open until 9 PM every night except Sunday when they closed at 5 PM. When it wasn't snowing you could see every little bump on the snow at night and go around it (or over it).
The B-20 trails weren't lit so we had to ski on the T-100 slopes but that was good enough. This place was great for kids like me and my friends. We got out of school, ran home and changed, dashed over to the Enlisted Men's Club and caught the next shuttle. We could get in an hour so of time on the mountain, take the shuttle back down and still have time to do homework. Had it not been for Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara, I probably would have been a professional ski bum.

If you look above and to the right of the opening to the lodge there is a line of snow fencing poles at regular intervals. This was a snow fence put in place to hold the snow. This area was called Sunny Ridge.
The B-20 pomalift let off its riders there, although lower and hidden behind the lodge. I nearly became a soprano on one of those poles during a fall. I'll never forget that.

In the center of this photo is the rope tow engine housing for the bunny hill. It looks high up on the mountain but it wasn't. There seems to be a lack of perspective here. From the lodge, you had to skate over to the rope tow, ride it up, then slide down to the T-100 pomalift. You can barely make out the T-100 towers in this photo, they are to the left of the rope tow. You can see the return tower on top of the mountain, the other towers are in line with it.

Here's a photo from the top of the T-100. You can see the street lights going up the mountain in this photo. If you look at the guy in the lower left corner, behind him you can see the snow fence running across Sunny Ridge above the B-20 return tower. That tower is to the right of the fence. The B-20 trails started right behind the parking lot at the bottom of the hill. They were sometimes a little hard to get to because of this. The guys who ran the snow plows probably didn't ski and didn't care so they would bank up huge piles of snow, dirt, rocks and whatever they plowed up over the B-20 entrances. Typical Army. Those trails skirted around the side of the mountain for about a mile and all culminated at the pomalift station. If you were lucky you could find your way by following someone else's tracks in the snow. If there was fresh snow and you were the first one on the trail, well, you sure had to know where you were going. I was wrapped around a tree one day and buried in a creek on another while exploring new trails after a night of heavy snow.

Then, there was the notorious bathroom. That was the building to the left of the quonset huts in the center of the picture. Inside, there was only a toilet seat mounted on a big steel pipe that seemed to be bottomless. I have no idea where that pipe went nor do I want to know.

I have oomlahs of these old Arctic Valley lift tickets from 1961-1963.  [see below]  They cost $.50 back in those days. Would you rather have them individually scanned? How many do you want to see?. I'm working on getting some old photographs scanned, they're a little faded after all these years.

I was a teen-ager in the sixties and I practically lived at Arctic Valley for six months out of the year. I knew the place inside out.  The pomalift to the top of the mountain and it's associated ski area down to the lodge was called the T-100. The six trails skirting around the side of the lower half of the mountain were known as the B-20.  These trails weren't marked anywhere so we were somewhat on our own finding our way to the pomalift at the bottom. This pomalift was also called the B-20. I can tell you much more, what mysteries are there?

Ed Corey

 

1963 Arctic Valley Pictures Courtesy of Dick Sawyer
[Photo credits:  Dick Sawyer]

Dick Sawyer racing slalom Top of the rope tow Looking at civilian ski area Rope tow base Arctic Valley ski racers

[31 May 2013 Dick Sawyer email excerpt]  Hunting though some old files I found these pictures from Arctic Valley Ski Area (Military Side). My dad was the AK District Engineer stationed at Ft. Richardson from 1959 - 1964. My sister Tory and I learned to ski at AV - from Hans Wagner the 10th Mtn. Div. head ski instructor then stationed at Ft. Rich to teach skiing to the troops. I learned to ski race from some really good racers who were on the ski patrol, Luthar Rickerson, Cal Sorenson and Robbie Woltring. Robbie actually competed in the US Nationals at Winter Park. 

It was a glorious place to be a kid. They loaded us on the duce-and-a-halfs at the gym and trucked us up for a day of skiing - AND night skiing - and we had the run of the area. My family was stationed to West Point, NY in 1964 after the earthquake, but I will never forget my first ski real ski area. Actually my first ski area was the Dyea Ski Slope near the Junior HS on Ft. Rich. I had to swipe money from my mom's purse to buy the fifty cent lift ticket because she did not want me to ski and get hurt. Just finished my 53rd ski season at A-Basin today.

The pictures attached are all from AV about 1963, I remember because my dad got his first 35 mm slide camera - and I've scanned these jpg from those slides.

Dick (me) skiing a slalom at AV near the poma lift - you can see the ski jump review stand and the civilian lodge up the valley.

Top of the rope tow looking down towards the road that went up to the Nike site.

Picture looking up the valley towards the civilian side - a busy weekend in the valley.

The AV "ski team," L to R, Louis Ley, Cy Sineth, Dick and Tory Sawyer, Jeff and Tadd Wiley and David Lauterdale - all great skiers and racers.

 

1962-1965 Arctic Valley Memories and Pictures Courtesy of Alan Bryson
[Photo credits:  Alan Bryson]

Dick Sawyer, 1964 Ralph Palmer, issue hut, 1964 Alan Bryson and Ralph Palmer on the T 100, 1964 Arctic Spree Giant Slalom 1/23/1965, Anchorage Times Dick Sawyer, unknown, Ralph Palmer, Fort Richardson, 1964

[29 October 2016 Alan Bryson email]   My family arrived in Fort Richardson in the summer of 1962 and left in the summer of 1965. We lived between Beluga Avenue and Dyea Avenue – almost directly across the street from the Dyea Ski Slope. The son of our military sponsor, Butch Dixon, was my age (11) and already an avid skier. Once the snow arrived Butch lent me a pair of ancient looking wooden skis – the tip of the left ski was held in place by a plate from an erector set.

At the base of the Dyea Ski Slope he showed me how to side step up the hill, turn around on skis, and snowplow. Then we got in line for the rope tow. I got off, put my poles on and started down the hill without even attempting to snowplow. Amazingly, with my arms flailing like an inflatable tube man I made it to the bottom without crashing. The exhilaration of speeding down the hill and the sense of utter freedom was overwhelming – in a matter of seconds I was completely hooked on skiing. For Christmas I got my own skis and the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl became my primary winter residence.

Thanks to the long ski season, flood lights, free transportation, and cheap lift tickets*, kids in my situation probably managed to cram more experience into one season than an average skier does in two or more seasons somewhere else. By the end of the 2nd season most of us were pretty good, and by the end of the 3rd season our skis were no longer equipment, they were appendages.

*(As far as I remember the season pass started during the 64/65 season, and cost $15 for kids. However, that's going way back, so I'm not completely certain.)
It was such a nice surprise to see Dick Sawyer's HQ photos and read his note. He was two years ahead of me in school, and he was starting his 4th ski season as I was beginning my first. He was an excellent skier, and someone whom we younger kids all looked up to. He mentioned Robbie Woltring in his note – Robbie had rock star status in our eyes. I can still recall “listening in” to him at the lodge as he regaled a group about how he boldly went to the General to get the Army to sponsor him for US Nationals at Winter Park, and talking about how they sprayed the slalom course at the Nationals with a water hose to make it icy. He was an exceptional talent, as well as a charismatic and unforgettable character. There was another exceptional skier on the ski patrol who could do a flip on skis, if memory serves, that was Cal Sorenson.

