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City Ski Bowl

1917 to 1952

Name of Ski Area: City Ski Bowl (other names: Army Ski-Bowl, Watertank Hill)
Location: In Anchorage on the bluff NW of Gambell and 3rd.  Overlooking Ship Creek.
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Jump, Ski Trails
Dates of Operation: 1917 to 1952
Who Built It?: U.S. Army & Anchorage Ski Club
Base/Top/ Vertical Drop: Base ~50', Top: ~200', Vertical: ~150'
Lifts: 1 Rope Tow (but moved at least once)
Facilities: Jump, estimated size: 30 meters.  Also - a smaller practice jump (10-15 meters?) existed to the east of the main jump.
History: Though a permanent jump and rope tow facilities were not built at this site until the late 1930's, this site was used for ad-hoc ski jumps for two decades prior.  Articles in 1917 Anchorage Daily Times mention use of this area for ski jumping:

Mar. 7, 1917:  E. Hansen badly fractured his right leg above the ankle yesterday afternoon and was taken to the government hospital for attention.  Hansen and a party of associates were practicing skii jumping off the hill near the water tank at the time of the accident that was caused by a defective strap breaking when he landed after taking the offset.

Mar. 8, 1917:  With Young Viking as the prime mover, a bunch of local sports have made arrangements for another 10 mile skii race Sunday.  In addition to the race a force of men are preparing the skii jumping slide near the city water tank and a skii jumping contest will be pulled off prior to the race.  Three cash prizes will be awarded to the winners of each event and a number of contestants have entered the lists.

Mar. 9, 1917 (Friday):  Several bets have been placed on the contestants in the skii race that is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.  The race will follow the skii jumping contest that takes place on the hill near the water tank.

The trestled jump at this site was constructed in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The ski area was discontinued because the Alaska Native Health Service hospital was built on the upper part of this ski area.  Recently (~2000) this hospital was razed and now there is a large empty lot in its place.

Russell Dow, a former Dartmouth College skier, trained Army ski troops here.  The City Ski Bowl was also the site of the "Chugach Ski Meet" ski competitions.  And the Anchorage High School downhill ski team trained and raced here prior to Arctic Valley Ski Area being developed.

There were also some cross country ski trails in this area.  Jim Reekie mentioned that there were short ski loops near the top of the City Ski Bowl, and along Ship Creek.

Sources of Information:

Anchorage Ski Club web site, history page

"Skiing in Alaska" by Elizabeth Tower

UAA Consortim Library Archives; Russell W. Dow and Charles E. Barr collections;

Tim Kelley (site visit and 2004 photos); Jim Reekie; Albert Bailey; Anchorage Daily Times (1917); Merritt and Liz Mitchell; Bob Butera

 

~ Photos  ~

The ski team pages from Jim Reekie's 1939 and 1940 Anchorage High School yearbooks are shown below.  1939 was the first year skiing became an official Anchorage High School sport.  The ski team trained and raced at the City Ski Bowl.  This hill was a short ski from the original high school in what is now downtown Anchorage.  The two pages on the left are from the 1939 yearbook, the page on the right is from the the 1940 yearbook.   All of these yearbook photos were taken at the City Ski Bowl.

 (click on the yearbook pages below to expand them)

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1939 1939 1940

The top photo on the above yearbook page shows skiers at the top of the City Ski Bowl.  Ship Creek and Government Hill can be seen in the background.

The tall lanky kid in the upper right picture is Jim Reekie.  Before high school, Jim learned to ski on barrel staves with a leather straps for a bindings.

The upper left picture shows the 1940 Anchorage High School ski team with the city water tower in the background.

In the above pictures you may see skiers wearing this patch ...

UAA_CitySkiBowl_1937_ASCpatch.jpg (45234 bytes)

[Photo Credit:  UAA Archives and Manuscripts Dept]

This is the old patch of the Anchorage Ski Club.
AHS_1940_athletics.jpg (88916 bytes)

Back in 1940 the Anchorage High School only had two sports: basketball and skiing.  They had boys and girls teams for each of these sports.

And as you can clearly see from the picture on the right - kids back in those days were way better looking than they are today !!

