home updates map photos alsappers contact about  

Forest Park Golf Course

1950's ? to 1967

Name of Ski Area: Forest Park Golf Course Rope Tow, Forest Park Golf Course
Location: Anchorage, in the area south of Westchester Lagoon, east of the railroad tracks and west of Forest Park Drive.
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Cross Country Ski Trails (on the golf course)
Dates of Operation: 1950's ? to 1967
Who Built It?: A private golf course development group

~100' to ~200'

Lifts: 1 rope tow
Facilities: Clubhouse (Leo's Supper Club / Forest Park Lounge).  Lighted skiing.
Miscellaneous: According to Bob Reeves, director of the Atwood Foundation, the location of Bob and Evangeline Atwood's estate was once the site of Leo's Supper Club (a.k.a the Forest Park Lounge).  This was a financially struggling "beer joint where folks could play a round of golf" on the Forest Park Golf Course.  After Bob and Evangaline's house was destroyed by the 1964 earthquake (their house in the Turnagain subdivision slid into Knik Arm with everything they owned) they were living in a hotel for a couple of years.  The bank that financed the Forest Park Golf Course suggested that the Atwoods buy the golf course, build a house on part of it and develop some of it.  At first Bob was not in favor of this, claiming: "What would I do with all that land?  I'm a newspaper man, not a developer."  But Evangeline took a liking to the property, they built their house there in 1968 near the site of Leo's Supper Club and hired a developer to subdivide the southern part of the golf course.

During the 50's and up until 1967 the golf course had a small family rope tow.  This was a good beginner's hill where many Anchorage skiers, Jim Renkert to name one, got their first taste of skiing.  The Anchorage High School (now West Anchorage High School) cross country ski team used to train here.

According to Jim Renkert - the first ski race held by the Nordic Ski Club of Anchorage was staged here in the early 1960's.  The race started at "Stumpy" Faulkner's house in Smugglers Cove (north of what is now Westchester Lagoon), crossed Chester Creek on the train trestle, did a loop around the Forest Park Golf Course and finished back at Stumpy's.

The purchase of the Forest Park Golf Course by the Atwoods was the end of the rope tow and the use of the golf course as a cross country ski trail system.  The West High School team began to commute to Russian Jack Springs Park to train.  And in 1968 the rope tow made the trip to Russian Jack Springs Park too (see email from John McCleary below).

Further residential development of this land is scheduled for 2005.

The exact location of the rope tow is still being researched.  It seems that much of the topography of the old ski hill changed by earthmoving when the Atwood Estate was built.

Sources of Information:

Jim and Sally Burkholder - History of Nordic Trails in Anchorage; Mike Besh; John McCleary (Municipality of Anchorage, Department of Parks and Recreation); Bob Reeves (Director of the Atwood Foundation); Jim Renkert; Randy Sauder; Mike Hopkins; Greg Dixon; Willis Callahan; Alan Baldwin

Photos: Does anyone have pictures of skiing at the Forest Park Golf Course that they would like to contribute to ALSAP?


This early 1950s aerial view shows the Forest Park Golf course.  The tidal flats of Chester Creek can be seen, Westchester Lagoon had not been made yet.

(click on photo to expand it)

[Photo credit: Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

AMHA_ForestPark_1950s_aerial.jpg (331001 bytes)

1960's postcard showing the Forest Park golf course and location of the ski hill. Annotations by Randy Sauder.

(click on photo to expand it)


This 1964 aerial photo was taken shortly after the earthquake.  Faint lines to the lower left of the Forest Park Lounge hint that the rope tow may have been located there.

(click on view to expand it)

This 2002 aerial view of Anchorage shows where the Forest Park Golf Course and ski hill was once located.

(click on view to expand it)

A zoomed view shows the estimated location of the where the ski hill and rope tow once existed (the exact location is still be researched.  Note: See Randy Sauder's composite below.)

(click on view to expand it)

~  PHOTOS  ~

Randy Sauder Movie Stills / Composites from 1967-1968

Email excerpts quotes from Randy: The hill had two distinct drops.  The first and then a steeper second.  Both falls are visible in bowl area of your aerial photo.   [This composite should give you] a good idea where the ski area was as well as the temporary rope tow.  The arrow up the hill is generally where I recall the temporary rope tow being located.  I believe it was removed in summer for golf season.

From the photographer's vantage point he is standing near the top of the larger bowl ski area visible in the aerial photo.  The second smaller bowl where a steeper drop took place started about where the shadow of his head (point of the arrow) is located.

[Below]  Randy Sauder's annotations and comparison of a 60's postcard with a mid-60's aerial photo by Alan Baldwin.


Alan Baldwin Photo From 1966-1967

[Randy Sauder 5 May 2013 email] Attached is a picture taken about 1966-1967 at Forest Park Golf Course.  Cook Inlet would have been just beyond the tree line and where the train tracks are visible to the left.   The bottom of the ski hill would have been directly behind the photographer perhaps a few hundred feet away.  Besides skiing, we sometimes snowmobiled here on weekends.  The picture is from the Alan and Sharon Baldwin collection.  Sharon (second from left) was my 5th grade school teacher in Anchorage.  The others are her parents and sister. The snowmobile was a vintage single-ski Ski Doo.