Another super nice guy on the ski patrol was “Swanee” Swanson. My parents never skied and didn't have an inkling that I had any talent as a skier, so the idea of me racing at Mt. Alyeska never occurred to them (or me). Swanee thought I should, so he came by my house one evening and spoke to my parents. He offered to take me with him and his wife to Mt. Alyeska so I could race. I was a bratty immature 13 year old, and looking back it is amazing to me that he went to such lengths for me – he even let me sleep in a cot in their motel room. I hope he gets some major karma points for that.

Several people mentioned the deuce-and-a-half trucks that transported us up to the Ski Bowl. I have two especially vivid memories relating to them. One was toward the end of 1963 or perhaps the beginning of 1964. Someone sitting in the back of the truck had a transistor radio and I heard the Beatles for the first time as we waited in front of the field house to leave. They were singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and I remember someone saying they were English. We didn't believe it because they didn't have English accents when singing.

I can pinpoint the exact time of my other memory, and again it was sitting in a deuce-and-a-half in front of the field house on Fort Richardson. It was 5:36pm on March 27, 1964 – Good Friday. The truck started shaking violently, and I thought a group of people were outside jostling it as a prank. I got to the opening to look out, lost my balance and fell to the ground. Landing on my back, I looked up at the field house swaying back and forth above me. Long story short, after 4 and a half minutes of struggling just to remain standing during the great earthquake, most of us got back in the truck and went up to the Ski Bowl!

Once we arrived it was clear something big had happened. Naturally there was no skiing, and someone made the command decision that the truck was grounded because there could be crevasses in the roads. The plan was for all of us to remain safely in the lodge overnight. Employing the same cloudy thinking that got us up there after the earthquake, a group of us young knuckleheads decided to sneak off and ski down the road since there was snow. So in the dark we took off and managed to do some skiing after all.

Once we got to the golf club we took off our skis and began the very long walk home. Being teens we were afraid of getting a DR (delinquency report) by going through the main gate so late at night, so we “snuck” sneaked on post through the woods. I think I got home sometime before midnight.

BTW, I was really surprised to see myself in one of the photos posted by Sam Anderson. That's me in the light colored pants on the steps of the Bear Paw Lodge.

I don't remember taking the photos I submitted, but I have the original negatives, so I assume they were indeed mine.

The clipping about the Arctic Valley Ski Spree is from the Anchorage Daily Times from January 26, 1965. This was a big ski party with an unsanctioned race on Saturday Jan, 23rd organized by Hans Metz and the operators of the civilian side of Arctic Valley. Hans came over to the military side and recruited us to take part, and we were particularly excited about it because that day they accepted our military tickets on the civilian side. Skiing the T-Bar slopes was like an exotic ski vacation for us kids.

I had just recently turned 14, and I was in the 14 to 18 group, so I didn't expect to win. To be completely honest, there was a sanctioned giant slalom the following day at Mt. Alyeska. So there's no doubt a lot of ski racers from Anchorage were there that weekend. The Alyeska race got a small column at the bottom of the same newspaper page without a photo – seems like ski politics were at play, and the Arctic Valley operators got the upper hand for a change.

Nearly 20 years after leaving Alaska, I moved to Europe and finally went skiing again – in the Northern Italian Alps. It turns out skiing is indeed like riding a bike, even after 20 years I was about 70% the skier I was as a kid in Alaska. Now I can get to Kitzbuhel, Austria almost as quickly as I got from Fort Richardson to the Ski Bowl. But for me that time in Alaska was as good as it gets.

Thank you so much for the very interesting historical information and for preserving the memories of people who were lucky enough to have experienced the Ski Bowl.

[29 October 2016 Disk Sawyer Facebook post regarding the 1964 earthquake]   I was bending over tying my long thong up at the bottom of the rope tow just above the Bear Paws Lodge at Arctic Valley when the earthquake hit. I distinctly remember my first thought, that I was getting sick and dizzy, but then the sound hit. I was skiing with my sister Tory Sawyer and with one of Arctic Valley Ski Rats Cy Sineath who was down in the lodge. When I hit the ground I was paralyzed as the ground swelled up and down. I remember looking up the valley towards the civilian side of Arctic Valley Ski Area seeing the "waves" roll down towards all of us lying on the ground, The wave would hit, lift us into the air then drop us into the trough - very nasty and unnerving. I also remember the rumble from deep in the earth like boulders grinding together - the lift towers and light poles were swaying drastically, the cable fell off the poem lift and very vaguely I remember some folks screaming with all that movement. It lasted about five minutes and then stopped leaving us all stunned. Getting up off the snow someone said Anchorage must have been hit by a nuclear bomb, but we looked down the valley towards town which you could just nearly make out and all was well - AND there were no missiles on their launchers at the Nike base above Arcitic Valley - and no jets taking off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson JBER (official) - so that was out and then someone said it must be an Earthquake - a big one. Communications were out with Ft. Rich and Anchorage (land lines and they were all down - I think they had radio communication but it was out as well). So, we sorted it out and they loaded us on the shuttle busses to send us back down to the Field House. It was my most memorable ski moment - something I will never forget..

 

1964 Arctic Valley Pictures Courtesy of Sam Anderson
[Photo credits:  Sam Anderson]

Bear Paw Lodge Base of military ski area Civilian ski area to the north Shirley Anderson Sam Anderson

 

Arctic Valley Pictures Courtesy of Milt West, who was stationed at Nike Site Summit during 1965-1965

[Photo credits:  Milt West]

 

Arctic Valley Pictures Courtesy of Randy Sauder - 1966-1967

[Photo credits:  Randy Sauder]

Arctic Valley civilian and military ski areas, winter of 1966-1967
Movie stills from Arctic Valley civilian ski area, winter of 1966-1967
The above two 1999 photos are courtesy of Fred and Jeralyn Beardsley, via Randy Sauder.
Photo provided by Anchorage GI Willis Callahan showing Arctic Valley on the military side.    On the far left side of the photo you can barely see the civilian side T-bar on the crest of the mountain.  The military side of the ski area could easily be seen at night from Anchorage when the night lights were turned on.  The civilian side did not have lights.  (circa 1966)  Photo provided by Anchorage GI Willis Callahan of the Arctic Valley Bear Paws lodge.  As a military medic on site Callahan dealt with broken limbs and medical problems experienced by skiers. (circa 1966)

Photo provided by Anchorage GI Willis Callahan at Arctic Valley from the military side looking towards the Niki site on the opposite side of the valley from the ski area.  Beyond the telephone/electric poles is the road that came up from the Old Glenn Highway out of Anchorage.   On busy days when the small parking area's filled up we often parked our cars along this road and walked up to the ski area. The bottom of the civilian side T-bar can be seen in the far distance at the base of the mountain.  (circa 1966)

 

 

Arctic Valley Pictures And Memories Courtesy of Jim Cucurull - Mid 60's - 1983

[Photo credits:  Jim Cucurull]

It was such a pleasure to find the lost ski areas site. My name is Jim Cucurull and I practically lived at Arctic Valley from the time my family arrived in Anchorage in 1964 through high school and college years in the early ‘80s. I was a member of the Arctic Valley Ski Club and proudly skied and raced for it – especially in mortal combat with the kids from the Elmendorf ski area (Hillberg) and those dreaded “ringers” from Alyeska.

