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Cleary Summit

1949 to 1993

Name of Ski Area: Cleary Summit
Location: Mile 21 - Steese Highway, northeast of Fairbanks
Type of Area: Ski Hill
Dates of Operation: 1949 to 1993
Who Built It?: Built and run by the Bob McCann Family.  Link Imeson was partners with Bob McCann in the development of Cleary Summit.
Base/Top/ Vertical Drop:

Base: ~1500' / Top: ~2400' / Vertical: ~900'


Late 40's, early 50's: rope tow below and above the highway

50's: 2 rope tows above the highway, one below

Late 50's, early 60's: T-bar installed below the road

70's or 80's: upper rope tows removed and replaced with a T-bar

80s: A beginner Poma lift was installed.

Facilities: During the course of Cleary Summit's operation there were four lodges.  Three lodges were located above the road at the same location and all of them burned.  The fourth and final lodge was built below the road.  In the 80's snowmaking was installed.  On January 29, 2008 the abandoned fourth lodge burned down (see pictures and article below).
History: When Cleary Summit closed, the Poma, T-bar and snowmaking equipment was sold to Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage.  Cleary Summit never was a lighted ski area.  For many years the Steese Highway snow plowing ended at Cleary Summit, so there was no problem skiing across the road from the upper ski area to the lower area because the road was not plowed.  Later when the road was routinely plowed in the winter a ramp over the road was considered, but never built.
Sources of Information:

 Roger Evans; "Skiing in Alaska" by Elizabeth Tower; Jim MaHaffey; Jenny March; Lance Parrish; Liz and Merritt Mitchell; Bruce Talbot (State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources); Donald G. Carson; Bevinne McCann Morse; Tim Kelley; George Ferree; Chuck Johnson; Ed Plumb; Chuck Johnson; Bob Cathey; Robert Christerson; Bob Meritt; Isaac Firesmith

Photos: Does anyone have pictures of skiing at Cleary Summit (or current pictures of the vicinity) that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?


~  PHOTOS  ~

Photos and Recollections from Bevinne McCann Morse, daughter of Bob McCann

[Photo credits: Bevine McCann Morse]

~ 1950's ~
Sylvia McCann on Cleary Summit before ski area was built - April 1949 First ski lodge, top of Cleary Summit (Sylvia and Bob McCann far right) - 1950

(Can anyone identify the others in this picture?)

Tow house and old Cleary Summit lodge, upper tow house in the distance - 1950's.\ Sylvia, Lenore, Robin and Bob McCann above old lodge, late 1950's
Tower #9 1st T-Bar Ski Lift, drawing by Bevinne McCann Morse - see more of her art. 1950's 2-pole-plant skiing method 1950's - Nelson Parrish
Starting gate - 1950's 1950's film strip of ski racing at Cleary Summit Little boy skiing at Cleary Summit in the 1950's
1954 - Overstuffed couch in lodge in front of fireplace Robin on homemade bongo board in the 1950's, before video games Bongo board excellence A toast!
Jane in fur hat Bob McCann in middle, beer slalom - 1955 Skier on McCall's Bob McCann and customer - late 1950s/ early 1960s
Link Olgaan Sylvia McCann Carnival sawhorse obstacle  
~ 1960's ~
Bevinne, Peabody and new ski lodge - 1960 Completed lodge from the west - 1960 New Lodge from East, kitchen side - 1960 Erich Roiser with his Ski School Class:  Jerry, Megan, Maggie, Amy & Michi all in a line
Top of main ski hill - 1960's Going up lift at McCall's Run - 1960's Rental shop - 1960's.

Sign says: Skis, boots & Poles Complete set:  $3.75, Skis only: $3.50, Boots only:  $1.50, Poles only:  $1.50, Head Skis: Additional $?