Willis Callahan Photo From the Mid 1960s

[Randy Sauder 25 February 2013 email excerpt] The picture with the sled and three ladies was taken in the flat at the top of Forest Park Golf Course ski area.  The three ladies on the sled are about where a golf hole was located at the top of the bowl shaped hill and about to head down.  They are Sharon Baldwin (my 5th grade teacher) with friends Joni Schroeder and Lorraine Fullbright.  Lorraine later hurt her back at the bottom of this hill when she was thrown off a sled like this.  The Forest Park lodge would have been to the left of the photographer perhaps 100 feet away and the top of the temporary rope tow would have been just out of frame to the right perhaps 50 feet away?  However, this photo was probably taken the year after the rope tow was removed for good?  In the mid to late 1960's our family and friends often came to Forest Park on weekends to sled down the hill and be pulled by snowmobiles on sleds like this.  We also slid down on inner tubes.  In 1965-66 we sometimes skied here while the temporary rope tow was still in operation.


The location where this shot was taken may have been near the top of the Forest Park Rope Tow and looking straight down it.  But earthwork in the late 60's changed the terrain immensely.

[Photo credit: Tim Kelley]

  ~  ARTICLES  ~

1964? News article: "UA Outpoints AMU on Skis"

(Click on image to expand to readable size)

This article makes mention of a skiing tournament that was the first ever sporting event between UA (now UAF) and AMU (now APU).  The alpine racing was held at Alyeska and the cross country racing was held at the Forest Park Golf Course.

[Mike Besh - November 2004 phone conversation with Tim Kelley] 

Mike skied at West High from 1968 to 1970.  At that time the rope tow was in operation at the Forest Park Golf Course.  The original club house was still in operation and no housing development was occurring on these lands.  He remembers that the rope tow was on natural sloping land to the west of the clubhouse.  Mike said the ski area was lighted, so it worked out well for skiing after school in the winter when darkness comes early.  Mike believed that the club house was torn down when Bob Atwood when Bob Atwood bought the golf course and built his house there.  During the years Mike skied at West High, the cross country ski team was not allowed to train on the golf course.  The skiers would either ski on school grounds or travel to Russian Jack Park to train.

[Jim and Sally Burkholder -  excerpt from their "History of Nordic Ski Trail Development in the Anchorage Area"] 

Skiers at West used trails made from the Faulkner's front yard through the Atwood Golf course. 

[John McCleary, MOA Dept. of Parks and Recreation - excerpt from 29 November 2004 email] 

By a letter from the Recreation Superintendent dated July 18, 1974, it sounded like the rope tow engine was moved from what he called the Forest Park Ski Hill after the 1966-67 season to RJS.  

[John Dillman - 12 December 2004 email to Dave Brann] 

Hello:  Don DeVoe sent me your site.  I grew up in Anchorage and worked at Gary King's Ski Shop on-and off from 1962-1974.  The Gary King Ski School taught ski classes at Forest Park in the early 1960's.  You might try to contact Sepp Weber, he might have some photos, so should Joe Young, Attorney in Anchorage (maybe retired).  Gary King lives in Ketchum, ID.  I'll ask him if he has any photos the next time I'm at Sun Valley.  There should be photos in old yearbooks of Romig Hill, I remember skiing there in the late 1950's.

[Bob Reeves - 19 May 2005] 

Tim Kelley, Jim Renkert and Tammy Thiele visited Bob Reeves, Director of the Atwood Foundation, and talked to him about the history of the Forest Park ski area.  We also walked around the Atwood Estate to try and determine where the ski tow was once located.

[Randy Sauder - April 2012 email excerpts] 

For many years I've tried to remember the names and where those hills were located.  I believe I can confirm that you're correct on both counts.  As for Forest Park Golf Course, I can confirm that with certainty.  The Forest Park name rings a bell.   And looking at the 1950s and 1960s over head air shots on your site confirm that this indeed was the site where I first learned to ski.  This is where we used our snowmobile to pull sleds on several weekends in 1965-68.  Besides skiing, we also used inner tubes and sleds to slide down the hill. 

The first time I ever went skiing was at night on this hill.  Your site mentioned the night lights but I had forgotten them until I read it.  I believe the tow charge (when they had a rope tow) was $1 per day?  I also recall that this was close to where the 1964 earthquake took out many homes into the inlet.  And looking at your pictures of the location confirms that it was close.  When we were up to Alaska visiting a few years back we were driving past Earthquake Park in our search for the location where we thought  the golf course should have been located.  However, we were unable to find it.  It makes sense that I remember a rope tow but for only a short period of time.  Your site says it was taken down in 1967 so that would generally be in keeping with my memory (i.e. that there was a rope tow but then it was removed).  On top of everything else, last evening I compared some small amount of 8mm video that was taken at the site during the 1967-1968 time period.  By comparing your 1950's overhead aerial shot with my pasted together video it absolutely confirms that this was the same location.  What I've done is take desk top pictures of the video in order to get you some comparisons shown below.   They are not extremely clear but I believe you will find them helpful.