My father Philip (Phil) Cucurull, who passed in 2000, was a very close friend of Fred Murdough’s and he was a club official and USSA race official, etc. Fred and his mixed military / civilian crews kept a watchful eye on me, my brothers, and Fred’s son Mark.  I skied at AV every night after school, taking the deuce-and-a-half “bus” from Buckner Fieldhouse on Ft. Rich. The hot set-up was to make sure you were on the “chow truck” taking the hot dinner to the troops at the Nike missile site and Arctic Valley – found in insulated metal carriers that were not locked.

My mother Erna was a student of the Hans Metz “smooth school style” – whom my father would lovingly tease (after paying for private lessons) with taunts like “bend zee knees – five dollars please!”  Mostly I think she just loved being able to talk in her native German for the day. I started on rental equipment from the hill (Oh yeah! Head Standards with Cubco bindings!) until I graduated to “real” gear from Bob Seaman’s and Gary King’s as I grew.

I have more memories than I can recount. Among the great thrills were the Spring ski-jour trips Fred would do up to the top of the Valley with the Thiokol Snowcats – a full load of folks on the bed, others towed on ropes behind – which is where I first saw the Nike booster stages imbedded in the ground. Not so great was almost burning the Bear Paw lodge to the ground by sticking my foil wrapped frozen sandwich into this new-fangled thing called a “microwave” oven.

The Cucurull and Murdough families had Thanksgiving dinner together every year. One year we kids were jumping off the roof of the lodge into some massive snow drifts and we managed to loose Fred’s Suburban keys (not sure why we had those!). Of course we were the last folks on the hill – and had to call Fred’s wife Gise and my Mom to come get us – some six hours later.

We used to slide down to the long-closed B-20 warming hut for “kicks”, and then crawl back up in chest deep snow. As a teen I’ll never forget the haunting sounds of The Allman Brother’s “Whipping Post” playing in the dark and freezing January nights over the area’s outdoor army-issue PA system – echoing up the empty Valley after most folks had cleared out. Eventually I got my first job working as a lift rat for the Luedkes on the “Civilian Side”.

A few years ago I went up from the old lodge site to the remains of the snow fence line on Sunny Ridge – dang, did that bring back some emotions! More emotional was the sight of the numerous and sizable piles of bear scat!

My brother Dave (who passed in 2015) and I – proud AVSC members – mid 60s. My dad Phil and I basking in the alpenglow – mid 60s. My mom Erna at the lodge overlooking the B-20 – mid 60s. My mom Erna, lookin’ good and ready to race – mid 60s.
My mom Erna “racing” – mid 60s. My dad Phil on the T-100, initial development of civilian side started– mid 60s. My dad Phil, just below the old spotting stand for the Nordic Jump – mid 60s Me going “Gonzo” just above the Intermediate tow rope – spring 1967.
Arctic Valley Ski Club race medals (no “participation” trophies back then!) – late 60s. My brother Dave racing, with civilian side chair in place – early 70s. Late Spring ski-jour trip to the top of the valley (North toward Eagle River). The hotel-style plastic fob on my glove is season pass, color coded for active military, dependent, etc. – early 70s Fred Murdough on a late spring ski-jour trip looking west. – early 70s.
Dave “bombing” down the T-100 in “no man’s land” – 1972-73. Me racing slalom. Look closely and you can see I have already lost a ski – 1973. Dave doing a pre-“freestyle” movement flip next to the rental/aid building – 1972-73. Arctic Valley Season Pass circa 1983.
 

 

Jim Clavin's Arctic Valley Ski Bowl Pictures - 1971
Arctic Valley Ski Bowl - 1971
Fort Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska

The Ski Bowl was manned by military personnel from various units on Ft Richardson. All were enlisted except for a Lt who was in co-charge with the civilian manager Fred Murdoh. The crew worked Tuesday thru Sunday with Monday off. They were divided, based on experience, between ski patrol, lift operators, or inside crew issuing tickets, boots, and skis. There were also several drivers that ran the arctic deuce-and-a-halves up and down the hill to Ft Rich to bus people back and forth.  (For more more information from Jim about the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl in 1971, read his email in the research correspondence section below).
Bear Paw Lodge Central fireplace in lodge Early morning before opening Icicles on lodge Ski Bowl Crew - 1971  Fred Murdoh (sp?) in green shirt Boot room in issue hut
Ski room in issue hut Issue hut Issue hut Issue hut Issue hut Snow drift outside repair hut
  Night lights View from top of T100 View from top of T100 Northern lights over Ski Bowl Looking down from Ski Bowl into valley where old slope was
Looking down from Ski Bowl into valley where old slope was View from intermediate lift shack
From left to right - First aid hut, issue hut, repair shack
View of civilian side and military side View of civilian side and military side - note old ski jump (arrow) Marmot eating spaghetti at issue hut Marmot eating spaghetti at issue hut

 

Locating the Site of a Tragic 1955 Ski Area Accident

In 1955 Bob Thompson was tragically killed when a truck carrying John Goetz and him rolled down the mountain on which the Arctic Valley Ski area is located.  Bob was a member of the Castner's Cutthroats Army Scouts and one of the founders of the Arctic Valley Ski Area.  At the time Bob was driving a 6-wheel "deuce and a half" (2 1/2 ton) military truck loaded with fuel for the lift power plant at the top of the ridge.  The truck apparently started sliding and then began rolling down the mountain.  Goetz was hurt badly, but lived through the accident.  In May 2005, 50 years after this accident, Jim Renkert, Stuart Grenier and Tim Kelley located the truck and Tim photographed the remains.

Chair 1 at Arctic Valley, built in 1971 by the Anchorage Ski Club, is named the Thompson Lift after Bob Thompson. The chairlift has not been operable for several years but the Anchorage Ski Club is working hard to hire contractors and start a fundraising campaign to renovate its use. There is also the 'Thompson Trophy' that the ski club gives to its most dedicated volunteer every year.

[Photo credits:  Tim Kelley]

[Left] Note - the chains are still on the tires.

[Right] Jim Renkert stands next to a large discarded fuel tank.  Another tank even larger than this is in the trees a several hundred feet below.

