Greely/ Big Delta
1948 to Early 1990's
|Name of Ski
Fire Tower Ski Hill, Tower Hill, Fort Greely Biathlon Trails, Sand Lewis
Junction, to the south on Fort Greely (formerly called Big
|Type of Area:
Hill, Ski Trails (Biathlon), Ski Jump
1948 to Early 1990s
|Who Built It?:
Vertical: ~100 feet
Army base, 20 meter ski jump, 10 miles of cross country ski
From a 13 February 2005
article in the Anchorage Daily News about Hank Dube entitled
"Military Mountaineer" by Judy Ferguson of Big Delta:
"Because Big Delta [Alaska]
offered more of a training ground than Colorado - glaciers,
tundra, arctic rivers, extreme temperatures - Big Delta's Allen
Army Air Field, the forerunner of Fort Greely, in 1948, became
the official Army Arctic Indoctrination School Detachment, the
forerunner of the Northern Warfare Training Center."
"Newly drafted Finnish
and Swedish officers taught recruits cross-country but not
downhill skiing. When Peter Gabriel arrived in 1950 as the
training administrator for skiing and technical adviser, he told
them, "If you go uphill, you have to go downhill also."
Big Delta's Cold Weather and Mountain School became only the
second lab the Army had for testing men, clothing, skis, boots
and bindings for military arctic readiness."
"When military skiing was
pioneered in the late 1940s and '50s, Fort Greely's training
center was the only show in town for the world's arctic-trained
A call to Hank
Dube unveiled information about the lost ski sites at Fort
Greely. Hank came to Fort Greely 1957, stayed until 1959,
left and returned for good in 1967. Hank mentioned that in
the 1950s there was a 20 meter ski jump on Sand Lewis Hill just
north of Fort Greely's main entrance. The ski hill, called
Firetower Hill, was a small practice hill. It was located
to the SE of the Allen Airfield runway, behind the hanger and to
the west of Jarvis Creek. The vertical of this hill was
about 100 feet. It was a good hill to teach soldiers how
to ski, a "starter hill". Once soldiers got the feel for
their skis they would "graduate" to the Gunnysack Hill ski area
to the south near the Black Rapids Glacier.
The first rope tow was put
in operation on this hill in 1967. This initial rope tow
is still at this ski hill site (as of 2005). In the 1980's
Hank built another rope tow on this hill - so there were rope
tows up each side of the hill. Soldiers could ride up one
side, ski down the other, turn around and then do the reverse
trip up and down.
Hank also mentioned that there were about 10 miles of cross
country ski trails on base at Fort Greely.
South of Fort Greely, in
the Black Rapids Glacier area, the Northern Warfare Training
Center (NWTC) now has its operations base. The NWTC is based out
of the U.S. Army's Fort Wainwright just south of Fairbanks.
The NWTC currently uses Gunnysack Hill for their training
operations. For more information on the NWTC,
Hank Dube; Major
Jeffrey G. Fishack, NWTC Commander; A 13 February 2005 article
in the Anchorage Daily News about Hank Dube entitled "Military
Mountaineer" by Judy Ferguson of Big Delta. Also see
Ferguson's Outpost web site; Thomas Mlinar; Phil
Jordan; George H. Wolcott; Michael P. Wolcott; Richard Powers;
Louis Pastori; Dan Pastori; Guy Hehn; Tracy Bank (granddaughter
of Melvin R. Brown); Michael P. Hogan; Richard Pinney; Clyde
Batavia; Richard Drake
anyone have pictures of skiing at Fort Greely (or current pictures of the vicinity) that they
would like to
contribute to ALSAP ?