The circa (1967-68)  video and your 1950's overhead picture are close in time and you can generally make out the same tree line and even some trees if you look closely between the two.  I've attached them below.  One item I might dispute is where your site says  the rope tow was located based on your sites posted overhead picture taken after the earthquake.  The byline indicates that the photo seems to show a line to the left of the lodge and that the tow could have been over there.  It may have been at one time?  However, my recollection (which could be wrong) was that the tow was actually on the right hand side of the hill if you were looking up from the bottom.  If the tow was where your site indicates, there was very little slope in that area.  And, you would have had a long 100 +/- foot trek on generally level ground to get over to where the meat of the slope was located.  The main part of the slope started about 100 feet straight out from Forest Park Lodge (the middle building structure).  My guess is the video (from which my pictures are made) were likely taken the season after the rope tow was removed.  We had a Ski Doo from 1965-68 and then purchased a Polaris.  The Ski Doo is in these pictures and video but I don't see the rope tow.  


The hill probably only had a drop of 50-60 feet vertical but a lot of neighbor and Anchorage area kids and our groups used do ski and slide here.  In fact, this was the first hill I ever skied on.  It was on a Saturday night and very cold as I recall.  At the bottom of the hill was a small bump.  Needless to say, I sailed down the hill totally out of control, hit the bump, flew, and landed on my butt on ice.  It knocked the wind out of me and I couldn't breath for a couple minutes.  It was not a great start on my skiing life.  But I survived and learned to love the sport.  I later taught and was on Professional Ski patrol in Montana and Michigan. 


This evening I spoke with my older sister, Barbara Sauder Lawson about her recollections of Forest Park.  When we moved to Anchorage she was nearly 18 years old and about 20 when the 8mm video was shot of which I recently sent you stills.    She confirmed my memory as to what has been previously written.  She also confirmed my sketchy belief that the rope tow was temporary in nature and that it was generally located where I've shown on the overhead aerial shot.  Neither of us can recall exactly how it was portable but it was apparent at the time.  My personal belief is that the top end of the rope tow was on the back of a parked truck.  But that is a sketchy guess removed by 47 years of memory.  That it was temporary and removable we are quite certain.  This evening when I mentioned the golf course to my sister she immediately said, "Oh, yes, I remember that ski hill and golf course.  It was the one with the rope tow that they took down each summer to play golf."   She also reminded me of our friend Lorraine Fullbright who was Barbara's age.  In 1966 or 1967 Lorraine hurt her back on this hill.  What happened was that she slid down the hill on an inner tube (which we often did) and hit a large bump at the very bottom of the hill.  The bump was in the flat about 10 feet beyond the last hill incline.  It was perhaps 10-12 feet long by about 6 feet wide and perhaps 2-3 feet high. Upon hitting the bump, it threw Lorraine off the inner tube and she landed on her back on glare ice.  Unfortunately, the accident caused her to suffer with back problems for many years, perhaps even to this day. This was the same bump which I encountered in 1965 when I got the wind knocked out of me my very first time skiing.  For the better skiers, the bump was a welcome ski jump to spice up the monotony of a small hill.  For Lorraine and beginning skiers like me, it was a bump we wished we would have avoided.  

[Mike Hopkins - 17 July 2012 email]

You can see from the point spread in the article [see above] that cross country was the University of Alaska’s strong event. We won the two Alpine events but were overwhelmed by their strong cross country showing. Our team skied on cross county skis borrowed from the US Biathlon team who were doing some of their training on the AMU campus. Even with the Biathlon teams help we were no match in that event. Thank you for your ambitious project. It was fun to remember skiing from those days. I transferred from AMU to the University of Denver to finish school and continued to race and teach skiing for many years after that.
[Greg Dixon - 25 July 2012 email]

I grew up here in Anchorage 1951-present. When I was a teenager I worked and played at the Forest Park Golf Club from about 1961 to 1963 or '64. I was always very into all kinds of sports, and was therefore at the club frequently in the summers. My main interest was playing hockey, but I spent a lot of time hitting balls from the practice stands and worked at the club as a "Shag Boy" sometimes. Therefore I got to visit Leo's Supper Club the "pro-shop" occasionally (as a spectator - I was not old enough to actually spend much time in it). But I vaguely remember the rope tow being set up where the Shooting Range was located in the summer times. I did not actually start skiing until about 1973 though, so I never actually saw the rope tow.

But one day while working at the Club a bolt of lightning passed through me, or close enough to raise my hair and then blew a tree down nearby.  Something I'll never forget!  I think I can see where the shooting range was in the early black & white air photo in your email. Would love to talk more about this with you or anyone else. And I have a number of friends who were skiers about my age that I you might want to contact - like Paul Crews. I also know the Millie and some of the other Renkerts too.



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