New ski lift - upper hill
Après skiing - 1960 After skiing fun, 50's or 60's Ski trophies
Ski patrol on Bob-O-Link Ski Patrolman facing Ski Land   April 1969 Aerial of Cleary Summit Ski Area
The Bunny Man '60+/- Carnival Day Oh no - bunny down (right side of picture) on Bob-O-Link! Dad (McCann) showing off, beer slalom 1960's.  Mom with clipboard, Tommy in hat, Aunt Jane skiing in background. Action in the beer slalom.  Aunt Jane and 'Bunny Man' in the background.
Kids on an obstacle course - 60's Heck with going under, I'm going OVER!  60's Raggedy Ann (Lou Davis) going through inner tube - 1960's

[Anchorage Daily News article about Lou Davis]

Ski Lodge, 1960's
Inside the lodge - 1960's In front of the fireplace, Peabody (dog) and friends - 60's Bevinne and Bob McCann at kitchen counter - early 1960's Ski patrol, & Bob McCann on right, from deck of lodge - 1963
Douglas Ackley, Robin and Bob McCann in the ski shop.  Sign says 'Adult 4.00 All Day' Three at top of ski slope with 4 inches of new snow Lincoln Imeson, partner in Cleary Summit Ski Area, with T-Bar parts 1960's: Frank Russell, Unknown, Sylvia McCann, Unknown.
60's Lift Ticket Line: Bob McCann, Unknown, Sylvia McCann, David Ackley, Tommy, Robin, Debbie Ackley, Unknown Looking up the T-Bar lift, the Rock Garden ski run is on the right - 1960's Lift lines in the 60's
Mr. Killian and Cat Run sculpting
Lift house under construction Bob outside new arctic entry Bevinne at lodge View from top of T-bar tower
Lodge 1963 Lodge 1964
~ 1970's ~
Thea Killian and Sylvia McCann (in back) on McCall's - 1970's Catching big air, with lodge in the background - 1970's Stuck Thiokol, made an unhappy Bob - 1970's View from the lift tower - 1970's
Bottom of ski hill - 1970's View from lift house - 1970's Top of main hill - late 1970's Upper hill lift base - 1970's.  Steese Highway in foreground.
Upper hill lift base - 1970's Repairing base lift station Lift tower on upper hill. Upper hill lift just after installation - 1970's
70's ski patrol and Thiokol Bunny Fun, Carnival Day - 1970's
~ 1980's ~
Top of hill - spring 1980's Main hill - 1980's A good snow year on the Steese Highway - 1980's View of upper hill from cabin - 1980's
Lodge expansion above kitchen.  Link resting - 1980's. Loading the T-Bar, 1980's 1980's - inside the lodge Grimmy Gulch, off the road.  Great run, nice and challenging, un-groomed.
Lift ticket sales counter and rental shop Kitchen - 1970's or 1980's Cleary Ski School - 1980's Butch Boslet in the rental shop - 1980's
  Late 1980's - snowmaking
Shadow Box of Cleary Summit Mementos

(Click on picture above to expand it)

LIFT STARTS 10 O'CLOCK (WE HOPE) - small white pin top left

Medal - Winter Carnival - Third Place 1953
next to that 1959 - 3rd Place Slalom -
Metal set of skis under that (not part of metal though
Below Winter Carnival "Women's Class A 2nd Place 1959
Little Gold metal next to that: lovely skier - no engraving on back
Next to that a small broken ski tip for a necklace
Next to Fairbanks Golden Days button - silver Ski tip tie tack
Next to Alaska patch - Ullr pin
The small blue pin holding onto the business card of Dad's says Safety on Skis and under the crossed skis at the bottom says: National Ski Patrol

[Bevinne McCann Morse - excerpts from December 2005 email correspondence]

I ran across your website and am impressed by it.  I can add a few bits of information to possibly round out the website as I was there from 1955 till 1991 or so.  I can tell you that there were 3 count them 3 lodges built above the road in the same site.  I know that how 2 burned down but not one of them.  I know that one was caused by a lit cig in an overstuffed couch.  That was the last overstuffed couch to be in the lodge.  The 1st fire was caused by fumes.  My father was gluing down a floor - it was the glue applied for the linoleum.  A roaring fire was going in the fireplace and it caught fire.  My mom recently told me that they almost didn't get the boys out alive.  One picture I have says on the back - "Third Lodge" and it's a burnt out foundation that's showing. Very sad and depressing.

