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Indian Mountain AFS

1953 to 1982

Name of Ski Area: Indian Mountain AFS (Air Force Station); Utopia Creek
Location: Indian Mountain, 165 miles northwest of Fairbanks, 20 miles east of Hughes on the Koyukuk River (this site is VERY remote - air access only)
Type of Area: Ski Hill (a power-line clearing on a mountain-side)
Dates of Operation: 1953 to 1982 (site changed to a Minimally Attended Radar (MAR) site in the early 80's)
Who Built It?: The United States Air Force built the facilities and the power line that was skied on.
Base/ Vertical Drop:

Base: ~1000' / Top: ~3100' (for direct run to Bottom Camp) /Vertical: ~2100'

Lifts: Truck or tracked vehicle up access road from Bottom Camp to Top Camp.
Facilities: Two Air Force full-service remote camps: Bottom Camp, elevation 1000', next to the airfield and Top Camp, elevation 4234', up a 10 mile access road on the top of Indian Mountain next to the radars.

At Bottom Camp servicemen could check out ski equipment.  They would then hitch a ride with a truck or tracked vehicle up the access road to Top Camp and then ski down the power line easement swath back to Bottom Camp.

Miscellaneous: During the years that the Air Force operated a Long Range Radar System here, there were 60 people based in the Bottom Camp.  And 70 stationed at the Top Camp.  In 1978 the base was transferred to civilian operation and now less than 10 people are stationed at this remote radar site.

Sounds like some wild sledding was also done on this hill.  A sled-jump seems to have been the demise of one of the last Indian Mountain base commanders - see Ed Bertschy's email below.

At present, Indian Mountain is a restricted site.  No one can land there without permission.

Sources of Information:

The Online Air-Defense Radar Museum - www.radomes.org/museum/, Mike Gantz & his Indian Mountain AFS web site, Ed Bertschy, Ron Nigg; Don Chaffin; Doug Cummings; Jake Huether; Joe Bell; Joseph Bonta; Charles Lowther; Jean McCaleb; Lawrence Myers; Tom Pitman; Robert Johnson; Bill Hanson; Hugh Cannon; Bill Aldred; John Draper; Wayne Duke; Mark Sachs; Charles Fullenwider



(All Courtesy of The Online Air-Defense Radar Museum, www.radomes.org/museum/)

(click on any image to expand it)


The 1955 newspaper article to the left explains the military's push to build radar sites for a defense shield in the 50's.  The map gives one a relative idea where Indian Mountain is ... in the middle of nowhere!

The document on the right is from the 1962 "Guide to AAC Remote Stations".  This was a "promotional brochure" in helping servicemen decide what station to apply for.  It mentions skiing as a base base activity.


Alaska1955const.jpg (85571 bytes) IndianMtAAC62.jpg (57489 bytes)
This 1971-1972 picture shows the power plant at the Bottom Camp.  Behind the power plant you can see the wide swath from the powerline that lead up to the ridgetop, and on to Top Camp.  This is the slope that folks would ski and sled. IndianMountainAFSAK1971PowerPlant.jpg (10509 bytes)
To get to the top of the powerline ski slope, you could go by truck or weasel (tracked vehicle).  What would be your choice ? IndianMountainAFSAK1971truck.jpg (6892 bytes) IndianMountainAFSAK3.jpg (14114 bytes)
Here is a view of the White Alice troposcatter communications site located on a bench on the side of the mountain near the radar site. IndianMountainAFSAK2.jpg (9497 bytes)  
Currently these geo-domes have replaced most all Air Force structures.  Remnants of the powerline swath can be seen in the distance.  Less than 10 people are now needed to maintain and run the modern radar installation on the top of the mountain.  As you can see from the picture on the right, the Top Camp that used to house 70 people is now gone. Current_IndianMountain1.jpg (19736 bytes) Current_IndianMountain2.jpg (18764 bytes)

Tom Pitman pictures from 1952-1953

Base Camp Radio Ops - 1952 Base Camp - 1952


Joseph Bonta pictures from 1954-1955

Bottom camp Top camp Radar dome Joe and Husky Outhouse
Bunk Joe Joe Caribou Dome and ice
View from bottom camp Joe Winter trip Winter transport Mountaintop plowing


Charles Lowther pictures from 1958-1959

 Group at ball field  Bob, cook and Moose  Bubble, radio shack  White Alice Weasel
     Hey Indian Mountain vets - this is an Alaskan skiing history web page!  So is this the best skiing picture you guys can get me?!?!?  (ha ha!!)  Tim K.    


