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Chiniak Ski Road


Name of Ski Area: Chiniak Ski Road, Satellite Tracking Station Access Road
Location: A 2 mile stretch of the access road leading up to the Kodiak Tracking Station radar site at Cape Chiniak on Kodiak Island.
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Sledding Hill
Dates of Operation: 1959
Who Built It?: US Air Force
Base/Top/ Vertical Drop:

Base: ~50' / Top: ~350' / Vert: ~300'

Lifts: None
Facilities: Manned radar installation
Miscellaneous: Friday night 2 mile ski races would be held from the radar station site down the access road.  A guard would be posted at the bottom to prevent vehicular "surprises".  Cross country skiing was also done in this area while the facility was active.
Sources of Information:

Tony Smaker story on the Kodiak Alaska Military History site; Bill Emerson

Photos: Does anyone have old pictures of skiing at Cirlce Hot Springs (or current pictures of the vicinity) that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?

~  Photos ~


 Bill Emerson Photos from 1960-61

Bill Emerson: During 1959 through 62 I was working happy satellite tracking station on Kodiak Island. The reason I took this assignment was that when I asked where the site was they showed me a topographic map. On it I saw that there was a ski area located between the satellite tracking station and the town of Kodiak. Being an avid skier this clinched the deal for going to Alaska.

As one of the young engineers, I didn't have very much seniority when it came to borrowing one of the Air Force jeeps to go to town. Therefore I normally ended up with the jeep that had been rolled and had no windshield or top. I would put on a parka, been put on a second parka with the zipper in the back, put on a facemask and goggles and of course my gloves and drive the 40 or so miles from the site to the ski area. Needless to say I enjoyed the fire and the warmth of the chalet upon my arrival.

There were a number of children from town who were trying to learn to ski and I was one of the volunteer instructors who taught children to ski. It was a wonderful experience and taught me to ski backwards while leaning over and helping children master the art of the snowplow and the stem turn. 

A number of people from the satellite tracking station decided that they would learn to ski while in Alaska. This is a photograph showing people from the satellite tracking station on the slopes at Anton Larsen Pass Ski Area, in 1961. From left to right they are: Bill Emerson, Don Sikkema, unknown, Bob Greeley, Mrs. Monell, Dick Monell (who was the station manager at the satellite tracking station), Lyle Burnham.

When we had a very good snow the road from the top of the hill with the site was located was about 2 miles.  It was a lot better than the Anton Larsen ski area since there was no rope tow.  At the bottom of the hill you just got in the Jeep and went to back to the top of the hill to ski down it again.

Please note the FORMAL ski attire which included black pants, Black parka, and a black top hat!!!

Pictures of the Front gate, taken in 1960.

~  MAPS  ~

This topo map, from 1979, shows where the Chiniak radar tracking station was located on Kodiak Island relative to the town of Kodiak.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_chiniak.jpg (223942 bytes)

The topo map to the right shows the Kodiak Tracking Station radar site and the access road winding uphill to the site.  The access road was where the ski races were held.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_chiniak.jpg (588758 bytes)

Research Correspondence 

[Bill Emerson - 12 November 2015 email]

See text and pictures above (Bill Emerson Photos from 1960-61).

[Web Search - October 2004, excerpt from story written by Tony Smaker, www.kadiak.org

"A hilarious but accurate account of life and the related humorously funny events that occurred at the Kodiak Tracking Station on Kodiak, Alaska during the 1950's and 1960's."
Compiled and Written By:



The winter of 1959 was an exceptionally nasty, and windy one making for outdoor activities a real challenge. Rain, rain, rain, and more rain. And ice, oh brother, ice was had, and I do mean everywhere. You couldn't drive on the roads much less stand up on them. To the locals, this wasn't anything new, but to the Chiniak people of which the majority were transplanted-Californians, this was pure hell on earth for them. People's nerves were rapidly deteriorating from being cooped up and nothing to do. 

The mail runs to town were down to only 3 a week, and at that, only if 2 or more vehicles could make up a convoy for safety sake. The Navy even closed down the back gate (about where the Samson Tug & Barge docks are today) to traffic because of the icy conditions on "Base". I think that they called it condition "Charlie" or some dumb thing like that. Many a time the mail driver, and including all of the local ranchers, would have a fight with the Marine guards over allowing them to pass through to town after battling the road for 6 or so hours! Oh, by the way, this was the "new" back gate. It was relocated in April 1959 from the top of a hill about 10 miles back down the Chiniak road. You know this place now as "Marine Hill". Ah ha, get the connection now? 

Finally, in the first week of December, the snows came (another strange new phenomenon to the Chiniakers) and everyone's attention turned to outdoor activities. Some of the people had the forethought to bring their skis up from California, and were having a ball cross-countrying. Others constructed small sleds out of packing crates or whatever they could get their hands on. One even made a sled out of the hood of a 54 maroon Ford that used to be a Mecca cab. Dick Prentike graded the access road from the site to the bottom of the hill (about 2 miles give or take a few yards) for a ski and sledding runway. This was the Friday Night event with races, timed events, bets, and just plain horsing- around. They even posted a road guard at the bottom of the hill to prevent any vehicular "surprises". 

Then, someone figured out that there may be some real sleds in Kodiak. Well, of course there was, and yes, you guessed it, into town they went and bought up every single sled available. Well, needless to say, they were now equipped very professionally. The one thing hat these guys forgot to think of was that now the kids in Kodiak would have no sleds for Christmas!! Talk about grown men feeling really down and rotten, oh brother Words or actions just could not describe their sincere and sorry feelings! 

Then, one of the nicest events (that I can recall) occurred. Lockheed, Philco, and Budson, the major contractors, initiated an emergency project called "Operation Sled". "Black" Bart Morgan of Lockeed went to Ray Martin, Sr., the Pacific Northern Airlines representative in Kodiak, and made arrangements to purchase out of Seattle 75 single child sleds and fly them in. These sleds were immediately "Donated" to the children in Kodiak (if the parents wished them to have them). Dixie McGehee volunteered to be Santa Claus (although there were several others that would have made a more "natural" looking Santa). So, on the 21st of December, in the old Kraft's mercantile store, Santa held forth "court". There were several pictures taken that day, but I am unable to locate a single copy. If anyone has a copy, please send it to me for CHINIAK TOO. Thanks.. 



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