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Curry Ski Hill

1947 to 1957

Name of Ski Area: Curry Ski Hill
Location: Curry, approximately 22 miles north of Talkeetna on the Alaska Railroad (mile 248.5), on the east bank of the Susitna River.
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Jump, Ski Trail to Curry Lookout
Dates of Operation: 1947 to 1957 (Note: the rope tow was in-operational and the ski area was used little in the years leading up to the hotel fire)
Who Built It?: The Alaska Railroad, as a winter attraction for their Curry Hotel
Base/Top/ Vertical Drop:

Base: ~550' / Top: ~750' / Vert: ~200'

Lifts: One rope tow.
Facilities: Small log ski hut (30'x20', built in 1947 and known as the "First Aid Cabin"), nearby lavish hotel, railroad only access, sliding hill next to tow rope, jumping hill
History: In the early days of the Alaska Railroad a trip from Seward to Fairbanks was a multi-day affair.  To accommodate tourists for overnight stops, the Alaska Railroad built two lavish hotels: one at McKinley Park and another at Curry.  In the 40's and 50's the Alaska Railroad promoted the Curry Hotel to skiers.  A ski area, with rope tow and jump, was built behind the hotel.  Dartmouth skier Russell Dow was contracted to build the rope tow.  The "Ski Train" to Curry, with a 1 or 2 night stay at the hotel, became a popular trip for skiers from Anchorage - until the hotel was completely destroyed by fire in 1957.
NOTE: Ralph Omholt documented his childhood memories of living at Curry from 1955 to 1958 while his parents ran the Curry Hotel.  Click HERE to go to the web page that has his very interesting and illustrated memoirs of Curry's past.
Sources of Information:

"Lavish Silence: A Pictorial Chronicle of Vanished Curry, Alaska" by Ken Marsh; Albert Bailey; John Combs' Alaska Railroad web page; "Skiing in Alaska" by Elizabeth Tower; Ralph Omholt; Kenneth Alden

Photos: Does anyone have old pictures of skiing at the Curry Ski Hill (or current pictures of the vicinity) that they would like to contribute to alsap ?

~  PHOTOS  ~

(Click on any photo to enlarge it)

(ca. 1941-1944) The pictures below were taken by Russell Dow on an Anchorage Ski Club ski train outing from Anchorage to Curry.

[Photo credits:  University of Alaska Archives, Russell Dow]

(right) The train was rocking, and so were these skiers.  Whoops, maybe not ... rock music wouldn't show up for another 10 years.  But they were having a good time anyway.




(1940's)  A skier comes up the rope tow at the Curry Ski Hill.  Notice the tripod made from poles with a return pulley hanging from it.  You can also see a power line in the background,  either for lights or the rope tow engine.  And also notice the winding ski trail in the background, for access to the ski hill from the hotel.

[Photo credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

AMHA_Curry_1940s_RopeTow1.jpg (274350 bytes)

(1940's)  A shot near the top of the Curry Ski Hill rope tow.  Notice the pulley hanging off a brace that is attached to a tree (with a ladder leaning on it).  This rope tow was nothing fancy (especially when compared to the luxurious Curry Hotel) !

And as you can see from the picture on the right ... there was no shuttle back to the hotel.

[Photo credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

AMHA_Curry_1940s_RopeTow2.jpg (296634 bytes) AMHA_Curry_1940s_TripBack.jpg (335351 bytes)

(1940's)  Taken from the west side of the Susitna River looking east, this photo shows the Curry Hotel and AKRR shops.  Behind this complex is the Curry Ski Hill area.

Above the river is an amazing 535 foot long suspension bridge for foot traffic that was built in 1924.  It allowed crossings of the Susitna River to access a trail that climbed Curry Ridge to the Curry Lookout (a.k.a the Regalvista Camp).

In Ken Marsh's book "Lavish Silence" there is an AKRR ledger that shows this bridge cost $ 5563.24 to contstruct.