Mark Sachs pictures from 1969

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo map shows where Indian Mountain is relative to Hughes (a village of less then 100).  Other than that, this remote radar station is not close to any town or road.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_indian.jpg (151286 bytes)

A zoomed in view of the topo map shows Bottom Camp and the access road climbing about 3200' to Top Camp.  The dashed red line shows where a ski run would make sense - start above tree line and ski down the ridge until you met the powerline clearing that led to Bottom Camp.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_indian.jpg (143860 bytes)

Research Correspondence 
[Mike Gantz - 20 December 2004 email]

I was there winter of 71-72.  Skiing involved catching a ride to top camp (truck or snow cat) then  skiing down the power line clearcut to bottom camp. I tried it once.  The snow was very compacted and difficult to traverse with ill-fitting equipment.

[Ed Bertschy - 20 December 2004 email]
Saw your post. There definitely was skiing at Indian Mountain. At bottom camp, there was a graded slope where cables were buried. This was pretty much a beginners slope. The service section which loaned out camping and sport equipment also had ski's you could check out.
At top camp, no one ski'd that I know of. But many of us use to run survival sleds down the side of the mountain. We tried to build a jump so you could catch some air, but everyone tended to get dumped when they tried to take it. Our commander decided he'd show us all. He dislocated his shoulder on the run, and got sent back to the states. We even got it on film.
There is at least one good picture of the ski run on the Indian Mountain web site.

Ed Bertschy

Indian Mountain 77-78



Thanks for the information and story on skiing at Indian Mountain.  This info will help our web site (www.alsap.org).  Not many people in Alaska these days even know where Indian Mountain is ... even much less know that there was skiing there when the radar base was in operation.  On radomes.org there is a picture of the cleared power line swath going from behind the power station up to top camp.  I figure this is the ski run you guys used?
Thanks again,



Yeah, that's the run. We'd get a good 12 foot base on that. People still managed to hit trees and each other.


[Ron Nigg - 4 July 2005 email]

I was stationed at Indian Mountain 72-73 (top camp).  We lost two guys that froze to death due to tracking a wounded moose and getting lost. There were three guys tracking and only one was found alive the next morning. One of the guys was in radar ops and the other was in radar maint. The one that made it out was a civilian and retired from the navy. I don’t remember any names. I also don’t remember the skiing but I was stranded on the road going to the hill top with 5 other guys one time and two of us walked up about a half mile to the next survival shack and called for help as our pickup crew cab had broken down and no one had missed us, they sent a bulldozer after us so we all made it in good shape. I was also stationed at Tatalina 63-64 but that is another story. I will look around and find my old pictures of the site as I know I have a good one of what the hill top camp looked like in 72-73

Ron Nigg

[Don Chaffin - 12 July 2005 email]

Skiing at Indian Mountain

I arrived at Indian Mountain on June 23, 1982. My first day off was Sunday June 27th. On that day I decided to walk from top camp to bottom camp (10 miles by road). After walking down about 2 miles I spotted some snow lying in a ravine and it extended all the way down to the creek below (approximately a 4000 – 5000 ft elevation drop.) I figured that if I slid all the way down to the creek on this crust of snow I could then walk downstream to bottom camp. Not only would it be fun but it should be a little shorter.

So, standing in a nice breeze on this mountain and looking out over this beautiful valley I was determined to embark on this little skiing adventure. Without skis or a snowboard I walked over to the snow and placed myself in a squatting position so as to have a lower center of gravity. I then began the slide of my life! I certainly never expected to be traveling at the speed which this little ride was affording me! Within seconds I was at the bottom and landed in a thicket of willows that saved me from serious injury which would have been caused by the large rocks, only a few feet away.

And now for my introduction to the Alaska Mosquito! Here's what I found out. It's not that they are so big; it's just that there were so darned many of them!!! They started eating me alive! There was no way that I was going to be able to walk down this creek without being driven insane by these pesky little blood suckers. I recalled that before I started this slide I was not being bothered by mosquitoes. This was probably due to the slight breeze at the higher elevations. So, I decided to climb back to my starting point and walk down the road to bottom camp.