[Left] This 1960 shot shows Hank Dube executing a Royal Christie on
Firetower Hill at Fort Greey. [Right] Hank is shown racing slalom
at Gunnysack Hill in 1962.
on these images to expand them)
credit and copyright: Hank Dube and Judy Ferguson]
military mountaineer and skiers Peter Gabriel (left - on the cover of a
1942 LIFE magazine) and Hank Dube (right - at home in 2004).
Both of these men trained soldiers to ski, and fight and survive in
arctic conditions, at Fort Greely.
on these images to expand them)
credit and copyright: Hank Dube and Judy Ferguson]
Pastori Fort Greely Ski Jump Photos - 1950s
courtesy of Louis' grandson Dan Pastori
Soberski, the company commander, jumping off the Fort Greely
Pastori jumping off the Fort Greely jump
The jump was
right across the road from the Fort Greely entrance
man shoveling snow out of truck
Mlinar Photos - 1954/1955
This is a picture of
Thomas skiing down Tower Hill while he was part of the Hqs and
Hqs Company, TAAC (The Army Arctic Center), where he was in the
signal corp. This was before the rope tow was installed.
The fire tower to the
west of the ski hill.
Information From Guy Hehn About Making The Gunnysack Ski Hill in
Gunnysack: Cpl. Guy Hehn clearing and grading the left training
slope (looking up) at Camp Terry in 1954.
[Guy Hehn - 18 May 2009 email]
At Mt. Gunnysack, looking up the hill, I bulldozed the ski
area on the left in 1954. I think you will find it was much
smoother than the original. I spent five weeks at Camp
Terry (as it was known then) with Cpl. Greeley,s dog and a
worn out 1939 D8 Cat building that training slope. The dog
just about killed me one Sunday, when I had a few beers and
decided to climb the mountain. About 20 feet from the top,
the German Shephard saw where we were going, and raced
ahead, knocking down some big loose rocks which hit me and
started to rockslide me down the hill. I finally got
stopped somewhere unhurt. Good thing, because there was not
another human within 45 miles.
I regret that I never finished a
good road out at the bottom of that slope. A multi-inch
rainstorm came along, and took all the loose rocks out of
the canyon beside the camp, and moved the bridge and the
river over about 200 yards. It was a noisy night. I had to
start using the Cat to try to open up the road, and then I
ran out of fuel injectors and had to phone for a ride to Big
Delta. I was an E4 truck driver by trade, but we all did
odd jobs when there was no class in session. I bought my
own fuel injectors by mail from Pape' Cat in Eugene,
Oregon. The Army was not well equipped.
I stumbled onto your website
while looking for the Mckinley rescue (1954). I left Delta
in Feb., 1955. Right now I am struggling with stage 4
lung cancer, but I intend to share some more stories. I
learned to ski my first night in Big Delta when at 2 A.M.
someone yelled "Fall out on skies!!" We had to get out and
sidestep down the slope across from the main gate to pack
some new snow so it would not blow away. (This is the slope
with the primitive jump where I learned to not go over the
jump while drunk with cross-country skis). I finally built
some 42" long skies with cross country bindings so I could
run up the slopes without poles. The instructors were not
pleased with this.
ad from the April, 1944 Alaska Sportsman Magazine
old Fort Greely ski jump used to be on the slope to the west of
the Main Gate. Looking at this terrain one can see that
there is plenty of relief to make a great ski jump.
pullout on the Richardson Highway at Gunny Sack Creek you can
see the Northern Warfare Training Center. And looking up
the valley you can see a small section of the Gunny Sack Ski
map shows where where Fort Greely is located - in south of Delta
Junction, where the Alaska Highway intersects the Richardson
Highway. The location of is Firetower Hill is shown. But the
location of the biathlon trail system on
Fort Greely is unknown at present.
on this map to expand it)
[Major Jeffrey G. Fishack, NWTC (Northern Warfare Training Center)
Commander - 04 Jan. 2005 email excerpt]
The ski hill on Ft Greely (tow rope) and biathlon trail are the only
military ones that I know that are no longer in use.
[Hank Dube - 22 February 2004 phone conversation with Tim Kelley]
Hank came to Fort Greely 1957, stayed to 1959,
left and returned for good in 1967 (still lives in Delta Junction).
