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Sandhill Dunes

1920's to 1940's

Name of Ski Area: Sandhill Dunes, Sandhill Crane Sanctuary
Location: 3-4 miles NW of Gustavus (Strawberry Point)
Type of Area: Open skiing terrain
Dates of Operation: Mid 1920's to 1930's
Who Built It?: Natural terrain; glacier terminal moraines covered in wind deposited sand
Base/Vertical Drop:


Lifts: None
Facilities: Homesteads in the Gustavus area
History: Skiing was popular with Gustavus homesteaders during the 1920's to 1940's period.  Homesteaders such as Abraham and Glen Parker made their own skis.  The Parker brothers would lead ski trips to the Sandhill Dunes.  These sandy moraines that allowed Gustavus homesteaders a place to downhill ski are now growing over with vegetation.
Sources of Information:

Gustavus Historical Archives and Antiquities web site (www.gustavushistory.org); Linda Parker


Does anyone have old pictures of skiing at Sandhill Dunes or in the Gustavus area that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?

~  PHOTOS  ~
Mid 1930's Pictures and Descriptions of Skiing in Gustavus

This material is the property of the Gustavus Historical Archives and Antiquities web site (www.gustavushistory.org)

1936 - Snow Scene; Children With Homemade Wooden Skis. Gustavus, Alaska.

Most of the handmade skis were made by Abraham or Glen Parker. Some were "doubles" allowing the littlest children to ride behind and hang on to an older one. Likely the destination was the frozen Sandhill Dunes 3-4 mi. to the NW, covered in ice & no obstructing trees. Click for more...

There are at least 13 sets of crude, handmade wooden skis pictured here with no two sets alike. And not everyone made it in the photo as can been seen on both sides.

This was one of the young sets most favorite winter activities in Gustavus, Alaska. But the little children could not go alone, of course, and would have to wait until the Parker brothers were in the mood to take them. This would result in a lot of "nagging" and "pleading" according to Glen Parker, and a great ruckus of joy when the request was granted.

It also involved getting up very early in the dead of winter, hours before daylight, to allow time for the long hike with boots (and carrying the heavy awkward skis) to get there. When there was no energy left to climb the hills one more time, there was still a long, cold hike home.

Somehow, as with all things that require a lot of work to support the fun (considering how often they did it), they must have thought it was worth it.

In photo: Front row Lt. to Rt. is "Billy" Henry Peterson, Glenna Robinson, Ed White, Verna Robinson, Jeannie Parker.

In back row Lt. to Rt. is the head of Henrietta White (behind "Billy"), Wanda Robinson, Gloria White, Dorothy White (in striped hat), Geneveive White, Alberta Parker, and slightly forward Angle Peterson.

1938 - Glen & Nell Parker Cross-Country Skiing in Gustavus, Alaska.

The newlyweds on first winter outing across brother Charles Parker's homestead. Mt. St. Elias Range (the Fairweathers) in background.

1934 Leslie "Les" Parker; Home from Winter Hunt. Gustavus, Alaska.

Leslie Parker at Abraham Lincoln Parker homestead west side of Good River. Just in from hunt for deer meat in snow white camouflage suit. Homemade wooden skis propped against barn & welcoming dog.


1937 Albert Parker Pioneer Family With Homemade Skis. Gustavus, Alaska.

Warm weather display of winter set of homemade wooden skis. Lt. to Rt. Alberta & Jeannie with parents Jennie (Chase) and Albert "Bert" Parker. Used for wintertime downhill runs on the "sand dune hills". Multiple sized skis reportedly made by Abraham Lincoln & son Glen Parker.


~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo map shows the location of the Gustavus in Southeast Alaska.

(click on this map to expand it)

This zoomed in topo map shows the open areas to the west and northwest of Gustavus where homesteaders skied in the 1930s.  This area is now the Sandhill Crane Sanctuary.

(click on this map to expand it)

Research Correspondence 
[Linda Parker - 16 October 2007 email to Dave Brann]

Dear Dave, we are still looking for the photo of the skiers going down our sand dune hills. There was no rope tow. There is no skiing in that area today at all as it is in the middle of the Glacier Bay National Park.  We were just given a topographical view from the 1920s that clearly show the area that the homesteaders found when rounding up their cattle. It was about 3-4 miles from the Abraham Lincoln Parker homestead to the west and north.

Our historians here, expert in the ancient terrain tell us that the glaciers that covered part of this area (several hundred years ago) fronted this immediate "sand dunes" area and that the terrific winds that would have been present at the front of the glaciers created these hills of fine sand and ice that began piling up and existed without any vegetation when the homesteaders found it. Our land here is rising at approximately an inch or two per year as rebound from the ancient glaciers that once compressed it.  Now there is young, struggling new growth covering the sand dune ski area surrounded by large trees and rain forest. Other than cross-country skiing, there is no other place here (we are on the flats) for down-hill skiing.

There were no roads, of course, to the sand dunes (as there are known today as well) in the 20's and 30's and 40's when the homesteaders would get up in the dark on a wintry day when enough snow covered the dunes and hiked, carrying the very heavy, home-made skis. Their trek would take several hours of difficult terrain to arrive. They undoubtedly were worn out by the time they got there. But it was seen as such a treat in this very isolated area with only a hand-full of pioneers that they would then trek up and ski down the hills and once worn out there, still had several hours to hike back to the homesteads towards dark.  The youth clamored for the Parker brothers to escort them and could not get enough of it. Do you have any other questions?  This is all probably not stated very well. We will send you the other photo and possibly the topographical as soon as they are scanned.

Thanks much for your inquiry. Linda Parker


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