This was easier said than done! As I started my climb the mosquitoes followed me. They were ferocious! As I climbed back to the top I was waving my arms trying to keep them away from my head. The exertion of climbing caused me to breathe harder which produced more carbon dioxide. This seemed to attract more mosquitoes. They were so thick that I started breathing them into my lungs! In order to filter them from getting in my lungs I clinched my teeth and breathed through my mouth. They actually started building up so thick on my teeth that I had to clean them off every few seconds. My arms and legs were black with a covering of mosquitoes. I can
only imagine how much blood I was about to lose. I could brush them off of my arms and legs but I couldn't get them off my back. I envisioned that I was going to become exhausted or maybe have a heart attack. The mosquitoes would suck me dry and no one would ever know what happened to me. With every bit of strength I had in my body I finally arrived at a high enough elevation that the mosquitoes began to dissipate.

That was not only the last time I attempted any form of skiing at Indian Mountain; it was also the last time I went on a hike by myself!

Don Chaffin
RCA Radar/Digital Tech.
[Doug Cummings - 05 April 2006 email]

I was stationed at Indian Mountain in 75-76 as a heavy equipment operator.  It was our job to keep the runway and the 10 mile road to top camp open in the winter. Our skiing was done on what we called a cat trail, which was used by us as a shortcut in the dozers and trackmasters to bypass the jug handle on the road to top camp. It started somewhere past "fish camp" at the bottom and came out just above Langford Switch on top. It was about a fifth of a mile long and we would pack it with the cats for skiing. Forty to fifty feet wide and no room for errors. We had shirts made that said "Ski Indian Mtn." with an Indian on the edge of a radar dish. I still have it somewhere.
If you're interested, I'll find it and send you a pic. We didn't ski the power line as it was quite rough.


Doug Cummings
[Jake Huether - 12 December 2006 email]
My son found your website http://www.alsap.org/IndianMountain/IndianMountain.htm.  I was stationed at Top Camp as a Radar Maintenance Technician from December of 1965 until December of 1966.  We were stationed with a guy from Portland, Oregon who was a ski instructor and he taught many of us to ski.  We would ski down the road to Lower Camp and a guy from the motor pool would drive us back up to Top Camp in whatever vehicle was available -- usually a dump truck.  During my time at Indian Mountian one USO show visited us -- Christmas of 1965.  Nothing after that.   
The 1962  "Guide to AAC Remote Stations" was a bit of a stretch.  As I remember, there were two pool tables, two ping-pong tables and a one lane bowling alley -- you either became very good at these activities or didn't use them.  There was no T.V. and we had AFRN reception about 4-5 hours/day.  Indian Mountain truely defined a "Remote Assignment".  We depended on the movies that came in periodically for entertainment -- we saw lots of re-runs.   At 19, I was the youngest person on site.  As you can imagine, I had quite an education during my time there.  Your web site brought back many memories........
Jake Huether
[Joe Bell - 24 December 2006 email excerpt]

Arrived at Indian Mountain right after Thanksgiving , 1953--took over as site chief --10th Radio Relay detachment--stationed there one year--have lots of slides and b&w--will try to send you some--we had a bunch of army engrs come out in summer of 54 to survey for new antenna arrays for the new tropo scatter stuff--screwed up their compass settings and located antenna's in valley --we maintained good communications using GE commercial fm transmitters at 1kw--lots of stories here about how we did it--don't know about the power line ski area but there was cleared path on the side of the mountain toward Hughes that was supposed to be used for a aerial lift for supplies--had a snow fence all the way along it--this project was abandoned and the Indians that operated the gold dredge got permission to salvage the gear--they took everything but the building--even the big buda diesel engines that operated the lift--they were good mechanics and took a lot of the gear apart to transport it on dog sleds back to Hughes--my bunch made a toboggan and used that area to slide down--did not know they had brakes until we found out the hard way--we had a few visual sighting of soviet aircraft and our radar had very good coverage due to the elevation--we saw lots of U.S. aircraft enter soviet airspace (on radar) and soviet aircraft entering ours--all denied in the press--our radio was supposed to be line of sight but the best programs we could get were from radio moscow and they had a lot of news about our sites.
[Joseph Bonta - 05 September 2007 email]
My name is Joseph Bonta and I was stationed at Utopia (Indian Mountain) from May1954 to May 55. I live in the Boston area and worked as an engineer for Sylvania & Raytheon Co. I am now retired and still think of my life at UTOPIA.  I was a Radar mechanic on the FPS 3 radar. WE named it Utopia because it was so unutopian , Did you know that?  Time Magazine sent a photographer to the site and in their December 20 1954 issue there are photos of the site on pages 18 & 19 [see below].  We had no sledding or skiing when I was there.  No water (one Gallon a day to wash-up), an outhouse and there was 50 men on top site and about 150 at bottom camp
The Old Utopian

