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Mount Susitna

Mid 1990's

Name of Ski Area: Mount Susitna, Mount Susitna North Ridge
Location: Susitna Valley, west of the Big Susitna River and Alexander Creek, 15 miles north of Cook Inlet, 30 miles from Anchorage
Type of Area: Ski Hill
Dates of Operation: Mid 1990's
Base/Vertical Drop:

Base: ~300' / Vertical: ~4000'

Lifts: Snowmobiles, Super Cubs ... or ski up.
Facilities: None
History: It's questionable whether you can call Mount Susitna a lost ski area.  The reason Mount Susitna is on the lost ski areas list is because for a year or two in the mid 1990's there was a commercial skiing operation here.  A company called Iditasport, run by Dan Bull, offered snowmachine supported ski trips to the north ridge of Mount Susitna.  Clients would rent a Ski-doo Tundra II from Ididasport and set off with guides from the Pt. McKenzie Farms area outside of Knik.  The snowmobile ride was about 50 miles across Flathorn Lake, the Big Susitna, past Eaglesong Lodge to the base of the north ridge.  Folks would then double up on snowmachines and the skiers would be transported to the North Summit of Mount Susitna where they would kick off on a five mile ski run down the north ridge.

Carl Thomas is the first known person to regularly ski Mount Susitna.  His family members would tow him up the north ridge in the late 70's and early 80's and he would ski the great 5 mile run back down (see email from Allen Thomas below).  Carl Thomas also skied Little Mount Susitna.

Occasionally people have landed small ski-equipped planes on top of the main summit ridge of Mount Susitna and dropped skiers off to descend the peak ... back to an awaiting plane pickup.  Members of the Alexander Creek Thiele clan used to do this.  In the early 70's Carl Thiele Jr. would fly his SuperCub to the top of Mt. Susitna and drop off his cousin Van Novak so he could ski down the North Ridge.

[Tim Kelley] I have skied up and back down Mount Susitna several times.  I usually go up the South Peak and then on to the main summit.  The first time I did this I went with two of my dogs, Fraetre and Qutuq.  Once past the South Peak, we skijored across the top of the mountain.  Pictures from this trip and another more recent Mount Susitna ski trip can be seen below.

Sources of Information:

Tim Kelley, Allen Thomas, Steve Novak

~  PHOTOS  ~
In 2007 the skis Carl Thomas once used to ski Mt. Susitna and Little Mount Susitna in the 70's and 80's were still at his remote cabin in the area.
[Photo credits: Tim Kelley]

[Tim Kelley] Here are some views of a February 2005 ski trip on the north ridge of Mount Susitna.  Click here for more pictures.

(Click on any of the following photos to enlarge them)

[Left] Skating the ridge towards the summits - Main to left, North to right.

[Right] A shot from the top of the North Summit at the snowmobile trail / ski route heading down the long north ridge into the clouds.

[Tim Kelley] Here are some pictures from a ski / snowshoeing / ski-joring trip from Pt. McKenzie Farms near Knik to the top of Mount Susitna, and back, in February 1992.

(Click on any of the following photos to enlarge them)

Taking a break in the Chedatna Swamps area while approaching Mount Susitna.  I was skiing, pulling a sled.  Eventually I had to switch to snowshoes and break trail for my pals.

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After camping out overnight at treeline on Mount Susitna - Fraetre, Qutuq and I hike up the South Peak as the sun comes up.

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[Left] Taking a break at the top for the view and a photo op.  [Right] Fraetre and Qutuq - the first dogs to skijor across the top of Mount Susitna !?!  Approaching the telecommunications site on the middle of the main ridge.

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The top is not very serene - there is a chugging diesel motor, powering a generator, in the quonset hut.  The lower part of the tower is the fuel tank for the motor.

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Once away from the telecomm site, the top of Mount Susitna is stark, but beautiful.  Especially when there is new snow like this day - great skiing.  The South Peak can be seen in the distance. On the west side of the ridge there are lots of large cornices.

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[Left] Taking in the view back at the campsite.

[Right] The Susitna Valley used to have many freight dog teams in the old days.  Freatre, Qutuq and their offspring were the last freight dog team in the Su Valley in the 20th century.  They were indeed a team to behold.

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[Tim Kelley]  Here are pictures from a ski trip up Mount Susitna in March of 2004.  These panoramic pictures were taken from the South Peak of Mount Susitna.  One heck of a view !!!  (Click any picture to enlarge it ... but beware - these are big images)

Looking west and northwest  (673KB)

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Looking east and southeast (972KB)

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360 degree view from the South Peak of Mount Susitna (1239KB) 

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~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo shows where Mount Susitna is relative to Anchorage.

(click on this map to expand it)

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A zoomed in topo map view shows South Peak, main peak and North Summit of Mount Susitna.  And the fall line of the ski run down the long north ridge.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_MtSusitna.jpg (132747 bytes)

Research Correspondence 

[Allen Thomas - November 14 and 16, 2004 email excerpts] 


I just wanted to find out what you know about the downhill skiing on and around Mt. Susitna and little Mt. Susitna areas. My dad used to downhill ski on these mountains by snow machine in the 70's and early 80's. As far as we know he was the only one who has done this. He has a cabin in the area and maintains his snowmachines there. We used to tow him up on the mountain approximately 5 miles and let him go. Virgin powder. He still maintains his trail up on the mountain. Doesn't ski anymore. Just rides up for the view.

My dad's name is Carl Thomas. His cabin is located on the East foothills of little Mt. Susitna. ... I think I have some pictures of my dad skiing on the mountain.  Allen



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