Fire Island AFS Ski Area
1957 to 1979
|An Article about the Fire Island Ski Area|
|This is an article that Tim Kelley wrote for the November 2004 issue of "Nordic Skier" (a newsletter for Alaskan nordic ski clubs) and the October 2004 issue of "Our Times", the newsletter of retired FAA employees that were based in Alaska.|
The Lost Ski Area of Fire Island
Like many skiers that frequent Kincaid Park, I often take in the awesome views of distant mountains from the park’s highpoints. The Western Chugach to the east. The Kenai Mountains to the south. The volcanoes and peaks of the Aleutian Range and Tordrillo Mountains to the west. The Alaska Range and Talkeetna Mountains to the north.
And like many Kincaid Park skiers, while gazing at distant peaks I often look right past Fire Island. We folks in Anchorage don’t often think much of this little island. This is probably because it’s a hard place to get to and there is not much of a reason to go there. Besides glancing down at this island as we fly into the airport, we don’t pay much attention to it.
But this summer I found out there is more to Fire Island than many may think. My wife and I got a permit to visit Fire Island from the Cook Inlet Region Corporation (CIRI) and we made three trips by boat to the island. We found this deserted island to be a beautiful place to explore. It is an island with an interesting history. And it is an island that has long harbored a lost ski area.
That’s right. There once was a ski area on Fire Island. Half a century ago, 20 years before any trails were built at Kincaid Park, skiers were riding a rope tow and skiing down a small hill - 5 miles to the west of Kincaid. There was even a small ski lodge and night skiing at Fire Island.
Back in the 80’s I remembered reading a newspaper article, which mentioned there was once a ski area at Fire Island. So when we went to the island this summer, 20 years after reading the article, trying to find remains of this old ski area was a goal. On our first trip it took a lot of bushwhacking but we finally located the ski area. On a second trip we found the tow engine and ski lodge. And on our third trip I tried to photograph as much of the ski area remains as I could.
So the obvious question is: “Who built and used this ski area?” I figured the ski area had military or FAA roots, but I didn’t know the facts. So I went searching on the Internet and I found Charlie Muhs. Charlie is the editor of “Our Times”, the newsletter for FAA retirees that once worked in Alaska. I asked Charlie if he could request from his colleagues any information about the ski area on Fire Island. Thanks to Charlie I got some good feedback and was able to piece together some of the history puzzle of Fire Island and its ski area.
Jerry Brookman gave me some good historical information on Fire Island: In the early 1950’s the United State Air Force built a radar site on Fire Island (completion date was 1951). This was one of the first four NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) radar sites the USAF built in Alaska. The other three sites built during that time were at King Salmon, Galena and Murphy Dome, north of Fairbanks. The USAF built the Fire Island radar site on a high (300’) hill in the mid-southern section of the island. The site had living quarters for up to 150 personnel stationed there, plus the needed infrastructure: operations and control center, a fuel storage facility, maintenance shops, a power plant, etc. Roads from the radar site were built leading to landing strips at the north and southwest ends of the island (however the southern strip was destroyed by the ’64 earthquake).
Another essential item that had to be developed was a pipeline to get diesel fuel from fuel barges docked in Shelter Bay, on the west side of the island, up to the site. It is my theory, based on aerial maps and the location of pipeline remains on the island, that the pipeline was the catalyst for the ski area. To get the pipeline up to the radar site, a large swath of the hill to the southwest was bulldozed. After the pipeline was laid in this section and covered, a nice wide, open slope existed to the southwest of the radar facility.
USAF personnel working at Fire Island were stationed there. Meaning – they were stuck there. There was no popping into Anchorage after work for beer and dancing. They were forced to devise their own on-island entertainment. So I figure a group of them said: “Hey – we’ve got this nice skiable hill right here, and lots of time, so lets build a rope tow!” And the ski area happened. A rope tow with electric lights on the towers was built. And a log warm-up hut for the ski area was erected. Again, this is my theory. If anyone knows that I’m wrong, I would love to have someone contact me and set the record straight.