[Joseph Bonta - 17 September 2007 email]

We all have our individual experiences about our tours up in Alaska.  When I first got to Ladd AFB I was assigned to what were called the Russian Quonset huts. I was there for my arctic indoctrination for about two weeks before I went to Utopia. The guys that I met there told me that I was going to the worst site in Alaska.  That the runway was up hill and that because I was a Radar mechanic  I would be up on Indian Mt. where there was no water, or indoor plumbing , but an outhouse.  Well I thought that they were pulling my leg as they all would laugh when I said I did not believe all the stories that they told me.  When I left for the site, the crew chief told me he would show me where I would be for the next 12 month, and when we got to Utopia he showed me from the plane the Radar dome sitting on top of the mountain.

I will give you an example of what could and did happen to you after you were there for awhile.  As you can imagine fire was a real problem at the site because we had no water to put out a fire....So... they sent a master sgt. to set up a system to cope with a fire situation. We all called him Ring Ding Ding when we addressed him ( rank did not mean much to us up there).  One day in the mess hall he said " Call me Sarg, or Bill but I do not want to hear you calling me Ring Ding Ding anymore.  About two or three weeks latter I was walking from one section to another ( all the huts were connected by hallways)  and I heard some one walking behind me and repeating the words RING DING DING. I stopped and guess who it was, it was the Master Sgt, himself, I asked him if he knew what he was saying and he responded "Yes" and I said "welcome aboard sarg, you are one of us now".
Like I said we all have individual experiences. But what I learned is that the Air Force did not give a rats ass about us poor souls stuck up on a mountain for 12 months straight. When I went to my promotion hearing at bottom camp I was asked tech questions about electronics. I answered all the questions' without any problem because that was my expertise ( I worked as an electrical engineer from 1956 to 1993) But when I was asked if I would re-up into the AIR FORCE, I said "No way would I reenlist"  The Air Force had a policy that once you had experience at a remote site chances were good that you would be sent back to one after a year or so of state side duty.
[Charles Lowther - 11 September 2007 email]
My name is Charles Lowther and I was stationed at Indian Mountain from June 1958 to June 1959. I worked as a ground to air radio maintenance tech. (see photo of radio maintenance shack) The radio shack was the only occupied building that was not connected by the hallway system.  We had no skiing when I was there so we would just lay down on our backs, lift our legs and slide down head first. (see attached photo) While at Indian Mountain there were 80 guys at top camp including civilians. Some of the civilians were tech reps and others ran the micro wave station called White Alice. (see attached photo) Our Baker went for a walk one afternoon and never was seen again. Later, the ball field at base camp was dedicated to him. (See photos) Also, there were no power lines to top camp. All power came from diesel generators located at the top camp.

Originally from St. Louis, I am now retired and live in Reno Nevada. I spent most of my working career in the semiconductor industry working for Monsanto co., Hewlett Packard, and Siemens to name a few. I would like to hear from anyone that was there while I was.  Thanks.
[Jean McCaleb - 08 May 2008 email]
jeanjean70 -at- bellsouth.net
[Lawrence Myers - 29 May 2008 email]

Fall into winter 1966…..What I remember  is the dump and helping the guys in the deuce and a half back into the dump area really quick and then hitting the brakes and letting the garbage slide off the truck ! Why? There were always 5 or 6 bears hanging around and no one wanted to unload in a more conventional way. I skied from top camp to bottom camp in late Nov., with a 30-06 rifle on my shoulder (per camp commander’s orders). Thank god for the trees, they gave me something to help break my many falls.

I recall a fella “Wild Bill” this guy was crazy; he was a civilian at the white Alice operation at top camp but always came to bottom camp on Friday nights to win all the G.I. money floating around at the NCO bar. I heard he passed away a few years ago in Wasilla, Alaska. This guy was a true Alaskan in every sense of the word. He landed his plane upside down one time and when we got to the cockpit to take him out, he was strapped in his seat laughing like hell. A friend of mine at the site shot a Boone & Crockett size moose that fall and we used a D-8 Cat to bring it into the motor pool to hang up and butcher. We chained the moose to the blade and drove it in without any problem! We ate moose for 2 months after that, the cooks were even getting tired of finding recopies to try.