[Photo credit:  www.akrails.org]

AKRAILS_Curry_1940s_looking-east.jpg (144579 bytes)

(1950s)  This telephoto shot looking across the Susitna River from the west shows the Curry Ski Hill (cleared slopes to the left).  The dirt that shows on the hill seems that it could be an area being contoured for a jump outrun.

[Photo credit:  Albert Bailey]


Bailey_Curry_1950_across-susitna-river.jpg (115570 bytes)

(1950s)  This photo was taken from the top of the Curry Ski Hill.  The ski warm-up hut and the rope tow engine house can be seen in the lower right.  Notice how the tree in the foreground has had its lower branches cut off (so skiers wouldn't run into them)!

[Photo credit:  Albert Bailey]


Bailey_Curry_1950_CurryfromSkiHill.jpg (150402 bytes)
1952 Pictures Courtesy of Cyril Schaefer
Captions by Cyril
The 'Town Hall' [ski cabin] where people met and talked about Alaska statehood (and had a few). July 4, 1952 - up past the ski building. Curry from the ski slope. Curry from across the river.  The bridge was heavily damages by a storm in August [1952].

(1940's)  Views of the Curry Hotel.

[Photo credit (left):  Alaska State Library]

[Photo credit (right):  www.akrails.org]

ASL_Curry_1940s_CurryHotel.jpg (150733 bytes) AKRAILS_Curry_1940s_hotel.jpg (110001 bytes)

(1940's)  The Curry Hotel lobby.  Because trains could not travel as fast in the 1940's passengers traveling from Seward to Fairbanks would stay overnight at Alaska Railroad built hotels at Curry or McKinley Park. 

[Photo credit:  Alaska State Library, Skinner Foundation]

ASL_Curry_1940's_Lobby.jpg (123086 bytes)

(1941)  This is a good picture that Dartmouth skier Russell Dow took.  It's a picture of the Curry Hotel's head waiter.  Next to him is a donation can and a sign that says: "The Ski Patrol Needs Your Help!  Do Your Share!"

Notice the price on the cash register: 75 cents.  Maybe that's what Russell paid for an apres-ski pitcher of beer for his friends and him !

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

Dow_Curry_1941_Waiter.jpg (138787 bytes)

(1946)  A locomotive at Curry with a rotary snow-blower.

[Photo credit:  University of Alaska Archives]

UAA_Curry_1946_SnowRotor.jpg (105177 bytes)



(1950s)  The foot suspension bridge allowed vacationers and Curry Hotel and AK Railroad workers the option of going on a 5 mile hike up Curry Ridge to the Curry Lookout.  From this point on top of the ridge there is a great view of Mt. McKinley.  No doubt skiers traveled to this shelter in the winter, and had a fun ride back to the hotel.  As of 2003, this shelter is still standing (it has had some resent renovation work done on it from members of a snowmobile club).

In Ken Marsh's book "Lavish Silence" there is an AKRR ledger that shows that in 1924 the Curry Lookout cost $ 616.60 to contstruct and the trail to this outpost cost $ 304.25.

[Photo credit:  Albert Bailey]

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Bailey_Curry_1950_lookout.jpg (57684 bytes) Bailey_Curry_1950_lookoutview.jpg (23456 bytes)

(1948)  Snowshoes at the Curry Lookout.  No doubt skis have also leaned against the walls of this outpost.

[Photo credit:  Charlie Meltwater]

Rainwater_Curry_1948_lookout.jpg (54450 bytes)

2007 Photos of the Curry Ski Hut, by Fred Trimble

Fred Trimble took these photos while on a March 2007 Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage ski-train trip.  The Alaska Railroad has restored this cabin in recent years.

    "Dead Horse Haven"  
      Possible remnants of the old ski jump can be seen near the cabin.

2005 Photos of the Curry Lookout, by Tim Kelley

(2005)  These shots are from a March ski trip up to the lookout from Troublesome Creek on the Parks Highway.


This aerial view of Curry was taken in 1950.  If you expand this view you can see the ski hill below the left end of the runway.  If you look closely you can see the log ski cabin.