In the early 60’s the work environment at Fire Island changed a bit. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had recently been created and it was decided to make joint use of USAF radar sites. So now a mix of FAA, USAF and Army personnel staffed the site. According to Jerry Brookman, the Army folks where there to man a part of the control center used for early warning in connection with the Nike missile batteries at Site Summit, Goose Bay and Kincaid.
It was during the 1960s that the Fire Island ski area first got lost for the first time. Former FAA’er Jim Vroomam said that during the 60’s and early 70’s he and his Fire Island colleagues had no knowledge of a ski area on the island. So apparently the rope tow wasn’t used during the 60’s and early 70’s. But the ski hill was used as a toboggan run then. Susan Ross spent from 1971 to 1974 on Fire Island. Her husband was an FAA mechanic working on the island. During this time the staffing of Fire Island was waning, only 20 or so adults lived on the island with their families. Susan mentioned that she has fond memories of zooming down the hill on homemade toboggans. And that her husband and friends tried to resurrect the ski tow, but never got it operational.
But during the latter years of radar site operations, the ski tow did come back to life. Mark Kelliher worked on Fire Island from 1974 to 1979. He said that a group of his friends got the ski tow working again. The catch was, the ski tow’s automatic shutoff didn’t work anymore. So they needed someone to man the top of the rope to make sure no one got sucked into the tow motor shack! Mark said “We only used [the lift] on weekends when we could get enough people to: run the lift, keep us in beer, food, etc. It was an island family affair.” Sounds like the ski area had a good last few years!
In 1980 a radar system was commissioned at the former Wildwood Air Force Station, near Kenai. This facility replaced the need for the radar at Fire Island. And manned operations at Fire Island were discontinued. Only an automated VORTAC site remained from then on for guiding planes enroute to Ted Stevens International Airport.
So as of 1979 or 1980, when the doors of the radar site were last closed, the Fire Island ski area was again lost. And this time I wonder if it was REALLY lost. I say this because during the early 90’s, up until 1997, massive cleanup operations were undertaken on the Fire Island radar site. All buildings, except the large Air Force water tank building, were razed. But for some reason the ski area was untouched. Why was this? Was it because no one thought the ski tow engine, towers and cabin needed to be removed? Or were the ski area remains so overgrown with alders and devil’s club that the ski area escaped detection and removal?
I imagine the FAA retirees that spent time on Fire Island have fond memories of this place - whether or not they skied or sledded the old ski hill. Fire Island is a beautiful place with many diverse and unique features. It’s a great place to explore. And like Sharon Ross said there’s “so many things to do” on this island. I definitely agree with Sharon. And I am sure I too would have enjoyed living, working and, of course, skiing on Fire Island.
I’d like to give immense thanks to the following FAA Alaska retirees for their input on Fire Island history: Jerry Brookman, Charlie Muhs, Jim Vrooman, Sharon Ross, Mark Kelliher and Ken Odsather.
[Jerry Brookman] Tim: I'm sorry to say I can't help you [with information about the ski area]. I was stationed there from July 1962 to March 1966, but wasn't a skier then (am a very poor cross-country skier now, haven't had them on for years, and was never a downhill skier). I don't recall any of the other FAA people there being skiers, either. The ski area was probably constructed and used by Air Force Personnel (626th A.C.&W. Squadron, if that is any help). I've forwarded this to Brock Laffoon, who was there during part of my tour of duty; another FAA retiree who was there during part of my tour of duty was Bert Salzman, who I believe is listed in the Alaskan Region FAA retirees list; I've tried e-mailing him in the past with no luck - maybe you will have more luck than I did. Another person I recall being out there during part of my tour of duty is Phil Kimball, who lives in the Sterling area. I'm trying to recall more of them, but the old brain cells are starting to wear out and quite a few years have passed since then!
Hope this helps.
-- Jerry Brookman
[Jerry Brookman] Tim: This is a P.S. to my earlier e-mail. Your statement regarding the manning of Fire Island is a bit off. The USAF (At that time, Alaskan Air Command, later under NORAD) was, indeed, put into operation sometime in the 1950s; I was a Philco Tech Rep at Cape Romanzof 8/15/57-8/15/58, and I recall hearing that Fire Island, King Salmon, Galena and Murphy Dome were the first four USAF Radar Sites in Alaska; the others were put in a bit later. The Air Force Historical people may be able to help you out on this, as well as when the Air Force left there (sometime in the early to mid-70s, I believe). The FAA had a VORTAC and Remote Air/Ground Communications site, separate from the USAF Radar Site, which I believe are still there.