It was 10 miles from bottom camp to top camp with a survival shack every mile. We took the weasel (track vehicle) to top camp in the winter and stalled right next to one of the shacks (mile 6). It was thee that I saw the largest Wolf that I have ever seen. Lots of memories…………….all good.

[Tom Pitman - 23 October 2008 email]

Subject: Utopia Creek AK

My name is Tom Pitman, and I was a radio operator at Indian Mountain Base Camp (Utopia Creek) from June 1952 until June 1953.  Guess I must have been there after the camp was originally established the year before, because we had no permanent quarters. From the time I arrived until the first snow, we lived in six man tents.  After the first snow, James-Way Huts were constructed and we lived in them, six men to a hut until the wind and snow got so intense that everyone moved into the quonset huts which were the original living quarters of the ground breaking crew of the previous year (I suppose).
Anyway, there were only about forty of us who "wintered over" at Base Camp, which later, I guess, took on the name, "Bottom Camp".  Most were Army Engineer types who built the road up the mountain and hauled the materials up for the radar site.  Remember having to follow a rope to and from the "outhouse", after, of course, calling on the EE8 telephone to make sure at least one of the two holes was available. (Lots of yellow snow outside the door of the main quonset hut).  That will be in the center of the picture I am going to attempt to attach, and where everyone lived in the dead of winter. 
This picture was made in the summer of 1952 and is as much of the Base Camp as I could get in the "eye" of the Brownie Hawkeye box camera I was using.  The other picture is of the three radio operators (USAF types).  I am the one standing and the one closest to me was Trudell (don't remember his first name, and don't remember the other guys name at all. Believe I may have been his replacement).
From the looks of the latest pictures, everything has changed except the runway.  That still looks the same, with the parking and turnaround area at the top.  Anyone who was there in the same timeframe (1952-1953), please contact me at kb8cfe@aol.com.  Thanks.

[Jim Zuehsow - 03 February 2009 email]

I enjoyed looking at your web page. I was only at UTO as a White Alice vacation relief tech. I noticed pictures of the new radomes at top camp. I have some pictures from about 3 years ago when a windstorm just about destroyed them, and also busted up the Alascom satellite dish down below. I just retired from Alascom after 36 years , the last 26 of them working at the Eagle River gateway station. My white Alice time was mostly at Big Mountain there on Lake Illiamna. I saw one email where someone mentioned Wild Bill. That would be Wild Bill Nelson, and yes, he did die several years ago. He was a mechanic at Big Mountain in 1968 when I was there. After he left White Alice, he continued working construction and was up on the Trans Alaska Pipeline. I used to see him around Anchorage all the time. He had a thing about lawyers, since he had several bad run-in with them and the legal system. He would drive around the courthouse with a truck and trailer that had all kinds of defamatory stuff painted on 4 by plywood sheets about how all lawyers are crooks and judges are all corrupt. The cops would come and arrest him and he’d do the same thing the next week.. His hate of lawyers and judges stemmed from back when he was 19 years old. He had a gravel hauling contract out at the Air Force base, and some lawyer gypped him out of this million dollar contract and passed it on to his contractor friend. He said since Nelson was only 19 years old, the contract was invalid. Later in life, he went through a nasty divorce and lost his shirt, so he had good reason to feel the way he did. A true Alaskan character, for sure.

[Bob Johnson - 04 February 2009 email excerpt]

I saw link below and while I was appreciating the research and dedication to producing it, I came across the photo captioned: "Here is a view of the radars on top of Indian Mountain and the Top Camp.  A rather desolate place to be in the middle of winter! The photo is actually of the White Alice troposcatter communications site located on a bench in the side of the mountain below the actual radar site. The two 30-foot dish antennas, seen from the rear in the photo point, almost due south to the Bear Creek White Alice site. This photo had to have been taken either from the AFS Radar site itself, or from the air just above it. I was a White Alice supervisor there, briefly, in, 1972.  [TK note - this picture caption has been corrected].

