home updates map photos alsappers contact about  

Golden Stairs Ski Slopes

1920s to 1930s

Name of Ski Area: Golden Stairs Ski Slopes (true name not known)
Location: Cordova, on the lower slopes of Mt. Eccles.
Type of Area: Natural Ski Hill
Dates of Operation: 1920s to 1930s
Who Built It?: Kennecott Copper Company employees and family skied here.  Natural terrain, nothing built for skiing here.
Base/ Vertical Drop:


Lifts: None, natural terrain
Facilities: Unknown
History: Not much is known about this lost ski site except information from the Cordova Times article that Rita King wrote (see below) and "Skiing in Alaska" by Elizabeth Tower.

Skiing at this location is known to have happened back in the "Railroad Days" - the teens and 1920's.  That's when there was a railroad from Cordova to the Kennecott Copper Mine.  Some of the Kennecott company employees were based in Cordova to handle the shipping of copper ore.

Sources of Information:

Rita King, Elizabeth Tower - "Skiing in Alaska"; Stephen Bodnar; Tim Kelley (eBay purchase of pictures, see below); Cathy Sherman and Sharon Ermold of the Cordova Historical Society


Does anyone have current pictures of the "Golden Stairs" near Cordova that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?

~  PHOTOS  ~
Cordova Historical Society - 1920's Golden Stairs Photos

[Photos property of the Cordova Historical Society]

1920's Photos of Skiers at Mt. Eccles and Heney Creek

[Photos purchased on eBay in 2008 by Tim Kelley]
(1) Skier below Mt. Eccles (notice the use of only one pole) (2) Ski tracks descending to, and skier at, the old First Reservoir on Heney Creek
(3) (4)
Stephen Bodnar's Location Estimates for the Above Pictures
Numbers on map relate to photo numbers above.  Click on map to expand it.
Old postcard image.  Skier in front of Mt. Eccles.  Date unknown.

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale shows the location of Cordova.  Cordova is on the east side of Prince William Sound.  No roads lead from major Cordova to the road system.  Access is by air or water.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_cordova.jpg (144922 bytes)

This zoomed in topo map shows the layout of Cordova and the lift of the Mount Eyak ski hill.  The "Golden Stairs" skiing area is believed to be to the south of Cordova on the flanks of Mt.  Eccles in the Heney Range.

(click on this map to expand it)

Stephen Bodnar shared this images of a 1922 Chugach National Forest Cover Atlas which identified potential logging areas in Prince William Sound.  No trails are shown.  But the aqueduct up onto the slopes of Mount Eccles is shown.

(click on this map to expand it)

Links to other Cordova Lost Ski Sites: Golden Stairs
Sheridan Ski Club First Rope Tow
Sheridan Ski Club Jump
Tripod Hill Ski Trails
Research Correspondence 
[Rita King - Special to the Cordova Times, date unknown]

Sheridan Ski Club Stretches Way Back

As Sheridan  Ski Club members prepared for their annual ski, skate and snowboard swap meet this month, they look back on a long history of skiing the slopes of Mt.Eyak.

A little history:  The first ski club was formed about 1920.  Skiing was done above the Golden Stairs near the reservoir.  In the late 40's, a ski jump was made between what is today Bertha Smith's and the Landaluce houses.

In 1948, the Sheridan Ski Club was started  Skiers Lawrence Barr, Johnny Hoover, Jack Dineen and Vince Addington set up a rope tow near the old wooden dam by the present-day Mews Apartments.  The club even had a lighted hill for nighttime skiing.

The next improvement came in 1966, when Fred Pettingill got a car chassis to work for a rope tow.  That same rope tow is still used today on the bunny hill at Mount Eyak.

In 1973, the City of Cordova got a $95,000 grand from BOR and a $52,000 grant from the Roads and Trails Grant fund.  These grants, plus the city's commitment of funds and the Sheridan Ski Club's contributions of approximately $29,000 and volunteer labor, were used to construct present-day facilities.

The single chairlift was purchased from Sun Valley, Idaho, and transported by train to Seattle, then by ferry to Cordova.  The Sheridan Ski Club painted the towers and repaired the chairs before the army used its helicopters to put the towers in place in 1974.