Shortly after the formation of the FAA in the late '50s, it was decided to make "Joint Use" sites of many of the existing USAF Radar sites, to avoid duplication of effort; they were maintained by FAA personnel, and the data was remoted to both the FAA ARTCCs and USAF sites that used this data (I'm not sure what they were called - they used the USAF 'SAGE' - which I believe stood for "Semi-Automatic Ground Environment", I'm not sure why - but as of the early to mid 60s, the ones in Alaska had a local operations center, which was used for Early Warning and Ground Controlled Interception).
[Jerry Brookman] Tim: The FAA Complement on Fire Island when I was there was 11: one VOR/Comm Technician, one Radar SET, one Mechanic, and eitht Radar Technicians. The USAF had somewhere around 100, and the Army 15 or 20 (The Army people where there to man a part of the control center used for early warning in connection with the Nike batteries at Site Summit, Goose Bay, and Anchorage International Airport). As for the 800 - 1200, it's hard for me to imagine where they would put them, and what they would have been doing! It's possible that when they were constructing the site originally, there might have been something like 200 (an estimate on my part) but I can't imagine more than that.
]Hello, Charlie! I quizzed Wayland Lipscomb, who was the Section Chief for Fire Island in the 60's and early 70's, and also Gerry Brumley, my assistant during those years, both of whom visited Fire Island many times. I am no stranger there myself, and have managed arrivals and departures from both airports on numerous occasions. None of us have ever heard anything about a ski lift. I suggest that it may have been something the Air Force played with during their earlier tenure there. It can't have been much of a ski run, as Fire Island is not all that tall. In retrospect, why on earth would anybody get their jollies over a subject like this?
[Sharon Ross] Hello, my name is Sharon Ross and I spent from May, 1971 thru March 1974 on Fire Island. My husband was a mechanic there with the FAA. And we had a lot of fun at the old ski hill. To my knowledge the Air Force built the ski hill and put in the rope tow while it was a remote site. The Air Force personnel that were stationed there were not allowed to go into Anchorage, unless on leave. No weekend passes!!
On your visits to the island did you find the two lakes there? I do have pictures of the island. It might take me a bit of time to find them - mostly would be 35mm slides. If you interested in more informtion please contact me. I always thought Fire Island could be a resort type of area for the Anchorage bowl. So many things to do. Sharon R.
[Mark Kelliher] I used the Fire Island ski hill up to the end. the families did more sledding than skiing. but did other things that I wish we made a movie of. the rope tow was made by air force personnel and was dangerous because it wouldn't shut off so it had to be manned. we made a ski jump at the bottom of the hill and Ernie Mack was the 1st and last person to try it out. As he was going down the hill for the first jump it came to everyone at the same time that it may not be a good idea to have a jump at the bottom of the hill. Ernie sailed off the jump and way into the air and kerflop. he landed perfect on the flat ground and almost broke both legs. a fun time was had by all.
Another lost ski slope was in Peters Creek, up the little valley to the right of peters creek. you go up Ski road there is a trail up there now and it's a winter snow machine area. There was a tow rope there. It was closed before we moved here in 74. sorry no pictures
[Mark Kelliher] It was when they closed down the radar and opened the radar at Kenai. after that no one lived on the Island they maintained the VOR from Anchorage. I can't remember what year that was. The air force put the lift in in the late 60's long after they made the slope. We only used it on weekends when we could get enough people to: run the lift, keep us in beer, food, etc. it was an island family affair. Just like the heated swimming pool we made for the summer.
[Ken Odsather -
02 Nov 2004 email]
Hi, my name is Ken Odsather and I was stationed on Fire
Island from 1970 to 1973 as a NAVAIDS and Communications Technician.
I enjoyed reading the articles submitted from names that were familiar
in my earlier days.