Eventually, Dad decided to build in a totally different spot below the road where the existing lodge sits.  It was built in 1963+/-.  The original T-Bar was built in 1960.  I have a cool drawing of the #9 tower on my website listed below [Bevinne's art website].  It is a digital pic too if you would like it for your site.  

The ski area was started in '49 when my Mom and Dad got married.  I believe they started it that winter.  They started the ski shop - Alpine Haus shortly after to clothe and equip everyone for skiing. 

The Rock that Don's standing in front of was named - "Big Rock" - I'm sure there was a small rock someplace but that was the big rock.  And it was as magnificent as shown.  That's a great pic.

The land for Cleary Summit was 300+/- acres leased from the North Star Borough for 30 or 50 years.  I'm a little fuzzy on those particulars - but suffice it to say - we only had rights to the surface of the land.  The snow making that came in the late 80's was supplied water from a well that was approx. 450' deep.  The well was drilled in the late '70's and it was a sweet thing after hauling water from Scoogy (sp) Gulch for so many years.  I made a trip to Fairbanks in '03 and tasted of that sweet water again and it hadn't changed at all.

I ran a google on my Uncle Sven and got your site.  I think he's mentioned in it.  He used to take me up to Pedro Dome and tell me all sorts of things - like he needed to flash his lights on his car or the men on the water towers (or whatever those towers are) would shoot him.  He was full of stories like that.  I remember reminding him to flash his lights at least once.  And he would say - oh thanks - I almost forgot.

In the "Who Built" statement - could you put Bob McCann and Link Imeson - he was a partner with my Dad and played an immensely important role in the development of Cleary Summit Ski Area.  Without him the place wouldn't have run as well.  I believe he was there from the beginning of the ski area. He was skilled in electrical and mechanical ways that complimented my Dad's ability with carpentry/contractor skills.  They were a great team.

Skiing and Ski Racing at Cleary Summit, Mid 1950's

These pictures are courtesy of 1950's UAF ski team member Harvey Turner.  The racing pictures are from the Fairbanks Gold Nugget slalom and downhill races in 1950.

[Photo credits: Harvey Turner]

Gold Nugget slalom Fred Malan Gold Nugget downhill 1 mile downhill race
Merritt Mitchell crashes at finish Hans Fischer, Art Stubbins, and 2 unidentified women.  Notice the white rope tow gripper belts. Bob McCann, Harvey Turner, Sylvia McCann Harvey Turner, John McCall

Skiing at Cleary Summit, Mid 1950's

Don Carson sent these photos of him skiing at Cleary Summit in the mid 1950's.

[Photo credits: Donald G. Carson]

Don carves a smooth turn at Cleary Summit At the "Big Rock" above the old lodge Don and Bob McCann's dog "Mr. Nicely"
Don and the lodge Bob McCann and Don Gary and Don Don at Cleary Summit

1957 Cleary Summit Patches

Courtesy of Bob Cathey.

[Photo and story credits: Bob Cathey]

“30 BELOWER”    Cleary Summit, Alaska

Any one who has ever skied in interior Alaska in mid winter knows that it’s going to be cold!  I had such an experience in the winter of 1956-57, and as proof I earned a special ski patch from Cleary Summit.  At that time I was in the USAF stationed at Ladd AFB, Fairbanks, AK.

The day was clear with no wind, temperature about -25 F and dropping.  Only a handful of people, but Bob McCann (owner) and Linc Imeson (equipment manager) had both the upper and the lower rope tows running.  Bob had two ski patches, one for -20 and the other for -30, which he would award to anyone who skied on a day when it was that cold.  Very rare.  I already had a -20 patch, but for the area to be operating on colder days was extremely rare for many reasons. 