Hank mentioned that in the 1950s there was a 20 meter ski jump on Sand
Lewis Hill just north of Fort Greely's main entrance. The ski
hill, called Firetower Hill, was a small practice hill. It was
located to the SE of the runway, behind the hanger and to the west of
Jarvis Creek. The vertical of this hill was about 100 feet.
It was a good hill to teach soldiers how to ski, a "starter hill".
Once soldiers got the feel for their skis they would "graduate" to the
Gunnysack Hill ski area to the south near the Black Rapids Glacier.
The first rope tow was put in operation on this hill in 1967. This
initial rope tow is still at this ski hill site (as of 2005). In
the 1980's Hank built another rope tow on this hill - so there were rope
tows up each side of the hill. So soldiers could ride up one side,
ski down the other, turn around and then do the reverse trip up and
Hank also said that the cross country trails
system on Fort Greely was about 10 miles of length.
[Thomas Mlinar - 25 November 2006 email]
I have this
picture of me skiing down Tower Hill [see above]. I was at Big Delta
from Sept 1954 to April 1956, and we used that hill quite often. There
was no ski ropes at the time. This hill was East of the Fire tower,
couple hundred yards. AIS (Arctic Indoctrination School) used it quite a
bit for their training. It was really a neat hill, because you could
climb to the top, and start down and cirlce around going up and down
over little hills and wind up near the bottom of the hill again.
I was part of Hqs & Hqs company, TAAC (the army arctic center) and was
in the signal corp. Our radio and teletype building, signal corp supply
warehouse, was between the fire tower, and the ski hill. That's where I
worked. I would see the AIS guys going to and from the hill during their
[Thomas Mlinar - December 2006 email excerpts]
were standing in the Fire tower, looking toward the East down the trail,
this latrine was in the woods, and was used by AIS troops, and ATB
troops, and we used it too. I can assure you, there werenít any
magazines or newspapers to read while using it, when it was -40 or
saw anywhere, about another ski hill at Big Delta, now Ft. Greely.
There was a ski lodge, and ski hill directly across the highway from the
Main Gate of the old post. There was a lodge, we have used for some
parties, I believe there was a tow rope there, but not positive. I do
know there was a ski hill there. Does anyone ever mention that?
[Tim K note: Hank Dube mentioned a ski jump here, but not a ski hill or
rope tow. Does anyone else have information about this area across
from the Main Gate in the early 1950's?]
There was some kind of
a structure, donít recall what it was used for. We had a couple of our
Signal Corp parties there, and they were usually at night, and the ski
hill was closed at the time. I will get back to you if and when I find
hill across from the main gate had a really nice building, there was a
bar, and fire place in there too.
I left Delta in April of 1956, I know it was still
there at that time. On the tower ski hill, the jumps there were
just little ones that we would build up with snow, I never was a good
skier, and nearly killed my self on it, but then I didnít have down hill
skis, just cross country skis, that were not good for even that little
two or three foot mound that we built up.
I don't recall the Sand Hill Lewis name. I do remember
standing on what may have been a overlook, or a deck looking down the
hill, there was a structure a little to the right side of a ski run. It
was pretty tall, and I never related it to a ski jump, but now, talking
to John, and thinking about that structure, I am sure, it had to be a
ski jump, as I don't remember any cables or ropes that would have been a
ski tow. I never did ski on that hill myself, I was never a good skier,
and never had a set of skis with bindings, all I ever used were cross
country skis that weren't the best for down hill skiing. Like I said, I
crashed on the tower hill ski slope using the little jump that we
created ourselves. I actually chipped my tail bone, and that was the
end of any jumping for me.
There definitely was a deck or some sort of observation platform. I was
curious as to when they may have razed the building, or if they ever
did, I remember it was a pretty nice place to go to compare to the old
huts that we lived in. I remember a fireplace on one of the walls also.