Let me start by saying that before I came on board with the FAA, I worked Civil Service at Elmendorf from 1967 to 1970. I worked for the GEEIA organization, equivalent to our F&E Branch. I made several trips to Fire Island, replacing equipment or upgrading equipment, etc. During the winter trips the ski tow was used only on the weekends, everyone worked during the day and while lights had been put on the hill, the only time that they were used was on the weekends. Fire Island was an Air Force Radar Facility and used as a backup to the Elmendorf FYQ-9 Radar/Computer system, one of many locations around Alaska that tracked aircraft traffic, especially military and foreign.
Like Sharon Ross said in her letter, people stayed on the Island and there was not a lot of things to do. Saturday was the big day at the ski hill and Sunday was the day of healing. The NCO Club could be pretty wild on Saturday nights.
I do not have any pictures of the ski lodge or skiing, they seem to have gone the way of timeless archives. I do have fond memories of our FAA outings, the warm up hut, the old military shelving that we tore apart to get the 3' by 6' sheets of metal. We rolled the front of the metal back and hooked a piece of wire to the front, then everyone that could get on, hang on or be dragged flew down the hill. It is a wonder that we didn't decapitate ourselves on those missiles. Someone would drive the 6-pack truck around the road and pick us up. We made a lot of our own beer, imported it when necessary, we had a lot of parties with great food, looked across the inlet at Anchorage thinking that we had it better on the Island than the folks in Anchorage. We always had something to do and good folks to do it with. It just doesn't get any better than that.
Of some interest, the residents of the Island were myself, Ken Odsather and former wife Gayle, Joe and Geri Cassel, Carter and Sharon Ross, Floyd and Jane Lindholm, Barak and Melba Popart, Harry Bartells and his wife, Ernie Mack and his wife, Tarry and Barbara Beyers, Jim Cartright, Felix Schnider and his wife, Jon Escala and I forget Mr. Wilson's first name.
There were 3 lakes on the Island, Big Lake, Little Lake and Hidden Lake. We had moose, coyotes, a lynx and all kinds of birds.
What a wonderful group of people, a ton of fun together and memories to last a lifetime.
[Dave Hanneman - 15 Nov 2004 emails]
Then actually ... I did see the tennis court area. I looked over there and thought - hey, that's a helicopter landing pad. I should have taken a closer look!
Thanks for the info,
[Norm Odsather - 18 Mar 2005 email]
Howdy, my Name is Norm Odsather, I too lived in Fire Island (with my father who seemed to forget that he had 2 children and a dog on the island along with he and his wife). At the time I was about the all of going on 2 when we moved out to the Island. Though many memories of the place are foggy for me as we had moved off back into Anchorage somewhere in 1973 when I was 5ish. I know this website is supposed to be about lost ski hills and stories about them and their places in history but it looks like inadvertently you have created what looks like the single most and probably only history of Fire Island and the people that lived there for which I think is great. Having Lived in Anchorage for all but the 3 earlier years of my life which were spent on Fire Island I find that people that I talk to especially pilots seem to be mystified that any one ever lived there at all and always find my self looking over and remembering when I drive by a vantage point from which I can see the Island.
Life on the Island as I remember it was a life of creativity for the workers and their families to help pass the time. I don't remember the ski hill, possibly because due to common sense with the sleds they were building in my fathers renditions of the use of the hill they figured that small children were too hard to hold onto and projectiles to be ejected doing light speed down the hill. For us (the children), the hill that was along side our apartment complex was hill enough to send us down. My father mentioned the brewing of beer and we still have most if not all of our equipment from those brewing days. I do remember ice skating on the rinks there and the biggest thing my father did there to pass the time was to rebuild his first airplane out there, a Piper PA-12. He used one of the empty buildings as his work shop and more than likely the help of the people that worked out there to get the job done. At the time the PA-12 was the plane for us, a family of 3 until my brother Martin was born in Anchorage in 1971. The story always goes that my father couldn't take my mother in to the hospital to have him until he brushed his teeth. Any ways after that we had to sell the PA-12 and buy a Cessna 170 which had 4 seats, enough for the family and Patches our family dog. We used to keep our planes tied down if I remember right on a runway on the beach with several other planes. We had the world in our hands from the island with the planes. If you wanted to go out for breakfast it was a little commute, but Kenai, Palmer, Wasilla, Anchorage and other points were just a hop skip and a jump from there. We used to fly to my grandparents then cabin, now retirement home on Wasilla lake in the winters and land on the ice there. Dad has a great story of flying out a Christmas tree to the island strapped to the side of our PA-12 and all of the aerodynamic controls of flight it reeked havoc with. Also the stories of flying out there on windy and turbulent days that he knew he shouldn't be flying and especially with my mother who hated to fly and the repercussions there after from mother. There was mention in one of the articles on your website about something like arts and craft equipment. I do remember a kiln out there and mom pouring and making a nativity set with the molds that were out there. I think mom got those in the divorce and may still have them after all of these years. Dad crafted many Ptarmigan Whistles out there, for those who don't know what a Ptarmigan Whistle is, I won't ruin it for those of you who do! ;-) The only other thing I do remember is that we had or at least there was a 1957 Chevrolet pickup truck that we drove on the island with the exhaust stacks up the back of the cab. We called it the putt-putt truck because that was the sound it made out the exhaust.