[Bill Hanson - 21 October 2009 email]

My name is Bill Hanson and I too was stationed at Indian Mtn from 1970/71 I was one of a couple 603’s(driver) that were there and I drove the mountain 2 times a day, I also had to haul diesel fuel up the mountain to top off the 100,000 gal tank up on top camp. There is a lot of info that  happened that year. Top camp storage tank caught fire. I diesel generator froze up and had to haul a  new up the mtn. on this web site you have two of my pictures. One is a P/u truck side of a snow drift, what is so important about that photo is  I was driving on snow that the dozer’s kept plowing the more that was plowed the farther away from the mountain the road got so this is why I said I was just driving on snow. Top camp lost the toilet’s cause everything froze up so we had to poop in a can. Being that I drove up twice a day I was up there a lot so yes I to had to poop in the can. When Mike Ganz (sp) was alive he kept the web site going and I provided a lot of info for him. Good ol 708thAC&W Sq. something I will never forget. If you would like more let me know. OK. I retired from the AF in 88 and live in NC and still work for the AF as a civilian of course. I have been doing this 20 years come Nov 27th.

Bill Hanson


[Hugh Cannon - 07 February 2010 email]
I was stationed on Indian Mountain from August 1953 until July 1954.  I was there when they started building the Radom. The initial radar set that operated there was an FPS 3 and installed under the direction of a tech rep from Bendix Radio..last name was Terry..I have forgotten his first name.  I worked with him in installing some of the equipment and was there when the site became operational.  Recall watching movies in bottom of the Radom and we had a little PX there...no heat..  In addition to work in Radar Maintenance work also in Radio Maintenance
I contributed to the new outhouse being built.  A guy by the name of Benny and I were burning out the honey pit under the old outhouse.  Shallow pit scooped in the rocks.  Fire lit and we going to pour another 5 gallon bucket of diesel oil on the fire.  We each held a  side...we swung the bucket forward, Benny let go of his side and I held on...diesel went through the fire and also onto the old outhouse...great fire. Attached is a picture of the new outhouse being built.  Also one of Midnight Sun (not very good)
During the winter of 53-54, Mr. Terry led a number of guy across the snow to Hughes. They spent the night there.  I believe some from the 10th RR were among the hearty.
During the winter a number of us missed the first switch back going off the top in a Snow Cat and proceeded a long way toward the big drop off.  Sometime spent as much as 8 hours making the trip from Bottom  Camp to Top Camp.
I was there when Joe Bell came in 1953 and when Joseph Bonita came in 1954.  Visited with the guys of 10th Radio Relay a number of times. I was in the 712 AC&W Squadron.
I am in the process of review some old slides and picture that I have.  I have a number.  I'll try to send some more when I find them.
Recently went back to Alaska; but not to Indian Mountain.