There was a place South of the post, a few miles down the Richardson
Hwy. About 1/3 of the way to Donnelly's Dome. It was on the East side of
the hwy. Called the Malemute Saloon. The name of the owners i think was
Donovan. They treated us soldiers like family. in the center of the room
was a huge round fire place, at least 10ft. diameter and burned 8 ft.
logs. There was a cone shaped hood that hung from the ceiling. In 54 one
of us shot a Caribou, and the lady roasted it for us, and the entire
Signal Corp, went there for the dinner. They opened the juke box, and
let it play all night without any coins. I am sending a picture taken at
that party, I am on the left, Roy Ludy in the center, and John Browy on
the right. None of us had a lot of cash in those days, and a bottle of
beer was 75 cents, and a mixed drink was $1.15. so money didnt go too
far. But the Donovans, would charge us, $5 each, and opened the bar to
[Phil Jordan - 11 June 2007 email excerpt]
I was a member of the Arctic Indoctrination School
from November 1954 to June of 1956. MOS Infantry Operations and
Intelligence Specialist in the School HQ....basically a draftsman. I
remember the ski jump and hill and trained on it and all the other
locations such as Camp Terry, Donnelly's Dome and Black Rapids. I too do
not remember the Sand Hill Lewis name.
[Tim Kelley - 03 July 2008]
Excerpt from: "United States Army Alaska Arctic
Light Individual Training Manual"
2002 through 2004 by the United States Army
Northern Warfare Training Center
"Operations in cold and mountainous regions
are not new to the US Army. Ever since the
Revolutionary War, when the ill equipped and
poorly trained Army of General Washington
suffered in the cold at Valley Forge, some phase
of almost every conflict in which this country
has been engaged has been fought in mountains or
cold, or both. However, specialized training of
units for cold weather and mountain warfare was
not seriously undertaken until the approach of
World War II.
Training for extended operations in cold and
mountainous areas was initiated in November 1941
with the activation of the 87th Mountain
Infantry and the Mountain and Winter Warfare
Board at Fort Lewis, Washington. Training and
testing were conducted by these organizations at
Mount Rainier, Washington throughout the winter
of 1941 - 1942. These units were later to become
the nucleus for the first cold weather and
mountain training center to be established by
the US Army.
During the period in which the 87th Mountain
Infantry was undergoing training at Mount
Rainier, plans were being made and a site
selected for a center at which an entire
division could be trained in the tactics and
techniques of cold weather and mountain warfare.
A site was selected in the mountains of
Colorado, and in 1942, The Mountain Training
Center, with members of the 87th Mountain
Infantry as a cadre, commenced operations at
Camp Hale. Thus was activated the first US Army
training center designed specifically for cold
weather and mountain training.
Training of the 10th Mountain Division for
its future role of fighting in the mountains of
Italy was the prime accomplishment of the
Mountain Training Center during World War II.
However, this was not the only training
conducted by the Center. In addition to training
many smaller units at Camp Hale, training
detachments were sent to such locations as Camp
McCoy, Wisconsin; Pine Camp, New York; and
Elkins, West Virginia and Adak Island, Alaska to
assist in the training of units in the unique
requirements of mountain and cold weather
At the end of World War II, the mission of
the Mountain Training Center at Camp Hale was
moved to Camp Carson, Colorado. Camp Carson was
the only US Army Center for this type of
training until 1948, when the decision was made
to organize a school for arctic operations at
Big Delta, Alaska later named Fort Greely.
In November 1948, the Army Arctic School was
established at Big Delta with the primary
mission of providing instruction in summer and
winter operations under arctic and sub-arctic
conditions. This training included arctic
survival, mountaineering, skiing, and solutions
to tactical, technical and logistical problems
in cold regions. In July 1949, the Army Arctic
School was redesignated the Army Arctic
Indoctrination School, with no change in the
For approximately eight years, training in
mountain and cold weather operations were
conducted simultaneously at Camp Carson,
Colorado and Fort Greely, Alaska. However, in
1957 the total responsibility for cold weather
and mountain training was transferred to Alaska.