Anyways, I attached several pictures from our time on Fire Island. Several are of our first plane before it's complete rebuild. I'm not sending pictures to brag on the plane, but in the background are pictures of the buildings, radar domes and other complexes. Do note that in one of the pictures looking from right to left over the back of the plane you will notice the empty bases of the radar domes with the domes missing, these were taken in 1970 which is 6 years after the picture you have of a truck unloading cargo at the same warehouse in 1964. I did include one picture of the completed plane parked out on the Fire Island airfield. Also attached is a picture of 2 shots out of our apartment windows taken Christmas 1970 and the views we had from our home. I do also have if your interested, some pictures of a 4th of July picnic held on Little Lake in 1971. That weekend was the only time my grandmother ever flew with my dad and was the only visitor from our family to come out to see us on the island for the 3 years we lived out there.
Thanks for taking the time to listen to my ramblings of what I remember of life on the island! Keep up the good work on the website! Thanks to you we haven't been forgotten!
[Tony Hartt - 04 and 05 July 2005 emails]
We used to ski the POL line on Fire Island. For those who do not know where Fire Island is it is in the Cook Inlet. The 626 AC&W Squadron was there and so was I in 1957 and 1958. It was the A/2C then.
The POL line on Fire Island was from the Main Petrol Tank at the top of the hill there was a clearing on both sides of the above ground petrol or furl line down to the motor pool. It was about 300 yards and we used to ski and sled this area with many collisions. great fun........It was a 15 month tour..
PS. I left the Air Force as a SSGT in 1966.
[Michael Forrester - 31 July 2005 email]
I ran across your article on the Fire Island ski run. I was stationed on Fire Island with the FAA from the summer of 1962 to July 1967. I remember the ski run. While I was there one of the Air Force intercept controllers who was a ski instructor offered to teach me to ski and showed me the ski run. Unfortunately I did not take him up on his offer. I remember the rope lift and believe it was operational at that time. I don't remember the exact year this was but believe it was about 1965 or so. My memory is that the run was fairly new, (a few years or less?), but how new I can't tell.
I remember the history of Fire Island during this period quite well since I recently wrote and had a book published and have a chapter about our time in Alaska in it. I arrived at Fire Island while the FAA was finishing the construction of the second housing building.
About Mike's book that has a chapter on Fire Island: The book's title is Tsuchino: My Japanese War Bride. It has been published by American Book Publishing of Salt Lake City, at their own expense, under their American Classics logo. A web site about the book can be found at: www.tsuchino.com. The book is available on Amazon.com as well as the publishers site and several others.
Michael A. Kelly - 09 December 2005 email]
I was stationed on Fire Island for the year of 1961. I enjoyed reading your page. It brought back a lot of memories. I skied that hill many times but there was no rope, we had to climb back up. I was on my way to Korea and my flight stopped in Anchorage back in the late 1980’s. I had a bush pilot leave me off at Fire Island. I couldn’t believe I was actually back in the place where I spent a year of my early manhood. Now I would love to take my grandchildren there. It will always have a magic place in my mind.
- 26 February 2006 email excerpt]
I arrived at Fire Island in
February 1969. The site was being deactivated and my time was spent
dismantling the gear and burying it before shipping out to Cape
Romanzof in July.