[Bill Aldred - 12 February 2010 email]
I was stationed at Indian Mt. from Sept 1959 - 1960.  It was my first "overseas" assignment as a 2nd Lt, Air Force.  Some 40 airmen and 5 officers inhabited top camp, while the commander, a Major, and support services were at bottom camp - 12 miles by snowy road down the mountain.  A PBX telephone connected the two camps.
We had no skiing while I was there.  We had a one room officers' club at top and bottom camps with a shortwave radio that was connected by cigar box speakers to each of the five officers' rooms.  Each Saturday night we hosted lemming races in the club.  Someone had made a rectangular track on which the competitors raced.  Lots of money changed hands.  Other activities included once a week movies and when the weather permitted, target practice on rats at the outside materiel dump.
Living quarters were Quonset huts joined together to form hallways and each was tied down with guy wire to protect the units from being catapulted off the mountain by the ever-present winds.
We had about 3 civilian RCA technicians attached to top camp.  These folks were working on the then top secret "White Alice" radio network.  At top camp, the radar command post with long range radar and height finding radar was operated by the technicians and officers on an around the clock basis.  We controlled the Air Defense aircraft, f-89's, from Ladd and sometime in 1960 we began working with the f102's out of Galena AFS.  Call sign for Indian Mountain was "top coat" and for the Ladd fighters out of Fairbanks the sign was "Eva Reds".  Landing strip for Indian Mt featured a 30 degree angle for landing and take-off.  Mail and supplies were shipped primarily by a local Indian operated Wien airlines.  Eskimo and/or Indian pilots flew the aircraft and unloaded the supplies .
Every now and then a prospector would wander into our camp and spend the night.  Most of these folks were panning for gold in the old abandoned goal mine within a half-mile of the top camp.  One night, a prospector very much "loaded" from adult refreshments ordered a steak dinner for all of the troops at top camp to be delivered from a restaurant in Seattle Washington.  Believe it or not, it came within days and we cooked it up in the small mess hall we had....
Then there was the time a brown bear wandered into the Mess Sergeant's room in the mess hall .......
I hope these facts are somewhat interesting to your readers.....
Bill Aldred
Lt Col (USAF), Ret.
[Ted - 25 March 2010 email]
Ran across your site re: Indian Mountain as I was looking for some information to send to another person regarding the Northern Lights.
 I was stationed at the AACS site at UTO -then a top secret site -- to direct air traffic to our dirt runway and report weather to Ladd AFB @ Fairbanks anks.
We were housed on the side of one of the mountains overlooking the base camp at the foot of he mountain that housed the radar site construction crew. I was there from January to May and one of the most memorable times in life. I had 2 sometimes 3 radio operators housed in canvas Quonset hut, a pyramid tent housed a HF transmitter and a plywood building (such as it was) housed a  Willis auto engine/generator for our lights plus a another Willis used for parts as we needed.  We melted snow for our water using a empty 5 gallon can used at one time for coffee.
The ACW outfit was a small crew just to keep the buildings in shape and when we could we'd take the jeep down the mountain to their camp for a decent, like home  cooked meal. I remember there were only 15 -20 guys at that site then, but in the summer time it a busy place.
 Those were the days. Did a little panning for gold-- a gold mining company had dredged the creek for gold with large banks of dirt either side of the creek. Our runway ended at the edge of the creek so it was full power on the C-47 coming down the runway to clear the dirt banks. There was a 12 degree rise from the bottom end of the runway to the top end of the runway.
Could go on with story's about the place.
[John Draper - 18 August 2010 email]
Arrived in summer.   24 hour daylight.   Bad case of the "Big eye"...   I wake up (top camp),  go to chow hall expecting it to be 3 pm....  place practically deserted.   Initiated at the NCO Club,   had to drink through the "panties" - got totally crocked....   massive hangover...   I ran a small AM radio station with a small transmitter I built and kept it under the Ops Building.  My USAF duties were Radar Repair and Maintenance.    I was working on the FPS-6 height finder radar.   AFSC 30352.   I was Airman 2nd Class - totally at the bottom of the food chain.    Had to carry 110 lb test equipment from tower to tower at 40 below,  through enclosed tunnels which were totally buried in the snow.    There was an FPS-90 PPI radar feeding the Ops with radar data running through a BUIC Computer system (All tubes).   A White Alice Communication station used tropo-scatter to Elmendorf AFB.     They also had AFRN radio that sounded like it was miked through a 6 transistor radio.   I played a lot of Oldies rock and roll from 6pm to 10pm and Soft music after that.    I had a small single turn table,  a reel-to-reel tape deck,  and my music was taped from a San Jose station by my brother...

They had 'Call night' every Friday,  when "Alaska Switch Autovon" operators would call a phone in the orderly room.    We were allowed 20 minutes to talk,  and there was no charge,   complements of the WATS lines in Sunnyvale...   one just called a base near where you wanted to call,   and the comm center would make the call during non-duty hours.  I was also a HAM radio operator,  and used the MARS station to work an amazing amount of really cool DX...  Conditions were amazing....  weren't allowed to talk to the RUSSKIES which had very strong signals from Siberia only 150 miles away.

They had a Cold storage warehouse,  and a warm storage for the vehicles,  the normal "dump truck" Blue USAF vehicles and larger ones used to drive the 10 miles to bottom camp.    They had an 8 million gallon tank for water they pumped during the short 3 month summer.  Showers were limited to 30 second wet,   turn off water,  and 30 second rinse.   They had BOQ housing for officers,  and on the other side BAQ's where both NCO's and Airmen were housed.  I got stuck with a chain smoker in MY room who outranked me,  and complaints were futile.  I was sick all the time,  had breathing problems,  and still reel from the effects today.  It so sucks to be at the bottom of the food chain.  For those with 69 days left would wear a whistle....   when I was "Short" it was really cool to blow it to people passing me in the halls...   Totally different people up there just before shipping out,  then what was up there when I first got there.    There were about 15 civilians who were there for more then 2 years.

large heat banks were used to keep the antennas warm,  and when we had to turn them on or off,  we had to call the power plant so they can adjust the generator output or equipment would blow up.

Dorms were very hot and stuffy,  and the heat was coming in from hot water from a large furnice near the power plant.  It was used to keep the 8 million gallon tank of water in a liquid state for 8 months out of the year.  it was a court marshall offence to turn off the heat - The water would freeze and shut down the entire heating system,   then they had to come in with welder transformers to heat up the pipes for water to flow again.