The Arctic Indoctrination School was
redesignated the US Army Cold Weather and
Mountain School and was given the mission of
developing cold weather and mountain warfare
doctrine, tactics and techniques, and training
individuals in these subjects
Throughout the years as the Arctic School,
Arctic Indoctrination School, and Cold Weather
and Mountain School, training was conducted on
an individual basis. Students from reserve
component and active Army units throughout the
continental United States and Alaska were
graduated as instructors in cold weather and
mountain operations. However, early in 1963, the
Department of the Army concluded that the
training in cold weather and mountain operations
would be of more beneficial to units than
individual training. Therefore, in April 1963,
the US Army Cold Weather and Mountain School was
redesignated the US Army Northern Warfare
Training Center and given the mission of
training individuals as well as units in the
conduct of warfare in cold and mountainous
regions. Today, The Northern Warfare Training
Center is responsible for maintaining the US
Army's state of the art in cold weather and
mountain warfare. The Center provides training
in these subjects to both active and reserve
components and assists in the development of
tactics and techniques for such operations."
[Tracy Bank - 12 April 2010 email excerpt]
My grandfather said he was one of the first
"trained arctic" Army skiers in the late 1940's.
[Michael P. Hogan - 17 November 2011 email]
In the winter of 1964 I was part a group from
the 9th infantry that was sent to Ft Greely to
do winter equipment testing. I believe the area
we were staying at was called Boleo Lake or some
thing close to that. We were there until spring.
We tested ski binding and used a cross country
10 mile trail four times a day. We kept logs
with temp and miles used for each set of skies
We also were testing the Star Light Scope for
the new M16 with an arctic battery pack for
extreme temp use up there. As Iím sure you know
it gets very cold there. We had weeks of -30
below or better along with short durations to
-60 below or better.
We had a weather station on site that we
monitored and nights with no cloud cover it
would have painful drops in the cold.
Our reward for the long winter of cold testing
was rewarded with a few days in the spring at
the Mountain Climbing School. We were instructed
in repelling over shear drops. Some minor Climbs
and some thing they called sleeing that was a
three point contact sliding down a slope of
small loose rock shuffling your feet and leaning
backwards on your blade on a climbing ax. The
loose rock acting like snow and the blade on the
climbing ax kept you stable.
[Richard Pinney - 06 January 2014 email]
Since we in Wisconsin are in the throes of a
much-hyped cold spell, I was reminiscing to
unbelieving friends about sleeping out in such
weather while stationed in the Army at Fort
Greely, AK. Looking for documentation as proof,
I just stumbled onto your cool site covering
lost ski areas.
In the winter of 1971 I ran the Gunnysack
Mountain quonset hut ski "lodge" as a
recreational ski area on weekends for the
enjoyment of off duty troops and families.
During the week it was part of the Northern
Warfare Training program.
I was acquainted with Hank Dube at Fort Greely.
I was the temporary Post Entertainment Director
in 1969-70 (I was a Private First Class draftee
of all things - that is another story). We
pretty much made up our agenda, offering
activities we loved to do ourselves. For me it
was skiing and hiking, and later, under Mr.
Dube's (he was a civilian instructor so we
called him "mister") tutelage, mountaineering.
We had an activity budget and, because Alaska
duty was hard on many folks not used to
wilderness, cold and darkness, we made the most
of what we had for entertainment and recreation.
After my first year there, we got a new
entertainment director, Lt. Batavia. He was a
skier and pulled strings to set up a ski rental
program and to get permission to use Gunnysack.
We had a poma lift, wooden benches and hot
chocolate. We had no real amenities. It was more
like a rural skating rink warming house.
There were just a few of us who used the
facility in its first season of Friday-Saturday
recreational use. I was the founder president of
my college ski club in Superior, WI so you can
see the connection to cold and adventure there.