[Next row] Fuel drums that were likely on Thompson's truck can be found down the fall line from the truck wreckage.  The ski poles in the pictures below point up the fall line to the truck site.  Photos below taken by Tim Kelley in October 2008.

 

 

 

Grace and Bob Thompson, circa 1955

[Photo credit:  Grace Thompson]

 

 

Old Arctic Valley Rope Tow Power Plant in the Alpenglow Parking Lot

[Photo credits: Tim Kelley 2008]

 

Can anyone remember what this building still standing near the base of the Arctic Valley ski area site was used for?  Thanks.

[Photo credits: Tim Kelley 2008]

12/7/2015 email excerpt from Tracy Alan Terry: "The building on the web site that needs identified was an old pump-house supplying water to the missile site. You can still see where it piped up the mountain, as there is kind of a ridge left there."

 

Closing the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl - for Missile Firing Practice

In 1960, according to an August 1960 Anchorage Times article entitled "Closing of Ski Bowl", it was mentioned that the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl would be closed that coming March for the test firing of missiles.  Nike Hercules missiles were launched close to straight up from the missile batteries of Site Summit on a neighboring hilltop.  After 4 seconds the main missile would separate from the first stage booster and continue on towards Mt. Witherspoon in the Chugach Mountain Range.  The spent first stage booster would then coast to 45,000 feet of altitude before plummeting to the ground near the ski area.  Judging by the pictures below, and the size of the booster segments - it was a wise decision to keep skiers out of the area !!

[Photo credits:  Tim Kelley, except where otherwise credited]

[Above] Early 1960's launch from Site Summit B-Battery.  This photo was taken by the U.S. Army, courtesy of Mike Hayward, and can also be seen on Jeral Sexton's great Site Summit web site - click here to visit his site.  Sign his guestbook and help fight to preserve the last Nike missile site in Alaska.
Old Nike missile first stage booster segments grace the entrance to the Alpenglow Lodge. Anchorage Ski Club member Duane Luedke found these Nike Hercules booster segments in the area in the late 1970's. You can see the Site Summit missile battery on the hilltop in the distance. Another perfectly intact booster segment is mounted just north of the parking lot.
Remains of Nike Hercules first stage boosters can be found in the area around the old Arctic Valley Ski Area.  This cluster remained together as hit slammed into the hillside.  The fins on this booster were obliterated.
    November is a good time to find missile fragments in the area ... like these.

 

Sleuthing the little known Arctic Valley Ski Jump - November 2005
(Click any photo to enlarge it)

[Photo Credits: Tim Kelley]

Though it's very overgrown by alders, you can still make out the old Arctic Valley ski jump site.  This jump was made by shaping the inrun and outrun with a bulldozer, likely in the 1950's.

This flat section is the lip of the jump, from which the jumpers would take flight.

This a view down a section of the in-run. You can just barely make out the takeoff lip from this photo taken in the dense alders that cover the starting platform at the top of the jump. A view from the above shows the layout of the old Arctic Valley ski jump.

Winter Carnival Ski Jumping Photos - 11 April 1943
 

 

The Search for the (Almost) Forgotten Arctic Valley Ski Area Poma Lift

In May 2005 Stuart Grenier led Jim Renkert and Tim Kelley on a search for remnants of the almost forgotten Poma lift that once served slopes BELOW the ski lodge and parking lot site.  What was found is documented below.  This was a sizeable Poma lift, the vertical it serviced was almost 1000 feet.  Stuart quoted Norm Pitchler as saying the slopes the Poma lift served back in the 1960's were very windswept and eventually the lift was abandoned due to the prevailing southeast Ship Creek Valley winds.

[Photo credits:  Tim Kelley]

The base tower was the only tower we found. Here is the mounting plate on the base of the tower. The bottom tower pedestal of the lift was found. Various treasures, that were rolled down the mountain in the old days, were also found.

Remains of warm-up hut at base of lift.

Heating oil take for warm-up hut.
More treasure finds. Near the location of the former military ski lodge the Poma lift cable can be found lying on the ground. The cable points the direction of the Poma lift.  If seems that the lift did not quite follow the fall line.  

Above tree-line a couple of the old Poma lift tower pedestals can be found.  The one in the far right picture was apparently the top tower's base.

Good luck finding these lift remnants when the leaves and grass come out.  As you can see, we made the search just after the snow mostly cleared from the area.

 

 

Late Summer and Fall 2005 Shots of the Arctic Valley Ski Area Site

[Photo credits:  Tim Kelley]

There are still a few signs of the old military ski hill operations.  The hill was once bulldozed - so this area of disturbed tundra allows alders to flourish. This is a shot of snow fence remains on the south side of the ski area.  The clearing where the lodge once existed can be seen below. There are remains of an old lift tower base on the ridge top.  
  The views from the top of the old Arctic Valley ski area looking east haven't changed.  They remain timeless.

November 2005 shots from the Arctic Valley Ski Area: tower base on the left, highbush cranberries on the right (VERY tasty after the first freeze!).

November 2005 panoramic shot from the top of the Arctic Valley Ski Area site.
(click on this image to expand it)


 

The Decommissioned Arctic Valley Lifts at Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage

[Photo credits:  Tim Kelley, 2008]

~  Maps  ~

This 1985 topo map shows the location of the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl relative to Fort Richardson and Anchorage.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_arcticvalley.jpg (268388 bytes)

This 1960 topo map shows the military side of the now merged Alpenglow ski area.  Noted on this map is the location of the old Poma lift that served slopes below the lodge.

(click on this map to expand it)

 

Research Correspondence 

[Excerpt from Elizabeth Tower's "Skiing in Alaska"] 

Back in 1941, Col. M. R. ("Muktuk") Marston arrived in the Anchorage area as a U.S. Air Force major with special services in charge of recreation.  His mandate was to "do something for the morale of GIs in Alaska."

Before Marston arrived, Russell Dow, a former Dartmouth College skier, had been training Army ski troops on the City Ski Bowl slopes.  Muktuk and his staff - which included Bob Thompson, a member of the elite Alaska scouts known as "Castner's Cutthroats" - searched the country for a hundred miles around Anchorage for a better ski training area and selected the Arctic Valley site in the Chugach Mountains overlooking Anchorage.

The new ski area was developed and operated jointly by the military and Anchorage Ski Club members until the late 1940s.  When civilian skiers became so numerous that there wasn't enough room in the military warm-up building, the Anchorage Ski Club moved up the valley and built its own lodge and rope tows.  Bob Thompson, who had settled in Anchorage and became a leader in the development of the ski facilities, was killed during a summer work party in 1954.  The hill above the lodge has been named in his honor.

[Rodney Crews - excerpt from 14 November 2004 email] 

Army Arctic Valley lodge, poma and chair torn down in summer '02 or '03 (they could never get a contractor for a 3-yr. lease that allowed only military and civil service).