It was nearly impossible to ride the tow and ski down for more than one run at a time before going into the lodge for a cup of Silvia McCann’s delicious hot chocolate while we huddled around the fireplace.  It was there that I met three men who, as I did, thought that a -30 patch might be attainable. There was a thermometer tacked outside on the wall near the lodge door.  It registered -28. We took Bob outside and showed him the reading and tried to convince him that we should have the patch.  He was, rightly so, not convinced. He said that he had to SEE 30 below on the thermometer. The four of us went back to the fireplace to plan our strategy.  We were all warmly dressed in our GI parkas with fur-like lined hoods, wool caps under the hood, mouton parka liners, sweaters, wool shirts, wool pants and wool long johns and mitts that came to our elbows. Knowing colder air would sink, I had an idea that if we skied down the lower slopes below the Steese Highway that it was enough lower in elevation to find even colder temperatures.  One of the men had a pocket knife and pried the thermometer off the wall.  We skied down all the way to the bottom of all runs and hung the thermometer on a tree. Then back up to the lodge for more hot chocolate. Most of the other skiers had their boots off by now.

We made two more round trips on the lower slope, down and up as we looked for a lower temperature.  We were almost frozen!  We danced around trying to survive until at last we had it --a clear -30.  We grabbed the rope with the proof in hand.  When we showed it to Bob he was good to his word and gave each of us the THIRTY BELOWER patch.  He must have thought we were crazy from the cold.  He was probably right. 

Bob Cathey
York, ME

Skiing at Cleary Summit, Late 1940's / Early 1950's

These photos, courtesy of Liz and Merritt Mitchell, show skiing activities at Cleary Summit during the late 1940's / early 1950's.

[Photo credits: Liz and Merritt Mitchell]

Liz Mitchell carving turns Lila Thorsen of Seward Skiing Cleary Summit Liz Mitchell, a rare crash
Lila and Fred Thorsen Skiers at Cleary Summit Lodge Merritt Mitchell grabs rope tow  

Bob Meritt Cleary Summit Pictures, 1960's and 1970's

Bob Meritt, 1963 Ed Sugura, 1963 Bob Meritt at Cleary, 1965 Picnic Rock, 1971
Rosemount Boots, 1971 Darrellyn and Bob Meritt, 1971 Bob McCann, Lois and Darrellyn Lou Davis, 1971
Cleary Ski Club patch Ski Instructors Clinic at Cleary Summit, April 1972 Ski School Meeting Place, 1972
Lois Burbeck, Erich Roiser (Austrian Ski Instructor), Bob and Darrellyn Meritt


Cleary Summit Ski Club Sign
[Photo Credit: George Ferree]
Cleary Summit Ski Club Pin
Cleary Summit Ski School Patch
[Photo Credit: Bob Meritt]

~  Recent Pictures  ~

2004 Site Pictures

[Photo credits: Anonymous]

Lift motor building Electric lift motor "Warp speed" switch Looking down lift line
Views from inside the lodge
      "That's either Lucy, or that EAST WIND!!"
Drawing done by Bevinne McCann Morse when she was a young girl.


October 2006 Site Pictures

[Photo credits: Tim Kelley]

Main lodge and a Head rental ski.  Ski has painted on it: "CS 41". Main lodge. Porch on the north side of the lodge. Upper lift engine house.
Rental boots in the lodge. Rental boot on the porch railing. Food court/ bar area. Fireplace
The topmost lift tower. A view up the ski slope from about 1/2 way down the lift line. The main lift base. Looking back up the lift line from the base.
The lift's counterweight. On the counterweight I could make out the initials "BMc" - Bob McCann. The lift's flywheel at the base. An old sign frozen into the ground: "Do Not Ski OUT OF LINE"
An emergency stop plug mid-way up the lift. Another view of the lift and ski hill. A Fischer Superglass rental ski. The rental ski rack in the lodge - 150 cm to 190 cm.
The lift house at the top of the upper ski slope (above the Steese Highway). Drive wheels are in the collapsing structure. But the engine is no longer here.  
The "Big Rock" - a "must stop at" place for all skiers of Cleary Summit. The distictive overhang on the north edge of the rock - see Don Carson picture above. A rock wall still stands under the rock's overhang. The view from the top of the Big Rock.  The Cleary Summit Lodge roof can be seen below.
A panoramic shot taken from on top of the "Big Rock".