 

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"When It's Slalom Time in Anchorage", by Joe Werner.
From the December 1939 issue of Alaska Life
(Click on page image to expand to readable size)

The picture on the top of page 1 of this article is of a slalom race at the City Ski Bowl in 1939.  Notice that there is no lift.  The picture below it is of the finish area of a downhill race on the Dan Moller trail in Douglas (across the bridge from Juneau).  The third picture location is unknown, perhaps it is at the upper areas of the Moller Trail near Douglas.

(1940s) These are older pictures of the City Ski Bowl site.  If you click on and enlarge the picture to the right - you can see the poles of the rope tow on the right side of the ski area.  The rope tow to the left of the jump had not been made yet.

What is interesting about the jump is the landing hill.  You can see that a trestle also formed part of the landing hill - to make for the lack of a natural terrain.

 

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AMHA_CitySkiBowl_1940s_jump.jpg (122930 bytes)

  [Photo Credit:  Russell W. Dow collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives] [Photo Credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

 

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(1940) Here is a picture of Benzie Ola "Rusty" Dow and Russell W. Dow next to the Watertower Jump at the City Ski Bowl.  Russell was once a member of the Dartmouth College Ski Team.  He moved to Alaska after school, and never left.  He was a jack of all trades as can be gathered from this UAA Consortium Library Archives web site.  Russell trained skiers at the City Ski Bowl during WWII.  Interesting points in this picture: 1) Can you spot the dog?  2)  The support structure of the jump seemed to consist of poles spiked together. 

An interesting fact about Russell's wife Rusty:  During World War II she was a truck driver for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  In 1944 she gained distinction when she became the first woman to drive a truck the entire length of the new, and very muddy, Alaskan Highway (1560 miles from Dawson to Fairbanks at 200 miles per day).  See this web site for more info.

[Photo Credit:  Russell W. Dow collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

 

(1940s) Left - This Russell Dow shot shows clearly the massive trestle in-run and landing ramp of the City Ski Bowl's ski jump.

[Photo Credit:  Russell W. Dow collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

(1940) Right - A soldier from the Army navigates a slalom course at the City Ski Bowl.

[Photo Credit:  Russell W. Dow collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

 

Dow_CitySkiBowl_1940_Slalom823.jpg (106119 bytes)
Barr_CitySkiBowl_1944_skier.jpg (25356 bytes) (1944) Left - Skier on top of the City Ski Bowl.  The western of the two rope tows can be seen.  The jump trestle is in the background.  This jump was called the 'Watertower Jump'.  And in the distance, behind the skier's head, you can see why.

[Photo Credit:  Charles E. Barr collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

(2004) Right - 50 years after the picture on the left, the one on the right was taken near the same location the skier was standing.  When the Native hospital was built, a lot of fill was bulldozed into the bowl.  So the upper slopes of this area are unlike what they were in the 40's.  [Photo Credit:  Tim Kelley]

 

Kelley_CitySkiBowl_2004.jpg (144249 bytes)

(1946) The Chugach Ski Meet at the ski jump tower at Watertank Hill (at the City Ski Bowl).  You can see a rope tow to the left of the tower.  Pictures indicate that this tow was built after a rope tow to the west (right) of the jump.  The pole on the top of the slope on the right site is part of the original rope tow.

You can see a bulding (shack) at the top of the rope tow, on the top of the hill.  This is where the rope tow engine was.  A return pulley was anchored in the ground at the base of the hill.

[Photo Credit:  Karl F. Eid collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

 

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(1946) Left - A woman rides up the rope tow next to the Watertank Hill ski jump at the City Ski Bowl.

[Photo Credit:  Karl F. Eid collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

(1940) Right - Start of a 1940s cross country ski race, likely near the City Ski Bowl.

[Photo Credit:  Russell W. Dow collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

 

Eid_CitySkiBowl_1946_womantow.jpg (23135 bytes)

(1941) The Chugach Ski Meet used to be held at the City Ski Bowl.  You can see a slalom course set in the foreground.

In the picture to the right you can see the Anchorage Ski Club emblem in the snow.  Also - notice how many spectators are on the top of the bowl !!  It's packed !

