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Deer Mountain

1930's - 1940's

Name of Ski Area: Deer Mountain
Location: Ketchikan, to the east of town off the Deer Mountain Trail near the top of Deer Mountain.
Type of Area: Ski hill, natural terrain
Dates of Operation: 1930's - 1940's  (Still skied and snowboarded occasionally)
Who Built It?: Ketchikan pioneers.  The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) build a 3 mile trail up Deer Mountain.
Base/Vertical Drop:


Lifts: None
Facilities: Shelter cabin
History: Ketchikan pioneers hauled building supplies almost 3000 feet up Deer Mountain to build a log ski lodge / shelter cabin.  The exact date that this structure was built is unknown.  The original lodge burned down the night before Pearl Harbor was bombed, December 7th, 1941.  Soon after a replacement shelter was built (see Al Tavis story below).
Sources of Information:

Gilbert Aegerter; Pete Ellis; Mary Ida Henrikson; Al Tavis; Lucile King; Doris Bordine


Does anyone have pictures of skiing at the Deer Mountain (or current pictures of the vicinity) that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?

~  PHOTOS  ~

1946 Ketchikan High School Annual picture, courtesy of Al Tavis

  View from the old Deer Mountain Shelter Cabin
[Photo credit: Al Tavis]

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo map shows the location of the Deer Mountain skiing site relative to the City of Ketchikan.

(click on this map to expand it)

This zoomed in topo map shows the estimated location of the Deer Mountain ski lodge and skiing area.

(click on this map to expand it)

[Map provided by Cruiser at www.alaskatide.com, A Place for Collectors of the Alaska Sportsman Magazine.]

Research Correspondence 

[Gilbert Aegerter - 04 November 2005 email excerpt] 

I grew up in Ketchikan and learned to ski there -- but not at the Harriet Hunt site.

The first skiing was done way, WAY back when on Deer Mountain above town.  When she was a girl my mom and her friends would go up there. There was a log cabin set on a shoulder of the mountain overlooking the town, and folks would go up there, ski and spend the night. Eventually the cabin burned down -- not sure exactly when, but it was well before the 60s. You can still see traces of the foundation, though, just off the Deer Mountain trail.

When I was in high school in the 70s, a group of dads led by a guy whose name I'll have to dredge up later, put together a rope tow at what became known as Ski Corner, which was at the last turnoff before the final road into Harriet Hunt Lake. I can't believe there was more than 50-60 feet of vertical, but man we thought we were in the big time! On a good weekend, there would be a couple hundred people there! so it was extremely crowded.  People would be sledding on the road -- there was a long hill just before Ski Corner -- and snowmobilers would tow skiers back into Harriet Hunt Lake on long tow ropes. You didn't want to fall off halfway in deep snow!

The best year at Ski Corner was probably 72-73 -- just perfect snow and weather that year. Unfortunately, I broke my leg that February there going off a jump.

After that there was considerable pressure to provide a little safer area. The Ketchikan Ski Club moved the tow engine all the way out to Harriet Hunt and tried to set up a tow rope out there. I never skied in Ketchikan again -- college intervened. I think the area operated extremely fitfully in the late 70s, and I'm not sure which year it finally went kaput.

You might get more info from the Tongass Historical Museum in Ketchikan.


[Pete Ellis - 28 October 2007 letter on www.sitnews.us] 

"As Craig Moen indicates there are ski areas on the island and, in even more ancient times, there were even more locations. At one time we had a ski area on the Perseverance Trail complete with a ski tow hauled in and set up with Frank Klepser having been the principal motivator for that endeavor. Long before that and near the top of Deer Mountain there was a ski lodge built by some earlier local pioneers who hauled the lodge material all the way up the mountain in order to take advantage of those slopes. Unfortunately it burned to the ground and was never re-built but it must have been a major undertaking and challenging source of winter recreation. The remains of the lodge are still visible in the summers when the snow has disappeared and in the area that now serves as a lookout over the channel prior to a climb on up to the top. I have never seen any pictures but presumably some exist and should be located.