Cleary Summit Lodge Fire, 29 January 2008

[Photo credits: Chuck Johnson]


Ed Plumb's Cleary Summit Lodge Fire Pictures

(Click on any of the images in the series below to expand to full size)

[Photo credits: Ed Plumb]


Cleary Summit Ski Lodge Burns Down

By Tim Mowry, Fairbanks News Miner
Published January 30, 2008

The oldest piece of downhill skiing history in Fairbanks went up in flames on Tuesday morning.

The deserted A-frame lodge at the old Cleary Summit Ski Area at 21 Mile Steese Highway burned to the ground around 10 a.m., destroying the final piece of Fairbanks’ oldest alpine ski area. The lodge had been closed for the past 15 years after Cleary Summit shut down in 1993.

News of the fire has yet to spread through the Fairbanks ski community, but those who have heard about it were bummed.

“It’s sad to hear,” said Scott Grundy, who spent more than 30 years skiing at Cleary Summit as part of the Maverick Ski Patrol. “It’s the end of an era.”

The three-story, 7,000-square-foot lodge was built in the early 1960s to replace another lodge that had burned down in the late ’50s. It was the fourth of four lodges that were built at Cleary Summit, all of which were destroyed by fires. The other three lodges were built on the opposite side of the Steese Highway.

“It was a pretty big landmark,” said Roger Evans, who owns and operates Moose Mountain Ski Resort in the Goldstream Valley, one of three downhill areas in Fairbanks.

Growing up in Fairbanks, Evans started skiing at Cleary Summit in the mid-1950s when he was 5 years old and the lodge was located on the opposite side of the Steese Highway.

“I learned how to ski at Cleary Summit,” said Evans, reached by cell phone at Snowbasin, Utah, where he had just finished a day of skiing on 2 feet of fresh powder. “When we were kids, the Steese Highway was closed at Cleary Summit so you could ski across the road.”

Steve and Brenda Birdsall, who own and operate Mount Aurora Skiland less than a mile up the road from the old Cleary Summit ski area, owned the old lodge.

While the building had fallen into disrepair as a result of age, lack of maintenance and vandalism, the Birdsalls were still hoping to develop it into some kind of enterprise. Steve Birdsall said he had recently talked with some Japanese tourist companies that expressed interest in the building.

The building was not insured, Steve Birdsall said.

Ed Plumb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, spotted a trickle of smoke coming from under the lodge’s eves as he drove by at 9:35 a.m. on his way back to Fairbanks after taking ice measurements on the Chatanika River.

“It’s just like what you would see coming out of a chimney, but there was no chimney,” Plumb said.

Within a few minutes, the smoke intensified and the lodge was engulfed in flames, he said. Plumb and other passers-by who had stopped when they saw the smoke yelled to see if anyone was in the lodge before calling 911 to alert Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers and the state fire marshal are investigating the cause of the fire, according to Sgt. Rodney Johnson.

According to Plumb, there was an orange pickup truck stuck in a ditch in front of the lodge with the keys in it and the door open. The truck had been there an hour earlier when they went by but the door wasn’t open, Plumb said.

One of the rumors that Brenda Birdsall heard is that someone’s car had broken down Monday night and the driver attempted to start a fire in the lodge to say warm, she said. The Birdsalls have had problems with vandalism at the old lodge for several years, she said.

“It’s not the first time someone has stayed there,” she said.

Started in 1949 by Bob and Sylvia McCann, along with partner Link Imeson, Cleary Summit Ski Area was the first downhill ski area in Fairbanks. The area boasted ski hills on both sides of the Steese Highway and had a total of 900 vertical feet.