(click on this image to expand it)

[Photo credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

AMHA_Curry_1950_Aerial.jpg (326079 bytes)

This topo map shows where Curry is located relative to Talkeetna.  Curry is about 22 miles north of Talkeetna via the Alaska Railroad.  There are no roads to Curry.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_curry.jpg (218171 bytes)

Zooming in on the topo map, you can see Curry's location on the Susitna River, the site of the old suspension foot bridge, the site of the ski hill and jump and the location of the Curry Lookout, or "Regalvista" shelter.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_curry.jpg (173782 bytes)



[Albert Bailey - phone conversation with Tim Kelley, 01 Dec 2004] 


I called Albert to ask permission to use his photos on ALSAP.  I'm glad I called, Albert is a great guy, around 80 and come to find out - he went to school in Anchorage with a couple of my wife's uncles.  He took the color pictures above with an Argus C3 in 1949.  Albert worked in Curry in 1949 and 1950.  He lived in the trailer next to the last quonset hut in the above pictures.  He had a bunch of interesting info.  He was working in the Curry roundhouse for the Alaska Railroad.  One day he helped Al Bratton, a boilermaker for the AKRR, make a long (8 foot) splice in a rope to be used for the ski tow.  Al worked with Russell Dow and others to make the rope tow and jump at the Curry Ski Hill.

Albert mentioned that the man standing in the entrance of this Curry Lookout photo was Cliff Hudson.  Albert hiked across the Susitna River suspension bridge and up to the lookout with Cliff one day.  He said in the winter Cliff would take skiers from the Curry landing strip up to the lookout.  Then the skiers would ski back to Curry.  Albert also said skiers used to ski down the ridges to the east of Curry.

Albert's photography came in handy recently.  A snowmobile group (the Curry Ridge Riders from the South Denali region) used his photos to help authentically rebuild and restore the lookout structure.

[The History of the Curry Hotel - excerpt from alaskarails.org web site


Curry began its colorful life as a section station for maintenance of Way.  In 1922 A.E.C. Chairman Fredrick Mears named the station at mile 248.5 after Congressman Charles F. Curry of California, chairman of the Committee on Territories.  Charles Curry was a heavy supporter of the railroad in congress and the honor was accepted with a warm note of thanks.

Because Curry was halfway between Seward and Fairbanks, it presented an ideal spot for travelers and rail workers to spend the night during the two-day steam train trip.  Furthermore, a new stylish resort would hold the potential to draw additional passenger revenue.

Billed as "a palace in the wilderness where accommodations are modern, inviting and comfortable and the cuisine of highest order," the Curry Hotel opened in 1923.  A special 14 passenger gas car service operated to Willow or Montana Creeks for trout and grayling fishing.

As the popularity of the resort grew, so did its offerings.  A suspension footbridge across the Susitna River was built in the summer of 1924.  Amazingly, this bridge was 537 feet long, 4 feet wide and was hung between two 31 foot high metal towers.  Across the bridge, atop a 2600 foot mountain, a shelter house was erected for the benefit of tourists and others.  This was called Regalvista because of the magnificent view of Mount McKinley from this point.  This was a 5 mile hike over the Meadow Lake Trail.  By 1925, Curry was already becoming a very popular resort.

On July 18, 1926, the engine house and power plant at Curry were destroyed by fire caused when coal dust came in contact with overheated stack.  A rotary snowplow and one locomotive was damaged.  A new engine house and power plant were built in two separate buildings.

In 1926 a two-story annex 36 feet by 72 feet, connected by a 65 foot covered balcony to the hotel, was constructed, and tents erected to take care of the increased tourist business.  The hotel grounds were improved by clearing and removing stumps from a small additional area in view of the hotel.  With little additional expense, a three hole golf course, a tennis  court and a small swimming pool were constructed.  The deck of the suspension bridge across the Susitna River was also reconstructed.  In 1927 a chicken house, hog house and barn were built.  The Curry Hotel was proving to be one of the best attractions along the ARR.

The Curry engine house was destroyed by fire in 1933.  A locomotive was in the engine house and was badly damaged.  Since it was obsolete and due to be retired, it was not considered a loss.  Construction of a 24 foot by 242 foot engine house took place soon thereafter.