[Phillip Ruminski - 19 May 2005 email] 

Great to see your site! I was a 6th grader growing up on Ft. Rich and learned to ski at Artic Valley from 1969 to 1971. If I recall, the old slope below the lodge was called the B-29. I remember looking over the edge from the top of that slope and thinking "boy is that steep"! I also recall "the trail" which was a nice diversion from the treeless slopes.

[Jim Renkert - 01 November 2005 email excerpt] 

There's an old jump site at Arctic Valley just to the right of the base of the Thompson lift. The inrun, outrun and runout are all real visible although overgrown. Paul Crews Sr. designed it. I have no idea if it was ever used much. Probably built in the late 50s, early 60s. I don't remember them nordic jumping when I was a kid up there in the mid 60s.

[Peter Porco - 04 November 2005 email to him from Duane Luedke, excerpt] 

DUANE LUDKE, Anchorage ski club, read article with interest. I've been playing w/ some of those Nike site relics for many years. Jim Lavrakas photo in Saturday's paper [10.29.05], B section, Page 2, photo of Alpenglow and 2 of the Nike boosters in the lower center section of the paper. I discovered these on the back side of Arctic Valley in 1977 or '78 ... usually crushed ... when fell back to earth ... They delineate road that leads up to entrance to the lodge ... fine front door to the lodge!

[Owen Wozniak - 22 June 2006 email] 
 

Hello, it was a real pleasure to discover your website on lost ski areas! I grew up in Anchorage in the 80s and skied and snowboarded for many years at the military’s Arctic Valley ski area. I moved away from Anchorage in 1993 and was sad to learn more recently that the military has closed the area. I had been under the impression they were going to give/sell it to the Anchorage Ski Club to make it part of Alpenglow. I see from your website that instead they’ve torn everything down.

I taught myself to snowboard at Arctic Valley, in 1987. I was probably one of the first half dozen or so people to take a snowboard up there; back then we had to get special permission from the manager to use our snowboards. The management was actually more open to snowboarders than were the people at Alyeska, Hilltop, or Alpenglow. I remember talking with the manager and asking him to build a halfpipe. The following winter (1988? 1989?) the guys who groomed the hill did a little work to build a halfpipe to the left of the chairlift (looking uphill). It wasn’t a very good halfpipe, but we were grateful for their efforts. I spent several afternoons out there in the early winter with a shovel, trying to improve on the groomers’ work!

I’m fascinated to learn from your site that the location of our halfpipe was actually the old inrun and outrun of the Artic Valley ski jump. I always used to wonder why the ground had such a peculiar shape in that spot – it seemed like it had been partially hollowed out. That peculiar shape is what prompted me (and others, I assume) to ask the manager to build a halfpipe there. I never had any inkling that it had once been a ski jump.

So…in case you didn’t already know, I can tell you that old ski jump had a brief afterlife as Anchorage’s first (I believe) attempt at a snowboard halfpipe, thanks to the good people who ran the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl.

Thanks again for all your research.
Regards,
Owen Wozniak

[Fred Gray - 19 February 2007 email] 
 

Hello, my happiest days of youth were 71-74,i was a 7th-9th grader at fort rich.the military supplied duece and a quarters (troop transport trucks) to artic valley,i can still here the sound of the chains.we could buy season lift tickets for 15 dollars.living at the front gate where arctic valley rd. started i often would hitch hike,people liked the added weight.they even let us out of school on wednesdays for half days of skiing.we had the bunny slope which ran parallel to the parking lot and ski rental building.the intermediate tow was next to the lodge,(the awful sight of someone being dragged up by their long hair stuck to the rope)there was another tow rope that ran pretty close to the poma lift,(cant remember what we called the slope between the poma and the cilvillian chair lift) My friends and i were early dare devils,anytime you made a jump the ski patrol destroyed it.the ski jump in your pictures are most memorable to me,they always had bamboo poles blocking the jump, but close to closing time we would remove the poles hit the jump ski to the right side of the bowl (big,deep,round hole)then over the top of the bunny slope.
 
It was about a ten foot rise at the top of the bunny slope.This made a nice smooth jump and landing.  The 73/74 ski season we spent most of  our aerial jump adventures on the FIVE MILE TRAIL which was pretty cool.Artic valley was one cool place and i want to personally thank you for your time and effort on your web site,i just wish you could understand what artic valley meant to me.In the next two or three years i will take my family up the alcan highway and to the arctic valley site. thanks again.

[Dawn Lowery - 20 December 2007 email] 
 

I have been very excited to see all of the pictures.  I learned how to ski there in 1975. A season's pass was always under the tree at Christmas.  We took the deuce and 1/2 up listening to the chains, we hitchhiked from the bottom, we skied down five mile trail and picked up rides.  I spent my senior year of high school up there every day it was open.  I ended up as a pro-patrol for Fred Murdo in 1981 for a few years.  Fred's ski report always started with "skiing is good" even if it was marginal.  The space  between the chairs was referred to as "No man's land" at that time.
 
We used to sit at the top of the "new" double chair and watch the sunset and the mirage of the mountains off the water, we got to watch the Fur Rondy fireworks from up there as well. The views were always awesome.  Funny to see the old buildings were the buildings we were in in the 80's.  Sorry to hear it's gone but it looks like a lot of memories were created with that space.  It was a good time.
Dawn Lowery 
 
"The snow will fall, the sun will shine, the lifts will run, and isn't that enough?" -Warren Miller

"Dream big and dare to fail." - Dr. Norman Vaughan

[Ernest Gollan - 26 January 2008 email] 
 

Tim,  I really got a kick out of your site with Arctic Valley Ski Area!  I was there in 1974 and 1975 for the Skiing and found my passion of Hot-Dogging on the slopes with my two Younger Cousins, Tom and Scott.  I used to take them with me every night that we could go skiing and would hit the "Valley" or else ski "Hillburg Ski area" that was in behind the Elmendorf A.F. Base.  I had my first ever REAL wipe-out going off the ski jump at Arctic Valley, but being only 18 I was able to bounce back and go at it the next day..admittedly with a bit more respect for Gravity though!  I used to drive as many as would fit into my older Mercury Marauder and we would hit the slopes for the best skiing around.  I have found that Alyeska and Arctic Valley to be the most fun areas I had ever...well ever HAVE ever skied at.  The free days that were sponsored by the local Ski Shop...[Gary] KING'S I believe...were the best times at the start of the season...everybody rode up the second chair lift at Alyeska and would start in earnest to "Boot Pack" the snow.  Oh we had good intentions of packing it down with our boots until finally somebody would just say "Forget this, let's ski!" and everybody doing the packing would snap in and go through the best and deepest powder around!  Nothing but great times are remembered from there!  Also. the fact that a Military Lift Pass was only $10.00 really helped out!
 