It was a mom-and-pop effort that featured rope tows on both sides of the highway until they were replaced by more modern T-bar lifts, first on the lower part of the mountain in the late ’50s and early ’60s and then on the upper mountain in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Homemade snowmaking equipment was added in the ’80s.

“The whole place was a bevy of activity during its heyday in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” said Bevine McCann Morse, daughter of Bob McCann, who died in 1996.

She remembers selling lift tickets and food in the lodge as a young girl and playing on the slopes every weekend.

“It was lots of fun,” said McCann Morse, who now lives in the Seattle area.

Her father built the lodge by hand and took great pride in it, McCann Morse said. He added a kitchen, dining area and other rooms over the years.

“It was a magnificent building,” she said.

Logan Ricketts, 40, started skiing at Cleary Summit when he was only 5 years old and described himself as a “lodge rat” at the old lodge.

“All my fondest memories of growing up in Fairbanks are from Cleary Summit,” said Ricketts, who now works in the ski shop at Beaver Sports and helps coach the Moose Mountain Alpine Ski Team.

He recalled the lines of cars parked along the Steese Highway in the spring when the upper hill would open.

“In the spring, they would open up on Wednesdays and my mom would take me out of school and we’d go skiing on Wednesdays,” said Ricketts, who grew up as a good friend of Megan McCann, another one of Bob’s daughters.

He would spend weekends at the lodge, too, playing and skiing with Megan.

“It was the best environment you could ask for growing up as a kid,” Ricketts said.

The last time he walked through it a few years ago, the lodge had been “demolished” by vandals, he said.

“It was depressing to see the state of the lodge after having so many great times there,” Ricketts said.

Likewise, Grundy, 68, said he has “a lot of good memories” about Cleary Summit Ski Area. He remembers talk of putting a ramp over the highway to connect the two ski hills and recalled Imeson spending his weekends in the lift tower knocking sheaves into place so the T-bar lift and rope tow would work properly. The ski patrol’s aid room was attached to the lodge and was barely big enough to get a stretcher in, he said.

Just recently, Grundy said he recalled a sign on the wall in the aid room that illustrated the ski area’s different runs.

“I was just thinking a week or so ago of trying to get that picture to preserve it,” he said. “I guess I was too late.”

Man arrested in connection with Cleary Summit lodge fire

By Tim Mowry, Fairbanks News Miner
Published January 31, 2008

Alaska State Troopers arrested a 22-year-old Fairbanks man in connection with the fire that destroyed the old Cleary Summit Ski Area lodge Tuesday.

Justin R. Lambert, 22, was arrested at the scene of the fire at 21 Mile Steese Highway around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday when he returned to extract his pickup truck from a snow berm next to the lodge as troopers were investigating the fire.

“He showed up at the scene to get the truck out of there, and he had some burnt clothing and a heavy odor of smoke on his person,” said Sgt. Brian Wassmann with the Fairbanks trooper detachment.

Though his socks were singed and his shoes had burn holes in them, Lambert denied having anything to do with the fire that destroyed the deserted 7,000-square-foot lodge, which has been closed for 15 years.

“He was uncooperative, but the physical evidence suggests he was involved in some way or another,” said Wassmann.

Lambert was charged with first-degree vehicle theft and first-degree burglary for allegedly stealing a pickup truck from a garage at 16.5 Mile Steese Highway, evidently after he got his truck stuck in the snow near the lodge Monday night.

Troopers had impounded the stolen vehicle after getting a call at 4:30 a.m. that it was creating a traffic hazard because it was stuck at the end of the driveway.

Troopers realized the vehicle had been stolen about four hours later, when they received a report that a truck had been stolen from a garage at 16.5 Mile. As a trooper was investigating the vehicle theft, the call about the Cleary Summit ski lodge fire came in around 9:30 a.m.

