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Divide Ski Area

1939 to Late 1940's

Name of Ski Area: Divide Ski Area, Mile 12 Ski Area, Lost Lake
Location: Seward, Mile 12 of the Seward Highway at a location called Divide (the watershed divide between Resurrection and Kenai River drainages), approximately 1500 feet by trail to the west.  The trail would take you to the top of ridge, where the cabin and rope tow were situated.  The ski hill went downhill to the west from the top of the ridge, to Ski Lake.
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Ski Jump
Dates of Operation: 1939 to Late 1940's, ski cabin used into the late 1950's
Who Built It?: The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), site picked by Joe Werner and the Seward Ski Club.
Base/Top/ Vertical Drop:

Base: ~750' / Top: ~900' / Vertical: ~150'

Lifts: Rope tow.  Original tow was powered by a Model A Ford engine.  The Seward Ski Club installed this tow for about 100 dollars.  It is possible in the 1940's that the military added a 2nd rope tow to this ski area, but this fact has not been verified.
Facilities: The Seward Ski Club began work on a cabin as soon as the ski area was cleared by the CCC.  But the Chugach National Forest deemed this structure too shoddy (see reference below), so the club built a smaller cabin to on the ridge to the north of the original site.  There was also "night skiing" by use of gas lanterns lining the ski area.
History: In 1939 the CCC cleared this ski area with guidance and help from the Seward Ski Club and the Chugach National Forest.  The Seward Ski Club built a shelter cabin here.  During WWII the U.S. Army used this site for recreation and troop training.  And likely the Army provided support in operating this ski area.  After WWII the Seward Ski Club was reissued a permit by the CNF to operate the ski area.
In Mary J. Barry's book Seward, Alaska: A History of the Gateway City, Vol. III: 1924-1993, she writes: "The [Seward] Ski Club decided to develop the Lost Lake route (also known as Mile 12 and Divide), as it offered possibilities of skiing into the early summer months."

"During 1939, young men employed by the CCC program cut a trail from the highway to a site the Ski Club intended to use for a cabin.  Club members cut logs for the cabin and assembled a ski tow and motor during November 1939.  A call was issued in December for more helpers to build the cabin, so the skiing season at Lost Lake could open on New Year's Day with the ski tow in operation."

"Thirty-five people showed up for skiing at the new course at Mile 12 during the new year weekend.  Since the cabin was still unfinished, they set up a warm tent with benches and stove at the bottom of the hill.  Construction of the cabin was completed and the ski course smoothed and read for action by December 1940.  The club members donated all the work.  Gentry Schuster presided over the club during 1940 - 1941."

"About 25 skiers turned up at the opening there in January 1941, with Oscar Watsjold in charge of the Outdoor Committee, which prepared the slope and made arrangements for lunch and firewood.  Fifty skiers took to the Mile 12 slopes two weeks later.  The neophytes practiced controlled skiing (turns and snowplows) and as a result there were less headlong rushes down the slope and fewer falls.  The members set up facilities for the public and packed down the new snow on the course.  Three slopes were completed at Mile 12 - for beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers.  Oscar Watsjold headed the Ski Club during 1941-1942."

A rope tow from this ski area is possibly the one that Tom Steward of Juneau bought for 50 dollars after World War II.  Tom had the tow shipped to Juneau where the Juneau Ski Club installed it at their 2nd Meadow Ski Hill on Douglas Island.

Seth DePasqual interviewed Oscar Watsjold on 14 December 2005 and Oscar said that the Divide Ski Area cabin was eventually burned down by vandals.  According to Mary J. Barry's book "Seward, Alaska: A History of the Gateway City, Vol. III: 1924-1993", the cabin burned in September of 1959.

Sources of Information:

Oscar Watsjold; Linda Yarborough, Lesli Schick and Seth DePasqual of the Chugach National Forest, Heritage Departmen; Mary J. Barry, author of "Seward, Alaska: A History of the Gateway City, Vol. III: 1924-1993"; Richard Houghton


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

~  PHOTOS  ~

These two pictures (possibly from 1942) show skiers at the Divide Ski Area.  The picture on the left shows what looks like a rope going into a tow engine shack that is next to a log cabin.  The tow rope can be seen in front of the two skiers in the picture to the right.

(click on either image to expand them)

[Photo Credits:  Robert C. Lewis collection, UAA Consortium Library Archives]

Lewis_Divide_1940s_soldier.jpg (58788 bytes)

Lewis_Divide_1940s_twoskiers.jpg (65950 bytes)


Civilian Conservation Corps Divide Ski Area documents, courtesy of the Chugach National Forest, Heritage Department

(Click on any image to expand it)

Telegram approving start of work on ski area An existing cat trail would be improved for a ski trail first, ski area cleared later Gentry Shuster letting local skiers know the status of the Divide Ski area, Model A motor to be used for rope tow engine Regional CNF District Ranger working with ski club on ski area design (page 1)
Ski area design (page 2) CCC work order - clear ski area and trails for $360.00 CCC work order for ski area - stamped: COMPLETED CNF concern with the Seward Ski Club's unfinished cabin
Another letter to "rebuild the shelter cabin" Cover letter for site maps that follow ... Ski area map.  Note: tow engine house and cabin are on the top of a ridge Old and new shelter cabins on top of ridge
  Design for new Seward Ski Club cabin In 1940 heavy equipment was to be used to widen the trail to the ski area  
Chugach National Forest Special Use Permit Cards for the Divide Ski Area
1941 - ski cabin, permit to Seward Ski Club 1941 - ski area, permit to Seward Ski Club 1945 - CNF ski area permit was in the name of the Seward Ski Club and the U.S. Army in different years. 1948 - permit reissued to Seward Ski Club
  1954-1958 permit for cabin use to Seward 4H Club  

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo shows where the Divide area is located, 12 miles north of Seward.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_divide.jpg (191446 bytes)

A zoomed in 1995 topo map of the Divide area shows the general location of where the Divide Ski Area once existed.

(click on this map to expand it)

Research Correspondence 
[Seth DePasqual - 27 February 2006 email excerpt, notes from an interview with Oscar Watsjold] 

The first big "to do" concerning Seward skiing was the Divide Ski Area.

As far as any stories go related to Divide, he [Oscar] mentioned that they would "night ski" sometimes after hanging a multitude of gas lanterns on the trail. Apparently everybody had one in those days so it wasn't too hard to get a bunch of them together for the trail to be adequately lit. He said that the Divide and Manitoba resorts never operated simultaneously. The Manitoba operation was essentially an upgrade and as efforts shifted from one resort to the other, so too did related interest.



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