- 29 March/ 01 April 2006/ 17 March 2007 email excerpts]
I was the Hughes Aircraft rep. on Fire Island (and Ft. Richardson) in 60-61-62. There was an ice rink just S. of the buildings above the slope on Fire Island. No tow or anything at that time. Most of the skiing was simply cross country. Great site to ruin your liver because there was precious nothing to do but drink and it was cheap in the O-club. Flew Barton air service from Anchorage, H19 bent banana helicopters, the little Bell-Bubble (Think "MASH") and Bird Dog observation planes to and from the island. Also Otter and Beaver. Equipment was flown in with even bigger aircraft that could barely land on the short strip. I still have a bunch of pictures from that era.
Also saw service at all 9 of the Nike sites in the state and installed equipment them and on Fire Island and Murphy's Dome
I'll include an image of Fire Island in case you are interested. You can see the berm that was flooded to make an ice skating pond at the extreme left below the two storage tanks. That would be just above the top of the ski slope although I don't recall anyone skiing there when I was there in the early 60s ... the year after Alaska became a state and before the earthquake.
- 25 Noember 2006 email]
As I said, out of the hundreds of sides I took on the island
during 1968 I only have a few that you might be interested in.
I’m still in the process of going through them so if I find any
more I will let you know. No foul if you think they are
duplicates of what you already have and don’t want to use them.
I have reduced the file size to what may be appropriate for your
web site but will send you larger files if you ask.
One story that involves the slope: We had a guy from Louisiana that I don’t think ever saw snow before. He was athletic and after watching us for a while thought he would try and master skiing. He went and got some skies, boots and poles and came back to the top of the hill. He put everything on and stood at the top of the hill, refusing any advice we tried to give him. He pointed his skies down hill and pushed off. It was amazing that he was able to keep his balance while he raced straight down the middle of the slope. I have no idea how fast he was going when he got to the bottom but it was very fast. Not knowing how to stop he raced across the stopping area, up and over the berm at the edge of the clearing and went airborne into the woods. Expecting the worst we all went racing toward the bottom but before we could get there he came walking out of the woods carrying his skis, seemingly no worst for the wear. After a bit of nervous laughter he walked back up the slope, turned in his skies and left. I never saw him on the ski slope again.
That’s a great site you have Tim; keep it up.
[Terry Talbot - 01 April 2012 email] I was
stationed on fire Island from December 1965 to December
1966. I have pictures of the ski slope and have much
information about the slope. My roommate and I were about
the only ones to use the slope during the year I was there.
He and I spent two days trail blazing a ski trail just right
of the ski slope to provide a more challenging ski
experience. Additionally, there was a toboggan run to the
far right of the ski slope that was seldom used by anyone.
maintained the slope and the jeep engine that operated the
rope tow. The
activity officer gave us the key to the rope tow engine and
the cabin on the slope as well as a key to the supply room
where several sets of Head skis and Gresvig boots were kept
and available for checkout. I am amazed at the pictures that
have been displayed on the web site, it immediately took me
back to those days. I have a few pictures of the slope the
cabin (both outside shots as well as inside shots). I would
be happy to share them with anyone that would like to see
them and answer any questions anyone might have about the
slope as well as the facility. Terry
[Wayne Pavich - 16 May 2015 email] I was
stationed on the island from April 1968 through April 1969
and had my first skiing experience on the aptly named
Breakneck Hill. A fellow "inmate" and I decided to try a
little nighttime skiing. Having never skied before, I
practiced going east and west at the top of the hill and
snow plowing for a while and figured there was nothing more
to learn", to quote the Kingston Trio song Super Skier. I
pointed my ski tips down the slope and let her rip. Having
no idea how to hold an edge in order to turn, all I could do
was hold on tight as I headed straight down the hill picking
up speed all the way. By the grace of God I made it all the
way down without wiping out. It was quite obvious more
practice was was needed. BTW, the tow rope was working,
otherwise that first run would have been my last. Thanks
for the website. I just happened across it via a Google
search. The pictures brought back a lot of memories. I'm
in the process of moving right now but once I get settled
I'll try to locate the few pictures I took while stationed
there. I know I have one of me the gun range with a .22 cal
revolver I purchased at the BX. Thanks
[Terry Talbot - 01 April 2012 email]
I was stationed on fire Island from December 1965 to December 1966. I have pictures of the ski slope and have much information about the slope. My roommate and I were about the only ones to use the slope during the year I was there. He and I spent two days trail blazing a ski trail just right of the ski slope to provide a more challenging ski experience. Additionally, there was a toboggan run to the far right of the ski slope that was seldom used by anyone.