When he responded to the fire, the trooper discovered Lambert’s unoccupied 1979 GMC pickup in a snow berm near the lodge.

Lambert appeared at approximately 10:30 a.m. to retrieve his truck and was contacted by troopers. Lambert told troopers he had lost control of his vehicle around 11 p.m. the night before and spent the night outside next to a garage at a home on Ridge Run Lane off Fairbanks Creek Road. However, Lambert was unable to show troopers any tracks or a location where he had bedded down.

The trooper who investigated the stolen truck incident before responding to the fire noted that the treads on Lambert’s athletic shoes matched the prints leading to the garage at 16.5 Mile, leading troopers to believe he was responsible for the vehicle theft.

Troopers are trying to determine if Lambert intentionally set fire to the lodge, Wassmann said.

“We’re investigating the fire as a possible arson,” he said. “We don’t know if he went in there and torched the place.

“If he went in there to warm up and started a fire (in the woodstove) and it started a chimney fire, that’s not necessarily intentional. You have to intentionally burn a structure down.”

Lambert did not provide troopers with an explanation for the strong smell of smoke on him or his burnt clothes.

The whole thing “looks weird,” Wassmann said.

Lambert is being held at the Fairbanks Correctional Center on $10,000 bail. He was also charged with driving with a revoked license.

Anyone who may have inadvertently given Lambert a ride to the garage or back to his vehicle where it was stuck on Monday night or Tuesday morning is asked to call troopers, Wassmann said.

“If someone gave him a ride or helped him out, we’d really be interested in knowing about that,” he said.



~  Documents  ~

To the right are excerpts from the 1982 State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources study entitled: "Ski Potential: Fairbanks Area".  Cleary Summit was studied for pros and cons concerning future development options.


~  MAPS  ~

The 1975 topo map to the right where the Cleary Summit ski area is in relation to Fairbanks  (click on map if you want to enlarge it)

topo_clearysummit.jpg (247442 bytes)

This zoomed in topo view shows the location of the Cleary Summit ski area, and the location of the old and new A-frames (click on map if you want to enlarge it)


topo_zoom_clearysummit.jpg (188614 bytes)

Research Correspondence 
[Roger Evans, Oct 2004 email excerpts] 

When i started skiing cleary it was the mid 50's.  there were 2 rope tows above the highway, and a lodge up there too.  in the late 50's or early 60's they put in a t-bar at the bottom.  the runs were already there, and i think before my time, say late 40's or early 50's there had been a rope tow down there too and they jumped the road which was closed in the winter.  the highway was widened in the 50's so that was curtailed.   later the upper rope tows were removed and an upper t-bar installed.  there was never a chairlift.

i looked at your web site.  your location for cleary is a bit off  [TK note: map fixed on 10/21/04], and i know they were open in the mid 50's 'cause i was skiing there by then.  1959 might have been the year of the lower t-bar and the new a-frame lodge.  i think it started in the very early 50's or even earlier.  i'll ask some of our elders, who are still around.

what you have circled is the upper bowl above the road where the longer of the 2 ropes i told you about was.  it was later replaced by the upper t-bar. there is a "gravel pit" shown on the map with 2 buildings shown above the road.  the one by the road was the lodge when i was a kid (yes the map is very dated).  it burned down in the late 50's.  that was when the lower/longer t-bar was installed and the a-frame lodge built near it, BELOW the road.  the building shown below the road was not the lodge but farther down in the valley, built by bill whitcher, long time operator of skiland who died just last year.

the area below the road went down the long flat ridge and into the valley to the northwest of it down to about the C in willow Creek.  later, probably in the 70's or early 80's, the upper t-bar was installed, as well as a 1200' long beginner poma down the east side of that same flat ridgeline (ah, new information).

the poma and the upper t-bar, and the snowmaking system (ah, more info...installed in the 80's) was all sold to hilltop after skiland put in a chairlift a mile away with twice the vert, and cleary closed.    there actually are no more towers or wires, except for a few old falling down wooden tower structures from the lower t-bar.  cleary never had lights.