Unfortunately we seem to be short of winter snow cover except for a rather narrow spectrum of the winter months when snow does accumulate although not in sufficient amounts to provide an extended downhill surface area at Harriet Hunt."

[Mary Ida Henrickson - 21 & 24 November 2007 emails] 

when I was a very little girl 55 yrs ago or so, my older sister Louise (died 2002) and my father Harold Henrikson (died 1953), used to hike up Deer Mountain every weekend to ski, 10 years ago there was a good sized snow boarding crowd up Deer Mt. I have pictures of my sister on her skis, as soon as I dig them out I will send them to you.

Then, about 20 years ago there was a group of athletic young men and women who built a rope tow and runs at Harriet Hunt Lake, there was a warm up hut and it was a blast. Rosie Roppel was very active in the rope tow ski area, I will ask her to send an email.

There is an active snow machine club now, but the main problem is there isn't the snow there was in the old days, There are perhaps 7 days a row on the very outside w/snow at sea level, but Deer Mt. has a wonderful snow fall every year, there is a good trail, it is a hard climb and few do it to the extent they did 50 years ago.

Thanks for the letter to sitnews and the lead to your site. Its a labor of love and thanks for doing it.

[2nd email]

I didn't ski at Deer Mt. I was too young, my Sister Louise was 10 yrs older than me. She said they were great memories with Dad...they must have been so strong. What I forgot to tell you was the night the lodge burned. Mom (Mildred Henrikson) told me this story and I don't know if it was a lodge, the 1st lodge or just a hut on the hill.
Anyway, Mom said the night it burned was clear and it was during the war and everyone thought it was the Japanese and they were going to invade Ketchikan. I guess they were short on rain water.

[Al Tavis - 21 November 2007 email] 

I read Sitnews,  I lived in Ketchikan 40's-60's, graduated from High School there in 1947  A small group of us skied on Deer Mountain,  I had contacted one member in  Green Valley Az.  when I saw the Pete Ellis letter but so far no reply.  I'll work on my  story this next week, I know there is a ski picture in a High School annual, and I search my photos

[Lucille King - 7 December 2007 phone conversation] 

Lucile moved to Ketchikan in 1938.  She remembers hiking up to the ski lodge during the winter of 1939-1940.  Lucille recalled that the lodge burned down the night before Peal Harbor was bombed.  So that would have likely been December 6th, 1941.  She said that it was never determined who started the fire that burned down the old ski lodge.

[Lucille King - 7 December 2007 phone conversation] 

Lucile moved to Ketchikan in 1938.  She remembers hiking up to the ski lodge during the winter of 1939-1940.  Lucille recalled that the lodge burned down the night before Peal Harbor was bombed.  So that would have likely been December 6th, 1941.  She said that it was never determined who started the fire that burned down the old ski lodge.

[Doris Tobin Bordine - 25 March 2009 email] 

When I was in high school (KayHi) 1944-1948, I could hardly wait for winter weekends so I could climb Deer Mountain to ski.  That meant packing  my skis (until I learned to cache them near the ski cabin). sleeping bag, food etc. up the 2.5 mile trail to the cabin.  I sometimes was the only girl staying over night but we didn't think a thing about that.  I yearned to be as good a skier as Bob Moore.  I recently got some 16 mm movie film transferred to DVD disks and found a short clip of us skiing  on Deer Mountain.  The DVD was made at Alaska Moving Images Preservation Association, Anchorage, and the original film donated to their archives.  If you would like to see the little piece on my DVD, let me know.  Although we climbed Deer Mountain many times before we were married, my husband Gordon Bordine never tried skiing.  I was never a good skier and to prove it (ha!) I broke my leg in Juneau when Jim Church took me skiing when I was there on a debate team trip.  Living in Minnesota 50 years ago and seeing the skiing hills there didn't inspire me much.  They were mere bumps in the terrain.  I recall when the ski cabin burned, folks thought sure it was a signal for the Japanese to come in and bomb Ketchikan. 

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