Ernest Gollan, Now from Burlington, NC

[Bill Croke - 06 October 2008 email] 
 

I was stationed at Fort Richardson in 1955-56 assigned to the 53rd Inf. Regiment, 71st Division. During the winter of 55-56, I worked at Arctic Valley issuing ski equipment to service personnel and their families. During breaks I skied as much as I could. Recently I was going through some old slides from that period and discovered these pictures among others.
Out of curiosity, I did a Google search of Arctic Valley and found the site Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project. I thought these pics might be of interest.
Bill Croke

[Gordon Thompson - 30 January 2009 email excerpt] 

The barrels, we were told, were the cause of the accident.  He and John Goetz were hauling fuel to the tow rope shack up top.  John was driving and a rear wheel went into a bit of a hole.  Goetz said Bob was out the passenger door in a flash and was hanging on to the uphill side of the truck, hanging on to the picket fence side thing trying to keep the truck from rolling….Goetz thinks the chain holding the barrels in place broke allowing them to shift and catapult Bob way down the hill.  When it rolled Goetz thinks he flew out the passenger door, that’s where the big scar on his forehead came from.  Goetz ran down the mountain to the lodge where he could make a call.  Air Force helicopter picked them both up, but Bob was DOA at the Elmendorf hospital….broken back among other traumas.  Small town in those days, his death was the headline.  I was 11, my brother was just 4.

[Jim Clavin - 08 August 2009 email] 

I was stationed at Ft Richardson in 1971 and was ‘volunteered’ for duty at the ski bowl. Great experience with a great bunch of guys.

The link below is to a temporary page I created on my website which has a lot of photos with descriptions. Pick and use as you wish for your site. Somewhere there was a question related to an old ski jump. You can see it in 2 of the photos, one of which I’ve added an arrow and note. 2 other photos look down into the valley at an old lift shack from when there used to be a lower slope which had been eliminated by 1971. There was a cross country trail that started just below the parking area and ended several miles down. The trucks used to pick up skiers at the bottom on their way up with guests. The little spaghetti eating Marmot became our mascot there and we always were feeding him everything we ate. He was not very fussy, just one of the guys and very tame.

The Rope tow power plant laying in the Alpenglow parking lot looks very much like it came from one of the tow shacks on the hill. I helped with welding the frame on the one on the intermediate slope when I was there.

The building below that set of pics may be the tow shack for the old obsolete lift that was already closed when I was there. We did hike down to explore it once.

http://www.flicklives.com/arctic_valley/

Jim Clavin

SP4 / Co E 4th Bn 23rd Inf 172nd Brigade
Fort Richardson - 1971

[Rasmus Erdal  - 29 December 2009 email excerpt] 

I just came upon your website and enjoyed it immensely.

I skied many times at the Arctic Valley Ski area outside of Anchorage during the winter of 1955 & 1956 While serving with the 71st Division, 53rd Inf, 1st Bn. as a Communications Officer. It was a most memorable experience.

I am long retired and living in Colorado...and I still ski at age 78. I loved Alaska.

I am attaching a photo of the two patches that I have sewn to my hiking hat. One is a patch that I did not see on the website that you may wish to include:

This next one, of course, is a 71st Div. patch

Even though I skied there in 55-56, I can't be certain if that patch existed then. My nephew skied there in the 70's when he was stationed up there, and I think he sent me the patch. If the ski patch will add to your documentation, please feel free to include it.

Rasmus Erdal
 

[Michael Robbins  - 02 March 2010 email] 

Starting my days on the mountain, I can remember day passes issued by the MWR office on Elm AFB.
 
Arriving on the slopes, we ganged up on the ski rental area to get our boots fitted, our Olin Mark VI's selected with the Solomon 222 bindings adjusted by the mainly volunteer staff it the "Lodge" and then began to sort of thrash the slopes.
 
As a 16 year old with no fear or sense.. we would bomb the slope as fast as we could.. sometimes I would even hit the old lodge in my stop skid..  much to the anger of the patrol.. and fun for the kids inside
 
Then somehow were shown what was called Five Mile trail.. I'm not sure by whom or even why.. but this was the best thing ever to our 'crew'
 
Starting at the very top end of the then two seat lift.. we would crash down the slope.. headed to the "from the uphill view" left side of the "lodge" Go through the parking lot and down a fairly steep slope to a small bridge towards the right ..going across the creek at the bottom which was a quick left hand turn. From there it was a very narrow path for about a mile.. then it opened up a bit.  The run was fun and was better than dealing with bunnies everywhere.  The only thing you really had to be careful of was the quick switchback at the power line road.. if you missed you were in the trees..  I know.. I was there a few times.
 
At the end of the run was a place where the Duce would pick you up on it's way from Ft. Richardson's stops and take you back up the hill.
 
At the age that I was then.. I never even thought to thank the crew that ran the facilities at Arctic Valley.. It was a great place for dependants to learn how to Ski for very little cost and a really nice slope.
 
I currently live on the East Coast close to DC..  It is truly funny what some people will inflate into being a Mountain.  Arctic Valley was bigger and better then than most of the slopes around here now.
 
Thank you Arctic Valley Staff Alumni!
Michael Robbins  Age 46.5 03/02/2010   - and PS I still hate moguls
 

[Dan Lane  - 14 November 2010 email] 

I came across your website and it brought back some old memories. This year I am getting back into skiing almost full time after being away from it for 20 years. I grew up in Anchorage and lived there from 1967-1989. I skied from 1971 -1990. My dad was retired Air Force so we had base privileges and that's how I got to ski on the military side of Arctic Valley.

First memories were about how we got up the mountain. We loaded onto deuce and a half's at the rec center at Fort Richardson. No windows, skis piled up in the middle, loud as hell and cold too. There were usually four trucks a day so off you go with your friends. Then there was always a rumor that a previous truck had overturned so us little kids were nervous but you wanted to be cool so you didn't act afraid.

The corduroy road was fun sitting on wooden benches. I still remember there was one section of bumps going up that signaled you were close to the end. We'd get off, get our ticket and off you go.

That hill was steep and there were no groomers then. I was a second year skier (age 12) when I first tried Arctic Valley. I rode up the mid-hill rope tow. The only way down was through a good sized mogul patch. I swear some of the bumps were bigger than I was. Skied about ten yards and that was it. I was tossed in the air and landed hard losing my glasses in the process. It was a rude introduction to the place. I stayed off that part of the hill until I was in high school. Most of the time I skied the bunny rope tow area with friends. Later on in my skiing career I embraced moguls and would go out of my way to ski them. When I got older and wasn't afraid of the hill we started to ski on the Alpenglow side but by then most skiing days were spent at Alyeska.

One other anecdote. One summer a friend and I (in '79) went hiking up there. I went up the hill below the Nike site. halfway up a service man with an M-16 started down the hill and chased us away. We went up behind the Alpenglow lodge and I'm stomping through the bushes and I hit my shin hard on something. I mean it hurt. I look down and its the exhaust nozzle of one of those rockets that were fired off in the 60s. I tried to dig it up but gave up anyways. SO those are some of my memories of the place. I hope you can use them.

Dan Lane
 

[James Miller - 12 November 2011 email] 

I worked at Arctic Valley Ski Bowl for Fred Murdough from 1978-1988, and those were the best times of my life. It was great! Old Fred taught me about skiing and running a ski area, he was a terrific mentor and I am forever grateful to him.