In 1935-1936 an addition was built on the hotel which connected it to the annex.  The expansion added twelve rooms with private bathrooms, four private bathrooms to serve four rooms in the main hotel and six multi-bedrooms without private bathrooms.

Although Curry seemed to be a "dream come true", dark clouds were looming on the horizon.  With the construction of the McKinley Park Hotel in 1939 and faster train service later on, the popularity of Curry began to wane.  However, the railroad continued to put its faith in Curry.  In 1944 the railroad built employee's dormitories and in 1945 the lobby and several rooms were remodeled to permit the installation of a cocktail lounge and bar.

Disaster again struck Curry on June 6, 1945 when a hand fired locomotive-type steam boiler in the power plant exploded due to low water in the boiler.  The plant building was demolished and a new similar building, 62 feet by 44 feet was constructed as a replacement.

The railroad also began marketing weekend excursions to Curry in 1947.  These proved to be very popular so a ski slope and jumping area were cleared and a cabin built.  In 1948 Army types barracks were assembled at Curry as well as Anchorage, Healy and Fairbanks.  Also that same year, the railroad began promoting a "Fisherman's Special."  Fisherman could catch a train from Anchorage to Curry.  They would leave on a Saturday, return on Sunday.  Fisherman could get off any place along the line and were picked up on the return trip.

Curry's fate was finally sealed on Tuesday morning, April 9, 1957 when a fire burned the 75 room hotel to the ground killing three people.  The Railbelt Reporter said, "All that remained of the historic structure were smoldering ashes, two tall chimneys and a tangle of pipes."  Citing safety issues, the railroad removed or razed all structures.  Today, all that remains is a large meadow and a few interpretive sign boards.

An important footnote from section foreman Bruce Gough, dated 12/29/02:  "This year the Nordic Ski Club will be going to Curry for their annual ski train trip. This will be a  first for them. As you know, Curry had a ski tow lift located behind the the hotel on the east side. A part of Alaska history that is long gone but not forgotten by a small few people."

[Info on the Curry Lookout - excerpt from Charlie Rainwater's memoirs on alaskarails.org web site


There was a beautiful suspension bridge crossing the Big Susitna River at the north side of the hotel yard. It has a large sign saying, "Danger! No trespassing!" blocking the entrance. I think the bridge was designed for foot and pack animal crossing. The big suspension cables were heavily galvanized and in excellent condition. The droppers that help the floor joists were 3/8" double dipped galvanized rods that pierced the floor joists and the under side of the joists were protected by a large galvanized washer with double hex nuts holding it in place. The 2"x12" decking was showing considerable rot as well as some of the joists. The suspension cables were fastened to eyebolts anchored deep into the solid rock wall of the canyon. On the hotel side, the cables were attached to huge eyebolts embedded in a multi-ton concrete dead man then elevated to the top of large timber posts that had cast steel shoes that allowed the cable to bend over on its way across the river. These posts showed some deterioration at their bases, but not bad. People disregarded the warning signs and crossed the river at will. The crossings lead to a trail ending at the lookout cabin where the Chulitna River drainage and the rugged mountains associated with, and a spectacular view of Mt. McKinley. The cabin was a nice little structure that had all windows on the mountain side. Some skilled artists had painted a remarkably good image of Mt. McKinley on the wall board of the cabin. The artist could look out the window and paint directly on the wall. This was nice, for many times the mountain would be obscured or partially so when the hikers arrived at the cabin. At least they could see what the mountain could look like on a nice day. There has been speculation that Sydney Laurence spent some time at the cabin and possibly painted the likeness. I have been told that part of the wall board had been cut away and the painting gone. I was sorry to hear that.

[Ralph Omholt - 08 December 2005 email excerpts] 

I was living in Curry, when the hotel burned, my father (Arnie Omholt) had the hotel leased from the ARR.