The City of Cordova and the Sheridan Ski Club have worked together since then to maintain and improve Mount Eyak.  together they provide for many healthy hours of fun and physical activity for Cordova residents of all ages and all abilities.  Certification and yearly refresher courses for the National Ski Patrol Outdoor Emergency Training are also provided for Mount Eyak's volunteer ski patrol.

[Stephen Bodnar - 25 December 2005 email excerpts]

I lived in Cordova from 1977 until 1999. During the years 1977-85 I was one of the local crazies - backcountry skier to the max. I also helped out with the ski patrol at the Mt. Eyak Ski Area (the downhill area with the chairlift) during that time. I became less active as a skier in my later years there due to injuries (tweaked
knee) and real winter work (read - couldn't make enough money fishing in the summer to support a winter-long ski addiction). I'm also still a lifetime member of the Cordova Historical Society, even though I now live in Kodiak.

I've done lots of historical research in the archives of the Cordova Museum - they have an incredible historical photograph collection. I've also tramped most of the hills around Cordova at one time or another.

I read with much interest your webpage http://www.alsap.org/GoldenStairs/GoldenStairs.htm and have a few corrections and some more info for you.

The reservoir that is referred to in the article was located in the flat area to the left just across the road from the satellite dishes as you are driving/walking up to the present ski area. It is different than the old reservoir that was located at the base of Mt. Eccles in the Heney Range. There is a bit of confusion about this in the article.

The name Golden Stairs refers to the hills at the base of Mt. Eccles. Back in the Copper River Railroad days (1920's -30's) there was an extremely active group of skiers in Cordova. They used to hike and ski up to and on the foothills of Mt. Eccles.  There are several dated and captioned old photographs in the Cordova Museum archives that show the Golden Stairs.

It was always a bit odd backcountry skiing around Cordova. I'm sure I had a number of first ascents and especially first ski descents, but you know, I'm not claiming anything because those old-timers really were all over that country!

[Stephen Bodnar - 04 July 2008 email excerpts]

Here is a picture of Mt.Eccles taken in the late 80's. Apologies about the quality, it was a first generation digital camera, one of those still video kind.

This picture was taken right where the road up to the old reservoir breaks into the open. The reservoir used to fill part of the flat area leading up to the base of the mountain, and I believe this is the flat area in picture 2. It used to be known as the first reservoir.
There is a really nice little hill just out of the picture to the left midway in my picture and I think that is where pictures 2 and 4 were taken - I'm numbering the pictures:
1 2
3 4
One day we dragged an old ski patrol toboggan up there and managed to break it in half on a jump.

Pictures 1 and 3 were taken looking up the skyline ridge just off to the right in my picture. Every spring when I was skiing up there a black bear would wake up and pop out of his den in the snow just to the right above the wooded area above the skier in picture 1.

I took an aerial photo off Google Maps and put numbers where I think your pictures were taken and arrows showing the direction of view.

Hope this helps,

[More ...]

The Cordova Historical Society and Museum would be really interested, if only to have copies. I don't remember seeing these exact ones in their collection though there is one in particular I remember of the same area that had "Golden Stairs" hand written on it. There was a family, and a lady in full dress with the 20's vintage hat and all.

It looks to me like the SW shoulder of Mt. Eccles. Beautiful ski terrain. It used to be one of my favorite places to ski. It wasn't very popular when I was in Cordova, there was a long flat as shown in one of the pictures on the approach and alpine gear was a pain. Heli-tele's, though, and away you go! The flat shown in the second picture looks like the old reservoir. It was still the reservoir when I lived there, but has since been decommissioned and the dam removed.

I have one rather interesting adventure I'll share...I used to go up on the ridge on Mt. Eccles in the first picture and ski down the chutes on the face on the left towards town. One day when it was "knee deep" I was on my pins and just turned down into a chute. I hit a hidden patch of ice and did a rather graceful fall about 50-100' right down the chute and landed in up to my armpits in the powder below. Whoopsie!. After I caught my wits, I skied all that beautiful terrain high in the picture and headed back to town. As it turned out, there was a whole crowd of folks in front of the old Post Office (now the Forest Service) watching.
They thought that I did a jump on purpose! Ah, small towns.



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