[Photo Credit:  Karl F. Eid collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

 

Eid_CitySkiBowl_1941_chugach.jpg (28058 bytes) Eid_CitySkiBowl_1941_chugach2.jpg (161726 bytes)

 

 

 

The pictures in this section were taken in 1950.  They were provided to ALSAP courtesy of Liz and Merritt Mitchell.  These shots were taken in 1950 at the City Ski Bowl.
(1950) These are probably the best pictures on ALSAP that show the spiked log construction of the City Ski Bowl jump's in-run and a raised part of the out-run.

[Photo Credits:  Merritt and Liz Mitchell]

 

     
(1950) [Left] Merritt Mitchell goes for a record jump off the jump at the City Ski Bowl. [Center and Right] Unidentified jumpers.

[Photo Credits:  Merritt and Liz Mitchell]

(1950) These two pictures show that there was a smaller jump to the east of the main jump and rope tow.  Skiers can be seen jumping off this small jump in these pictures.

[Photo Credits:  Merritt and Liz Mitchell]

(1950) This shot shows a skier with a flag taking air off the small jump - and wow'ing the crowd!

[Photo Credits:  Merritt and Liz Mitchell]

(1950) [Left] Here is a good shot of Harvey Turner flying off the City Ski Bowl jump.

(1949) [Right] Merritt Mitchell with the Anchorage Ski Jumping Championship trophy.

[Photo Credits:  Merritt and Liz Mitchell]

 

 

 

(1952) These two pictures show possibly the last ski jumping competition on the City Ski Bowl jump on February 23-24, 1952.  Notice the American flags judges stand and jump takeoff.  And notice the two men with the long sticks that mark where the jumper lands.

[Photo Credits: [Left] William O. L. Chinn, UAA Archives, [Right] William O. L. Chinn, UAA Archives]

 

(1952) This picture, taken the same day as the above two, shows the construction of the Alaska Native Service Hospital in progress at the top of the hill.  Notice the pile of logs that were cleared from the site and pushed onto the ski area hill.  The end of this skiing site is eminent.

[Photo Credits: William O. L. Chinn, UAA Archives]

 

(May 21, 1953) [Left] Bob Butera found this picture will doing work at the ARRC.  It shows the abandoned City Ski Bowl site.  If you expand the picture you can see the jump in-run trestle is still standing.

[Photo Credit: Alaska Railroad Corp]

(early 1950s) [Right] In the lower right of this picture you can see the new Alaska Native Health Service complex, the city water tower and the recently abandoned site of the City Ski Bowl.

[Photo Credit:  Alaska Museum of History and Art]

 

AMHA_CitySkiBowl_1950s_abandoned.jpg (321219 bytes)
 

 

 

~ Aerial Views  ~

The large open lot is where, until recently, the Alaska Native Health Service hospital existed.  The treed area to the north is a steep slope which would have made a good ski hill.  You can see the reentrant, or indentation, in the bluff edge.  This is where the City Ski Bowl and Watertank Hill ski jump used to be.  The water tank was near the furthest north point of the clearing.

Here is an aerial photo from 2002 of downtown Anchorage.  The City Ski Bowl was in the vicinity of the red ellipse.

(Click on picture at right for a larger image)

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Research Notes & Correspondence 
[Tim Kelley - October 2004 note] 

I went to the City Ski Bowl site to see if there were any signs of ski areas past there.  It was very evident that when the Native Hospital was built, much fill was pushed over the top edge of the City Ski Bowl reentrant.  So the top of the slopes are now much shorter and steeper than depicted in the old pictures.  Near the area of the rope tow that was to the left of the jump there were concrete foundation remnants.  Possibly these may have been associated with the jump.  Or maybe they are remnants of the foundation of the water tank supports.  Bottom line: there is no great reason to go and check this site out these days.  You have to cross private property to approach the base of the hill.  And the hillside in this area is dotted with homeless peoples' camps.  So it's best to stay out of the woods here and give these people their privacy.

[Albert Bailey - phone conversation with Tim Kelley in December 2004] 

Albert said that in 1938, when he was 14, he lied about his age to get a job with the CCC (the Civilian Conservation Corps).  One of the jobs he did in '38 with the CCC was to clear brush at the City Ski Bowl.

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