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Kennecott Mill Town Ski Slope

1911 to 1938

Name of Ski Area: Kennecott Mill Town Ski Slope (true name not known)
Location: Kennecott Mill Town (aka Kennicott), 5 miles north of McCarthy
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Ski Trails (though ski routes were likely not made specifically made for skiing).
Dates of Operation: Late 1911 to 1938
Who Built It?: Kennecott Copper Corporation
Base/ Vertical Drop:

Base: ~2000' / Vertical: ~4000' (if skiers dared ski down from the highest mines)

Lifts: Copper ore bucket lines (trams)
Facilities: From the Wrangel-St Elias National Park web site: "At its peak, the Kennecott operation employed about 600 people: approximately 300 people in the mill camp, where the ore was processed, and 200-300 in the mines up the mountain. Operation and maintenance of the railway required an additional 300 people.  During the mining era, Kennecott became a self-contained company town, complete with a hospital, general store, schoolhouse, ball field, skating rink, tennis court, recreation hall and dairy."
History: According to Megan Brokaw, the Kennecott District Interpreter, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve:  "There was a "regular" ski route in Kennecott that started at the top of the mill, went down the hill to the glacier and then back up to the houses. There are also stories of skiers taking the aerial tram (that hauled the copper ore) up to one of the tram stations, getting off and skiing back down.  Many of Kennecott's resident's skied regularly but I don't know if I would call it a lost ski "area."  Nothing was ever designed specifically for skiing (as far as I know)."
Sources of Information:

Megan Brokaw - Kennecott District Interpreter, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve; Geoffrey T. Bleakley -  Historian, Wrangell-St. Elias NPP, Wrangel-St. Elias NPP web site; Inger Jensen Ricci; Sissy Lommel Kluh, author of "Born in Kennecott: Memories of a Kennecott Kid"

~  PHOTOS  ~

Geoffrey Bleakley, a historian for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve provided these two great Kennecott era skiing pictures to ALSAP.  The picture to the right has many interesting features: You can see the typical white trimmed, clapboard sided mill town houses in the background.  The women are skiing between the train track rails that lead into the mill.  The ski poles being used are heavy wooden "sticks" without straps.  And the women to the right is skiing "old-style", only using one pole.  It also looks like the baskets are made of wood.

(click on this photo to expand it)

[Photo Credit: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve]

Kennecott Skiers 2.jpg (26630 bytes)

This picture shows skiers, possibly Kennecott Mill workers, on the Kennicott Glacier.  (Note the difference in spellings, see this web site for an explanation).

(click on this photo to expand it)

[Photo Credit: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve]

Kennecott Skiers 1.jpg (30046 bytes)

 

This is a 1923 photo of the Kennecott Mill.  The train in the foreground will be transporting copper ore 196 miles to Cordova.

(click on this photo to expand it)

[Photo Credit: Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

AMHA_Kennecott_1923_mill.jpg (226662 bytes)

 

Megan Brokaw mentioned that there are stories of skiers taking aerial trams up the mountain and skiing down.  On the left is the picture of the tram that led up to the Jumbo Mine.  The buckets were used to haul supplies up, and ore down the mountain.  On the right is what the view down would be if you were riding the bucket up the mountain.  Both of these pictures are from 1921.

(click on these photos to expand them)

[Left Photo Credit: UAA Archives and Manuscripts Dept.] [Right Photo Credit: UAA Archives and Manuscripts Dept.]

UAA_Kennecott_1921_JumboTram.jpg (117737 bytes)

UAA_Kennecott_1921_jumbotower.jpg (252455 bytes)

(1919) The ore buckets weren't designed for human comfort!  If you look closely at this picture you will see legs dangling off the front of the bucket.  Those are the legs of "Dr. Brooks" as he nears the end of his tram ride.

(click on this photo to expand it)

[Photo Credit: Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

AMHA_Kennecott_1919_maninbucket.jpg (152271 bytes)

 

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale top map shows the location of Kennicott (or Kennecott) relative to McCarty in the Wrangell Mountains.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_kennecott.jpg (185383 bytes)

Zooming in on the topo view, you can see the Kennecott Mill Town location on the edge of the massive Kennicott Glacier.  You can also see the routes of the several aerial trams that served the mines up around the 6000 foot level of the ridge.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_kennecott.jpg (134135 bytes)

Research Correspondence 
[Megan Brokaw - 08 December 2004 email]

There was a "regular" ski route in Kennecott that started at the top of the mill, went down the hill to the glacier and then back up to the houses. There are also stories of skiers taking the aerial tram (that hauled the copper ore) up to one of the tram stations, getting off and skiing back down.  Many of Kennecott's resident's skied regularly but I don't know if I would call it a lost ski "area."  Nothing was ever designed specifically for skiing (as far as I know).

[Dave Brann - 04 January 2005 email excerpt]

I called a lady yesterday that was born in Kennicott [Inger Jensen Ricci].  As a kid she and most of the other kids skied there a lot but there was never a maintained ski area that she knew of, at least before 1930.  She and a girlfriend did have a regular route out to the nearest glacier [Kennicott Glacier] and back.  She did say her mom who cooked at one of the two upper camps would ski down the mountain to get groceries and then ride one of the ore cars back up.  She said the company didn't let anyone else ride the cars [just] for skiing or any other reason.

[Tim Kelley - 11 January 2006 library research]

Sissy Lommel Kluh wrote a book entitled: "Born in Kennecott: Memories of a Kennecott Kid".  Sissy lived in Kennecott from 1920-1927 with her father, mother and two sisters.  On page 37 of her book she writes: "Skiing, ice skating and sledding were great winter sports for most of the people [that lived at the Kenncott Mill Town].  She remembers skiing there herself on page 38: "We also had small wooden skis with leather straps.  They were very crude by today's standards.  My father would pulls us the hill past the mill, and we would try to ski down, falling most of the way."

 

 

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