When I was there (1955 – 58), there wasn’t any real skiing activity to talk about. A few of the Army “Alaska Communications System” (ACS) guys used the left-over hotel recreation stuff & walked up the slope. One guy (Andy Anderson) actually used the simple ski-jump. The cabin in those days was known as the “First Aid Cabin” – nothing in it but a 5-gal can with a red cross on the side & a few bandages in it.

There was no form of commercial ski activity, at all.

The rope-tow engines were there, but were never used; the rope was pretty rotten & the pulleys were lying on the ground. I borrowed some skis as a kid & did a couple of adventure runs – for which I got grounded – for going alone. I remember the brush sticking up through the snow & was amazed that I didn’t get knocked down; I never figured out how I missed it all. Being the typical dumb 8-yr old kid, I did the suicide run & it just worked out safely.

My dad had plans to re-open the ski slope, but with the fire, that never materialized. After the fire, I don’t recall any skiing, at all.

[Walter Brown - 04 June 2008 email] 

ACS at Curry, Alaska, 1948 and 1949

I was stationed at Curry, after an assignment in Healy.  The ACS offfices were in NW  area, adjacent to the Main Lobby Desk and Mgrs Office - across from the freight office and the telegraphers office.  Also there was a Small bldg located just North of the hotel with an emergency generator. To serve the Western Electric Carrier Telephone, Eq. and the Radio transmitter and receiver.   There were two ACS, Military  personnel, at that time. I also assisted the ARR telephone, telegraph lineman, on the mntc of the outside pole line, in his territory to the North and south of Curry.  The lineman had a Gas powered cart that he was authorized to use for mntc.  He lived with his wife and daughter in one of the quonsets.   I also remember holding  his first child, Candace.  I enjoyed getting out of the hotel, climbing poles, and assisting Don  ------------.  Don taught me many good and valuable  things,  I think his home was Colorado.   I remember the Mgr and his wife, the head house keeper, the first lady school teacher, and  AL Bratton.  Jack the track walker.   I had a room on the main level  in back, overlooking the Susitna, and the room was adjacent to the Head house keepers.  My partner Sgt. Bud ------ was older and had more time in the military, WW2.   I remember the Morse and Knudsen crews that had work trains on sidings to the south of Curry.  Feedin Black Bears pancakes by hand on the steps of the kitchen car.  Meeting and catching salmon at Montana Red 's cabin, for his team, meeting the author of Alaska Wild life stories - Russel Annebel, he wrote for FIELD and STREAM and other mags.    The road house in Talkeetna, that was a base for the gamblers, and ladies in the summer to accommodate the construction workers, meeting the lovely Tommy there, watching the road crew of  Indian  Ladies do mntc of the track.  The reading a posting of a gentleman's live in Curry, 1955 and thereabouts awakened very pleasant memories.     Thanks.     Thanks for the memories.

[Ken Alden - 21 November 2008 email] 

My name is Ken Alden and I was stationed at the Hotel from the fall of 52 until April 53 to serve on the skiing and ice skating outdoor team  I was a ski jumping champ in high school, Edward Little, Auburn, Maine in 1950, and was chosen because of experience.  I was the ski and ice skating instructor and all the miscellaneous duties that went with it.  I cherish  those memories and have a large assortment of black and white pictures taken while I was there including some staff pics. Etc.  From the park I was stationed at Naknek for the summer of 53 until rotation in the fall to a radar station in Maine, just lucky I guess.  I skied Curry on St. Patricks day 53 when a local boy was caught in an avalanche.  I made a jump on the discontinued jump with slalom skis while there.  I am still skiing  mostly on Saddleback Mt. In Rangeley Maine as often as possible.  At 76 I have slowed it down some but still enjoy the runs.  I was surfing for Curry when I found you site and I am delighted!!!!!!   My dream has been to go back some day but hasn't worked out , yet...  I also drove a tour school bus for the G.I's to take pictures and owned my on car and drove many hundreds of miles out to "Overlook?"   I would  be more than willing to send you pictures with captions as much as I can remember.  We were all AF at the hotel, approx. 50.

Kenneth L. Alden   ex A/2 airman
Leeds, Me.



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