James Miller
 

[Bill Wood - 14 December 2011 email] 

In May of 1953 I arrived at Elmendorf AFB. Having done a little skiing here in the East I soon learned of Arctic Valley ski bowl. I Drove up there a few times during the summer, did a little climbing and enjoyed the views. That winter I joined the Anchorage Ski Club and took the first aid courses required for ski patrol. After taking a test which included skiing while towing a toboggan and stopping before running into the first aid hut I became a member of the Ski Patrol and was issued my maroon parka with a yellow cross on the back.  I was able to ski a couple of days a week and signed out of the squadron and signed in to special services i.e. ski patrol. Just recently I was going through postings on your site and realized that in spite of all the information no one discussed the rope tows in use at that time. They effectively covered the whole mountain and were maintained by the ski club and the military. Most of the operators' were G.I.s. One I remember in particular was from Arkansas or Oklahoma. He would have nothing to do with skis, each morning he would climb to the power house of which ever tow he was running that day, carrying a big shovel over his shoulder. When he was ready to come down at the end of the day he put on quite a show astride that shovel, pulling up on the handle when he wanted to slow down and lowering it to pick up speed. Who needs skis?  A few of the tows were so long, with such heavy rope that they had mounted car wheels, without the tires, on posts every few hundred feet. The rope was held off the snow as it rolled over these wheels. Of course this presented a problem when a skier's hands reached the wheel. Some cleaver fellow had solved the problem by designing a steel clip which gripped the rope when tensions was applied and would fall off when the tension was released. The clip had a short piece of heavy nylon string attached to a steel pin on the other end. All of the skiers wore military ammo belts with a heavy "D" ring attached. The pin was inserted through the "D" ring and doubled back against the string. You would clamp the pin to the string with your hand and low and behold it worked. Sort of like a "T" bar without the "T". The clips were available at the two ski shops in Town and had to be used for all but the Bunny tow. The attached photo show skiers wearing the belt and the clip. It was short enough that it didn't use the wheels to hold the rope up. One of the most common injuries we treated were dislocated shoulders. Some from falls, but many from careless skiers having loose sweaters or parkas which would get wound around the rope, it was constantly twisting as it went over the pulleys. At the top of each tow, just a few feet before the power house there was a metal bar about a foot above the snow held loosely on each end by a clip. It completed the electric circuitry to keep the tows engines running. If a skiers clothing got caught in the rope or he didn’t let go, his legs would knock the bar loose, shutting down the tow. But some skiers who didn't realize the bar would come out would lift their skis above it, hanging on the rope, and slam into the power house with arm extended into the slot where the rope entered. Thus the dislocated shoulders. In some cases when the skier's clothing didn't tear soon enough it was up to an alert tow operator to shut down the tow. The worst injury I sustained while at Artic Valley happened one morning when I was straddling the rope on the bunny tow to pull the rope out of the ice that had formed over it during the night. My left ski got caught in a rut and slid under the rope. I laid there with the rope sawing away at my ankle for some time until the operator shut the tow down. I skied the rest of the morning but when I took my lunch break I loosened my boot and my ankle blew up like a balloon. It was a few weeks before I skied again. The most beautiful memory I have of Artic Valley were the occasional times at the end of the day, when the sky, snow and every thing else turned pink, alpenglow, truly a sight to remember. Some of the best powder skiing I ever experienced was in the Rendezvous bowl (so named for the fur rendezvous) It was located above the Anchorage ski club lodge. I skied both Arctic Valley and what would eventually become Alyeska (see photos I submitted earlier) until 1955 when my military service ended, and enjoyed every minute of it. 
Bill Wood
Sweetwater, NJ
 


 

[Margery Black - 17 April 2012 email] 

Since I am now 75 years old, I am not totally sure of the dates, but to the best of my memory, my first husband was stationed at Ft. Richardson from 1951-55.  I learned to ski at Arctic Valley, and became a member of the Hans Metz Ski School and taught skiing lessons to children and adults, and was certified as an Associate Ski Instructor. I taught my 3 young children to ski there, and in competitions for children, they earned little trophies, which I presume they, or their children, still have!

Sincerely, Marge Black
 

[Randy Sauder - 20 April 2012 email] 

I was just visiting your Arctic Valley website "Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project" website which requests vintage Arctic Valley pictures. In 1965 when I was 11 years old we moved to Anchorage. We lived there until 1969. My father was the Youth Director for the Alaska Mission of Seventh-day Adventists. As a youngster, I regularly skied this area (both the military and civilian side) whenever possible during the winter. As memory serves, it cost $1 for day of skiing on the military side and $3 on the civilian side. That was a lot of money for a young boy in those days. Fortunately, there was a lot of snow in Anchorage and I earned money by shoveling driveways of neighbors near our 135East 11th Street house in Anchorage. One neighbor about two houses down was Bob Reeve, the famous bush pilot who founded Reeve Aleutian Airlines. He was the first to land on glaciers, set many aviation records and is now in the Aviation Hall of Fame.

While not in the military, we had a number of military friends that took us along to get a military pass on the Arctic Valley side. My future brother-in-law, Fred Beardsley was stationed in the Army at Fort Richardson and often got me passes. Here are four period pictures that likely date to about 1966-67. You are welcome to post them on your site for future historical views. Feel free to email if you have any questions.

Regards,
Randy Sauder

******

Here are a few more things that might be of interest for your site?  As I recall, from 1965-69 it cost $1 per day to ski the military side (Palma and rope tow) at Arctic Valley.  I believe a  seasons pass on the military side was $20.00.  Of course you had to be military or know someone to get one.  During the 1968-69 season I did have one and skied there often.  The pass itself was a small black square bakelite or plastic piece a little thicker and about the same size as a quarter that you hooked onto your coat zipper.  It had wording inscribed on the face which I no longer recall.  It could have been something like Military Pass with a number in recessed white lettering. 

*****

Below:  This picture was taken during the Christmas holiday 1965 as my sisters and I headed out the door to Arctic Valley ski area.  It was taken at our

home at 135 E. 11th Street in Anchorage.    The black Head metal ski's held by my sisters were previously used by the military.  Before we

owned them, they were rental skis on the military side of Arctic Valley that GI's could rent.  That's why you can see the extra white indented lettering where they were identified by serial number.  During the fall of 1965 my father, Harvey Sauder, bought them from Army Surplus for $2 a pair which price included

the pictured Lange boots.    If you look closely, you'll see that my sisters  boots had snap clips which were a big improvement over the earlier era string up version. 

The reason my boots are not shown in the picture is that in 1965 I was still using regular hiking boots for ski boots.  They had almost zero support and made skiing somewhat more interesting.  The next year I got real ski boots and greatly improved.  Regardless, we all had lots of fun. Pictured (L-R):  Randy Sauder; Jeralyn Sauder Beardsley and Barbara Sauder Lawson.  My youngest sister Janice Sauder Miller was five years old at the time and not yet skiing.