One of the draftees who worked under Hank Dube
was a ski instructor from Montana. He taught my
friends and I to ski well. I wish I could
remember his name.
In addition to downhill rental equipment, we all
were issued Army cross country skis with cable
bindings, seal skin climbing skins and vapor
barrier (VB or Mickey Mouse) boots. For fun, we
made one memorable trek to the top of Gunnysack,
a minor bump in the Alaska Range including a
cold bivouac on the first night. As survival
training, all personnel were required to spend a
night annually in the deep temperatures of the
February taiga with nothing but our sleeping
bags and spruce bough shelters. It was torture
for most, fun for us few.
Several of us Ft. Greely pals joined the Alaska
Alpine Club and 250 others in the spring of 1971
for its third Glacier Stampede on the Cantwell
Glacier We carried our own food and camping
equipment. Somehow, my Ft. Greely contingent
ended up testing the new "waxless" skis provided
by the Alaska Alpine Club. We gave them mixed
reviews, but we were in harsh, sometimes steep
and precarious conditions. We arrived at the top
in the last bunch, much slowed down by our use
of these skis.
My photos of these experiences were, sadly, lost
in a disaster in 2001.
I became a lifelong cross country skier thanks
to Hank Dube and his staff. Though I no longer
have them, I trained on roller skis in the
Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood. My kids bring up
that fact every holiday. Seems I was the object
of some local ridicule and caused enduring
humiliation for my children. That is as it ever
was for parents.
PS - I am a web developer and designer and
musician. You can hear "Motherlode" written in
the barracks of Ft. Greely
here. It is by far my most recorded and
performed song by others. A solo guitar
instrumental, "Alaska Sunrise",
is also on the page. It was written about 5
years after returning to the lower 48. It is one
of my most requested tunes, and has been used as
the soundtrack in theatrical productions and in
Michael Jackson's Victory Tour in '84.
[Clyde D. Batavia - 09 January 2014 email]
[Richard Drake - 12 December 2015 email]
I was contacted by Richard Pinney regarding the
skiing at Fort Greely. I was the Special
Services Officer for the post. While attending
the University of Nevada in Reno, I became a ski
instructor, and was able to talk the Post
commander to let me purchase a rope tow for
"fire tower hill". There was also a poma lift
at Black Rapids that we used for recreation
skiing on the weekends when NWTC (Northern
Warfare Training Center) was not using it for
training. During the time period of 69-71
General James F. Hollingsworth was the
commanding General for the Alaska Command. He
was very pro that the enlisted men should have
the best recreation for the time off. I was
able to secure funds and we purchased through
GSA all Hart skis for rental.
I live at Lake Tahoe and still very involved in
My tour of Army duty at
Ft. Greely, Alaska, as shown on the attached
photo, was from 6 September 1960 to 17 February
1962. My branch was the Signal Corp. and was
attached to the HQ & HQ Co., working in the
Headquarters Center, downstairs in the
Communication Center as a teletype
My immediate supervisor
was SGT. Jack Lackoduk and CPT. Collins was OIC
of the Communication Center. COL. L.C. Downs was
post commander during my tour.
I have fond memories of
my tour at Ft.Greely, despite the cold weather
(-64 degrees one of the winters I spent there!).
As the attached photo shows, I not only have
saved the welcoming handbook, but the patch I
acquired as a member of the Fort Greely Ski
Club. Firetower Hill brings back many memories
of good times skiing down the slope in my
"Mickey Mouse" themo boots, due to the fact I
wore a size 15 and I could not rent or purchase
regular ski boots in that size anywhere!
Sad to realize that
Firetower Hill ski area no longer exists, but as
mentioned, memories of off duty hours on the
slope bring back good feelings and my learning
to ski, dispite using my themo boots!
Richard Drake, Orange,
you have further information, stories or pictures that you would like to
contribute about this