I maintained the slope and the jeep engine that operated the rope tow.
The activity officer gave us the key to the rope tow engine and the cabin on the slope as well as a key to the supply room where several sets of Head skis and Gresvig boots were kept and available for checkout. I am amazed at the pictures that have been displayed on the web site, it immediately took me back to those days. I have a few pictures of the slope the cabin (both outside shots as well as inside shots). I would be happy to share them with anyone that would like to see them and answer any questions anyone might have about the slope as well as the facility.
[Wayne Pavich - 16 May 2015 email]
I was stationed on the island from April 1968 through April 1969 and had my first skiing experience on the aptly named Breakneck Hill. A fellow "inmate" and I decided to try a little nighttime skiing. Having never skied before, I practiced going east and west at the top of the hill and snow plowing for a while and figured there was nothing more to learn", to quote the Kingston Trio song Super Skier. I pointed my ski tips down the slope and let her rip. Having no idea how to hold an edge in order to turn, all I could do was hold on tight as I headed straight down the hill picking up speed all the way. By the grace of God I made it all the way down without wiping out. It was quite obvious more practice was was needed. BTW, the tow rope was working, otherwise that first run would have been my last.
Thanks for the website. I just happened across it via a Google search. The pictures brought back a lot of memories. I'm in the process of moving right now but once I get settled I'll try to locate the few pictures I took while stationed there. I know I have one of me the gun range with a .22 cal revolver I purchased at the BX.
Thanks again,Wayne Pavich
Inc. - http://www.radomes.org/museum
"Murphy Dome and Fire Island became operational in September 1951 as control center sites. They were followed by King Salmon (control center), November 1951; Tatalina and Campion (ground control and intercept), April 1952; Cape Lisburne, February 1953; Cape Romanzof, Tin City, and Northeast Cape (all surveillance sites), April 1953; Indian Mountain, November 1953; Sparrevohn, March 1954; and Cape Newenham (surveillance), April 1954. Additional surveillance sites were later added. Kotzebue and Ohlson Mountain (near Homer) became operational in February 1958, Middleton Island in May 1958, Unalakleet in April 1958 and Bethel in July 1958. Fort Yukon became operational as a ground control intercept site in April 1958. ...
"... The surveillance sites at Bethel, Middleton Island, and Ohlson Mountain were closed on 15 May 1963, leaving a void in the radar coverage to the south. Headquarters Alaskan Air Command, and, to some extent the Alaskan Command, provided command and control until the reactivation of an AC&W control group in 1977.
Inc - http://www.radomes.org/museum
FIRE ISLAND AIR FORCE STATIONSite Number: F10AK0495
Fed. Facility ID: AK09799F292700
NPL ID: N
County: Owner: NATIVE CORP
early history of Fire Island (compiled by Tim Kelley from "Shem
Pete's Alaska - The Territory of the Upper Cook Inlet Dena'ina")
According to Dena'ina legend this is how Fire Island came to be: The Nulchina clan were living in the sky on the frozen clouds. They stayed on an island 'hagi', or basket, up in the clouds. When they landed on Mt. Susitna a whirlwind struck the basket-island they lived on and it was blown off the mountain and landed in Cook Inlet, where it turned into Nutul'iy [Fire Island]. Nutul'iy is translated as 'Object That Stands in the Water'.
Dena'ina peoples lived and fished on this island. Within the last 150 years there was a village on Fire Island. But it was destroyed by an epidemic and the survivors moved south across Cook Inlet to Point Possession.
The Russians called this island 'Ostrov Mushukhli' - Ostrov being Russian for Island and Mushukhli is believed to be an approximation of Nutul'iy. In 1794 George Vancouver named this place Turnagain Island. The name Fire Island was established in 1895 when Captain James Cook rowed ashore here and ... made a fire !!
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