The window panes were 3 layers of class,  with air gap between then,  and still the snow manages to come in with small snow drifts on the floor we had to mop up.   In winter,  it was almost always whiteout conditions.   Every morning AFRN would have a contest to see who the coldest site was,  and ours was at the top of the list almost all the time.  Tin City site (On bearing sea) was practically "tropical".  You could practically WALK to russia from there in Winter.

Had to do KP every 2 weeks,  and tradition was that for Xmas,   NCO's would do the KP with each one doing just a 30 minute shift,  and officers would do KP for new years....

No TV,  but old rerun movies every night at 8 pm,  using an 8 mm projector that was constantly unfocused and jittery.  They had a library of about 3000 books,  I was into Sci fi - only 3 were available.... so care packages from home were always welcomed.

People would use any excuse in the book to get transferred out of this sh*thole.  One person punched a fist through glass,  that got him shipped back down to Elmendorf,  then got a mental discharge.   "Faked" Emergency leaves were highly frowned upon...  I really f*cked up my back,  but couldn't do anything about it because of the general attitude at the base.

I would travel down to Bottom camp to see "new faces" and to take in the steam room...  people would get hot in the steam room and roll around in the snow for entertainment.    In winter,   air very still,  windless,  but 85 degrees below zero - I could stay out there for about 4 minutes...  the base record was 9 minutes. I installed a transmitter at bottom camp with cooperation from White alice that supplied the lines.  In summer,  it was impossible to go outside because the mosquitoes.  Repellent just did NOT work.   Midnight baseball games were popular in summer if you can stand the mosquitoes.   A small sloping air field was used to fly things in and out,  and once you released the brakes you were committed to take off.  C130's and other cargo planes were coming and going.   land uphill,   take off downhill....

As far as I can tell,  there was NO skiing allowed in 65 - 66,  and they had "survival shacks" every mile along the service road.  There is NOTHING living at top camp.  No plants,  flowers,  trees,  etc.  It was rocky and devoid of all life except the Brown Bears,  wolves,  and wolverines,  and caribou and moose.  On my last few weeks in June, it snowed.  Those leaving the building were required to have a firearm.    Not far from the main Mountain was "Flat top",  a kind of plateau.   Good caribou hunting,  wolf and wolverine...  One wolverine got stuck in the cable ducts under the Ops Building and wouldn't get out..  snarling,   and very mean....  was eventually shot.   trash is just dumped over the side of the hill,  and bears   would have a huge ass buffet.  I remember one time there was an IG inspection,  we had a roll of RG-8U coax (10,000 ft) were weren't supposed to have (due to an error in shipping).    They just rolled it down the hill.   FYI... RG-8U coax was 12 cents a foot from electronic and ham stores.   Anyway,  this is MY story about this very remote and isolated place,  and I still have nightmares about still being up there.  I keep asking myself what the heck I did to get stationed up there..... it must have been pretty bad,  whatever it was.

I got shipped to Maine after that Charleston AFB - at least they had living plant matter there.... and now it's a prison...  how ironic...  Feel free to post this to other Indian Mt people who ski or served up there.

[Wayne Duke - 27 August 2011 email]
Hello. My name is Wayne and I lived in a cabin on Indian Mountain with my aunt, uncle and cousins. He was a civil engineer at the base. I was fairly young but I will never forget the time I spent there. We mostly subsisted and built the cabin right on the Indian river; I am very curious if it is still there. We even had an outdoor sauna and my uncle bulldozed the river and made us a swimming hole. We trapped and fished, hiked and hunted all over the area including gold camp and Chicken river. To my knowledge we were the only civilians allowed at the site at the time. Thought you might like to hear a little about it.
[Mark Sachs - 15 September 2011 email, see pictures above]
I was stationed at the Indian Mountain AFS in 1969-1970, and years ago I mentioned to a friend that it was at Utopia Creek. After I explained what the place was like, my friend told me that it sounded like I was more up the creek than in utopia! I agreed with him wholeheartedly!!!
[Charles Fullenwider - 13 December 2011 email]

I was there winter 54 till summer 55.  Was at bottom power house such as it was, D13000 cat and an international.  Went thru several upgrades power and otherwise.
I skied the runway day and night, walked up and ski down.  Was quiet an educational experience.
Charles R. (Chuck) Fullenwider   Msgt USAF (ret)



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