[Tim Kelley, Oct 2004 web search] 

While doing web search for the Anton Larsen Pass ski area, I found a humorous posting, on www.kadiak.org, that was related to Cleary Summit.  During the 1950's just to the southwest of Cleary Summit there was a White Alice communications station on Pedro Dome.  A man named Richard Engblom worked there.  "Sven" was this guy's nickname that he acquired in the military.  Because of Cleary Summit, Mr. Engblom would never lose his nickname.  Here's his story:

"There was a ski area just off the hill from Pedro Dome - Cleary Summit Ski area - where I learned to ski. The owner, Bob McCann, and I were on good talking terms as we were, in effect, neighbors. And when his sister came to visit him he introduced me to her. Jane - meet Sven. So started a courtship. It wasn't until after we were engaged that Jane found out my name was really Richard. She almost had a fit. "I will not go through life being part of Dick and Jane!" She figured we would be the butt of unimaginable jokes that would plague us from then on. So, Sven it was. Kinda hard to explain to my parents why Jane kept calling me "Sven" when they called me "Dicky"! Quite obvious why I stuck with Sven."

[Don Carson, 15 October 2005 email excerpt] 

I was stationed at Ladd AFB and lived in Haynes Hall, the $7,000,000 building closest to the Cushman Gate. I worked for the Midnight Sun, the Base newspaper and ended up being the Editor. I also managed and ran the Rendezvous auto and motorcycle race track for two years and taught skiing and helped Bob McCann and Link Imeson run and maintain the original rope tow.

We had the base paper printed at Jessen's Weekly and I met my wife working there. We have just celebrated our 52 wedding anniversary.

[Chuck Johnson, 05 January 2011 email excerpt] 
I ran across your website while Googling the Maclaren Area, one of our favorite places in the world to go play.  From there I followed your link to the ALSAP site and your story about Dick (Sven) and Jane.  I went to work at the Pedro Dome White Alice Site on Feb. 2, 1962 and Sven was my supervisor.  He and I are still in contact.  By the way the White Alice Communications System System (WACS) was communications, not radar.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Alice_Communications_System  We provided communications for the DEW Line Radars sites as well as the Alaska AC&W Radar sites and a lot of our sites were located adjacent to radar sites.  During the 60's I ski patrolled at both the Cleary Summit Ski Area as well as the Skiland Ski Area where my wife, Margaret and I now live.  I've attached pictures of how Pedro appeared back then and now.
I started cross country skiing back then thanks to Jim Mahaffey and am still at it.  I maintain a 5K loop around the top the of hill here at Skiland and groom multi-use winter trails here in the Cleary Summit and Chatanika area.  You can check us out at www.clearysummit.com 
Pedro Dome in the 1960's Pedro Dome in 2010

[Robert Christerson, 11 December 2018 email excerpt] 

I worked at Hilltop Ski Area 12 years ..we helped do world Olympics 2001 but I forgot which year we went up to Cleary Summit after purchasing the t-bar surface lift and the dopplemeyer surface lift ..and a couple of snow maker guns plus electric boxes and water lines for snowmaking ..we of course loved the lodge and stayed there 2 weeks or 3 on completion of lift removal disassemble process ..there was already evidence of squatters there then but hilltop employees had permission to camp out there to get lifts and stuff .. One of my coworkers played a joke for my birthday and dressed up a mannequin ( display for ski goggles or clothing ) and put her in attic room the last top floor room of lodge at top of stairs for a joke.  i was so shocked I dropped an unlit cigarette from my open mouth as I was actually on way outside building to smoke one ..anyway the mannequin stayed there and when some potential buyers looking to buy lodge Japanese or Chinese ..they took one look at that mannequin in attic and just busted out laughing it was so funny they were taking pictures ...but we are still sad the lodge went goodbye ..we are still angry about it and sad.

[Isaac Firesmith, 01 September 2022 email] 

September 2022 Photos of Lodge Remains



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