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Harbor Mountain Ski Hill

1948 to 1955

Name of Ski Area: Harbor Mountain Ski Hill
Location: Sitka, on Harbor Mountain, in the bowl at the end of the Harbor Mountain Road.
Type of Area: Ski Hill
Dates of Operation: 1948 to 1955
Who Built It?: The Sitka Ski Club (this club has not existed since the late 60's or early 70's).
Base/Vertical Drop:

Base: ~2100' / Vertical: ~200'

Lifts: One 400 foot long rope tow.
Facilities: A warm-up cabin that could be used for overnight stays.  The cabin was a built during World War II.

There is a Forest Service Road that winds to the top of Harbor Mountain.  This road was constructed during World War II to provide a lookout point over the town of Sitka.

A Sitka based snowmobile group maintains a cabin on the ridge of Harbor Mountain at the end of the Forest Service road.  This cabin was once the ski area warm-up cabin.

Folks from Sitka regularly ski and snowboard at this site.  But this ski area is on the Alaska lost ski areas list because the rope tow that once existed is now gone.

Sources of Information:

Sandy Russell; Frank Gwartney; Courtney Howard; Karen Meizner; Karl Wolfe


Does anyone have pictures of skiing at the Harbor Mountain Ski Hill (or current pictures of the vicinity) that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?

~  PHOTOS  ~

World War II Era Skiing Pictures from Sitka

Photos Courtesy of the Sitka Historical Society / Isabel Miller Museum - Karen Meizner, Administrator

These photos pictures show great skiing in Sitka during the 1940s.  The photos were likely taken at Harbor Mountain, though it is possible the upper right two photos were taken on Mt. Verstovia.

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo shows where Harbor Mountain is located - just north of Sitka.  Mt. Verstovia can be seen 5 miles or so to the southeast of Harbor Mountain.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_harbor.jpg (192006 bytes)

A zoomed in topo view of Harbor Mountain shows the Forest Service Road that winds up to the top of the west ridge of Harbor Mountain.  The estimated location of the old rope tow is right behind the cabin near the end of the road.  Note: From this high elevation on Harbor Mountain ridge, the views from this ski hill, of Sitka Sound and the islands beyond, must have been phenomenal.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_harbor.jpg (155786 bytes)

Research Correspondence 

[Sandy Russell - 30 November 2004 email] 

A rope tow about 400 feet long  operated for a short time until February 1955 in the back bowl located at the end of Harbor Mt Road.  It was placed there by the Sitka Ski Club which has not existed since the late 60's to early 70's.  The tow was mentioned as early as 1948 but it is unclear from the records exactly when the rope tow was actually placed on Harbor Mountain.  It ceased to exist  in the bowl area after two fatalities occurred during an avalanche in February 1955. Location of the tow was as described in your message.  The cabin referred to was a building left from WWII military operations there.  It was used by skiers as a warming hut or overnight cabin.

A Charles Haynes had applied for a special use permit to operate a tow line on Harbor Mountain as early as 1948 but a copy of the signed application is not in any records I currently have access to.  Therefore it is hard to determine exactly how long the tow was in place.   It was however in place on February 27th, 1955 as mentioned in ranger reports of the fatalities.

While the idea of an alternate location for a tow line was pursued after 1955 and through the late 70's, nothing ever materialized.

Not sure how much this helps you.

Sandy Russell
Recreation Manager, Tongass NF- Sitka Ranger District
Harbor Mountain Recreation Area

[Courtney Howard - 24 and 31 January 2006 email excerpts] 

I heard the rope tow on harbor was made by a local doctor.  I heard the two fatalities were his sons. I heard that he made the decision to take the rope tow down on his own.

I'm not sure which one was the ski shelter.  There is still a shelter back down the road about 1/2 of a mile to a mile back from the bowl.  In the summer its a gazebo, and in the winter they put up walls and throw in a little stove, but that's mostly for snowmobilers and four wheelers.
I went up harbor for the first time maybe 14 years ago, and there was never a warming hut right at the base of the bowl that I can remember.  However, if you go to the top of the bowl, and then go up the knob on the right side, there at least used to be the remains of a building up there.  To the best of my knowledge, the building was a WWII lookout.  That building was probably still standing at the time of the ski hill.  All it was when I saw it was a few big timbers caked into the ground, and some large gauge old rusty cables, it was just kind of a trash heap when I saw it.  I don't think the cables had anything to do with the rope tow, but who knows.  The thing is, if the rope tow just went to the top of the bowl, chances are that getting to the cabin would have involved a short hike.
If you go back out the ridge past the bowl, just going straight and following the trail, there's an emergency cabin back there a couple miles.  There is no way that that cabin was there as it exists now when the ski hill was there.  It seemed pretty new when I saw it the fist time.

What really interests me is weather or not the snow was good up there back then.  The skiing up there now is usually kinda crummy, not as much coverage as you'd want.  I get the feeling that they probably got more snow back in the day.  I hope that helps. 

[Karl Wolfe - 02 January 2008 email excerpts] 

Looking at the photos that are labeled as Verstovia all but the upper two right ones are definitely Harbor MT. They other two are tougher to tell, but the topography on the upper right ones looks more like the ridgeline leading to the main peak on Harbor also.  Harbor Mountain is also routinely skied and snowboarded with people gaining access up the road by ATV and snowmachine (as it is a motorized recreation area in the winter) and then hiking. Skiing and snowboarding on both mountains have become increasingly popular in the last five to ten years on both these mountains to where there are now routinely groups of people on them even on weekdays.  Give me a call if you have any questions on this as I can show you current photos.

[Frank Gwartney - 14 June 2011 email] 

I was in grade school in Sitka in 1955 and was friends with Kathleen Moore whose 2 older brothers died in that avalanche. Their father was the doctor who founded the Moore clinic.



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