[Randy Sauder - 25 February 2013 email excerpt] 

[This picture is] from the collection of Willis Callahan, who was an Anchorage GI stationed at Fort Richardson back in the mid to late 1960's.   The picture is of Helen Escobar with her new puppy at the base of Arctic Valley with one of the lodges behind.  Helen's husband Dave Escobar was my 7th and 8th grade teacher in Anchorage. 

[Randy Sauder - 05 March 2013 email excerpt] 

This picture was taken at the Arctic Valley lodge by Anchorage GI Willis Callahan who was stationed at Ft. Richardson.  Willis was not a skier, but as a medic on site he tells me he treated a number of broken legs, bumps and bruises from skiers while stationed there.  My guess is that the mountain behind is where the Nike missile site was located on top and the ski hill would have been to the right with Anchorage to the left into the valley.  I recall drinking a lot of hot chocolate in that nice warm lodge.  (circa: 1966)

 

 

[Mel Monsen - 13 March 2014 email excerpt] 

Recently I have been scanning in some old slides from my father-in-laws collection.  His name was Ernie Jeffs and he passed away in 2004.  I have attached some ski photos from his collection.  The first three are from "Ski Bowl" in 1953 which I believe is Arctic Valley.
Mel Monsen

 

 

 

[Doug Sweeten - 02 June 2015 email] 

I have just completed building a new pole barn for my old porsche and truck and started to decorate the interior  with metal signs etc.  I have hung my first pair of skis which were bought in Anchorage for Christmas in 1952 and was looking for signs/mementos to hang along with the skis.  I googled and found your web site. 

My dad was an Army officer stationed at Ft. Richardson and I was there as a dependent with my family from 1952 to 1954.  I can't recall the name of the store where we purchased my skis but it was surely the largest department store in town and maybe the only one.  Anchorage only had a population of 25,000 at the time.  I got the boots at the ski bowl as they had replaced  their rentals with new boots and were selling the old ones for .50 a pair.  I now was ready to hit the slopes….new 6 ft 3 inch skis, leather hightop boots, and bear trap bindings.  During the winter of 52/53 a 14 year old boy from Kentucky learned to  ski and I will add that during that Winter and the next I went skiing almost every weekend on both Saturday and Sunday.  Those Winters were two of the most memorable of my now 76 years.  I can't recall any major injuries only the gloves and coats being torn as I learned the tricks of using the  rope toll. Our last run of the day was a run down the trail to the base of the Mountain where we flagged an Army truck back to the Fort.  The trip down could be adventurism as we almost always encountered moose,  sometimes Lynx, and one time a Black Bear.  I never did tell my mom about the bear until we were back in Kentucky.

I took my skis back  to Kentucky and used them a few times before on the hills around my neighborhood.  That got a lot of attention.  I continued  to ski until  I was in my sixties and then gave it up because  I did not want an injury that could interfere with my golf game. 

Two Summers ago I visited Alaska,  rented a car in Anchorage and went looking for the Ski Bowl.  I was surprised that I drove right up the mountain and after almost 60 years almost nothing had changed.  The road was unpaved and it was still wilderness.  Also, at the base of the mountain is Moose Run Golf Course where I played my first rounds in 1952 the year it opened.  I stopped in there and talked with some of the workers but did not play because it was raining.  We had a fantastic trip and are planning to come back next Summer. 

Doug Sweeten
 

[John Moore - 19 October 2015 email] 

Hi, Worked at [Gary] Kings from 74 to 80 something. This picture of me was taken by Greg Morris at Alyeska, the pass is Arctic Valley.

[Beverly Luedke-Chan - 11 November 2015 email excerpt] 

The civilian ski area was also called Arctic Valley until the mid-1980's, when the new managers thought that Alpenglow would sound more sunny and warm (although Arctic Valley was certainly more realistic).  In 2008 we renamed it Arctic Valley - more for nostalgic reasons than for any marketing reasons.  Chair 1, the Thompson Chair, was completely refurbished and has been operating again for the last 10 years or so.  The ski area has almost become a lost ski area several times over the last few decades, but a dedicated group of volunteers has managed to keep it going.

Thanks,

Beverly K. Luedke-Chan
Treasurer, Anchorage Ski Club

FYI - My dad, Duane Luedke, ran Arctic Valley from 1961 to 1985 along with my mom Shirley and several others.  He built/helped build the existing Chair 1, Chair 2, the T-Bar, the old (1955) and new (1972) lodges as well as some of the old ropetows and the military chairlift, which are now gone.  He officially named the mountains up there (the ones that look like an upside down "W" from town) the "Little Tetons".  Duane passed away in February 2015.  A few hundred people attended the service, over half of them skiers.

[Bill Emerson - 11 November 2015 email excerpt] 

Fantastic work you are doing on the HISTORY of the skiing in Alaska.  I worked at the Air Force Satellite Tracking Station on Kodiak Island from 1959 to 61 and would fly over to Anchorage to ski on BIG mountains (compared to the ski area on Kodiak).  Please note that both used rope tows ;-(

Think Snow and GO!!!  Skiing on my 80th Birthday 12/27/14  Bill Emerson

1960 Bill skiing at 80

[Tracy Alan (Al) Terry - 7 December 2015 email excerpt] 

I worked for the Army at Arctic Valley Ski Bowl from 1980, until it closed. I poured my heart and soul into it. It really hurt, when it closed.

My name is Tracy ALAN Terry, or AL  The building on the web site that needs identified was an old pump-house supplying water to the missile site. You can still see where it piped up the mountain, as there is kind of a ridge left there.  I worked myself into wearing several hats at AVSB. I was the head chairlift operator, head ski patrol and head groomer operator for most of my time there.  I have a copy of the final inspection when AVSB was dismantled. Dated 28 AUGUST 2002.  I was not a picture taker, but I have many fond memories from working there.  Employees had a complete turn over while I worked there, I was the only one left, when it closed.  I know why it closed, and who was behind it, and why neighboring Alpenglow never got the keys to the site, after it was agreed upon. Very Sad stories.
 

[David Banker - 1 January 2016 email] 

I was stationed at Fort Rich during the winters of 1967 and 1968, and we would ski almost every night...the hill was lit until 10:00 each evening. It cost $5 for a full season lift pass, a little plastic tab that clipped to your jacket zipper. If you didn't have your own skis, you could rent Head Standards with Cubco bindings. There were several LtCols and full Colonels, and I remember seeing a gent with stars on his hat one evening.

One other interesting thing that I forgot to mention was the "Army duce and a half" lift. Sometime prior the the winter of '68, someone ran a bulldozer down the hill roughly along the creek, from the Army ski hill down to the edge of the golf course. You could ski down that (maybe 2 or 3 miles) and there was an army truck that made the round about every half hour...just hop in the back and ride back up to the main ski area.


 

 

 

Do you have further information, stories or pictures that you would like to contribute about this ski area?