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Paradise Valley Rope Tow

Mid 1970's to Early 1980's

Name of Ski Area: Paradise Valley Rope Tow
Location: Anchorage, just to the north of the east-west power line that separates the Kempton Hills and Paradise Valley subdivisions.  East of Romainia Drive, north of Switzerland Drive, west (just downhill) of the Stewarts Road.
Type of Area: Ski Hill
Dates of Operation: Mid 1970's to Early 1980's (the tow was operation for approximately 7 or 8 years)
Who Built It?: Sam Hayes, Ken Richardson, Jim Sizemore, Dan and Helen Rogers.  All of these people lived with their families on Switzerland Drive or land adjacent to the ski hill.

~1200' / Vertical: ~30'

Lifts: 1 electric powered rope tow
Facilities: This ski hill was lighted.  The four families that used this rope tow lived a hundred yards or less from this rope tow.
Miscellaneous: Sam Hayes acquired a decommissioned electric powered rope tow from the Alyeska Ski Resort.  The four families that lived at the end of Switzerland Drive set up the tow on a 10 acre parcel owned by Ken Richardson.  Sam was a principal at a local school that was re-lighting their parking lot.  So Sam obtained the old parking lot lights and installed them in trees to illuminate this little ski area.  Each family had a key to the rope tow and lights.  So whenever they felt like skiing, they'd turn on the lights and tow and ski away.  Ken Richardson said: "It was a great ski hill for kids" and that it was a "neat experience" having your own backyard ski area.  (for more on this ski area's history, see Ken's account at the bottom of this web page).

Ken eventually sold his land and the rope tow's fate after that is unknown.

Ken also made a lighted cross country skiing area just to the northeast of the intersection of Switzerland and Norway.  The area was lighted by three tripods that held kerosene lanterns for light.

Sources of Information:

Ken Richardson; Jim Rogers; Dan Rogers; Tim Kelley

~  PHOTOS  ~

[Left] This shot from the fall of 2005 shows where the rope tow was located.  The Chugach Electric distribution box seen at the top of this cleared swath is approximately where the life tow power unit was located.

[Right] The return pulley used at the bottom of the rope tow.

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This 2002 aerial view of south Anchorage shows the location of where once existed the Paradise Valley Rope Tow.

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A zoomed in aerial view shows that the rope tow was located in the northeast corner of the Paradise Valley subdivision . 

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Zooming in even more, you can see where the rope tow and ski hill were located - just north of the power line that forms the north boundary of the Paradise Valley subdivision. 

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[Ken Richardson - November 2004 phone conversation with Tim Kelley] 

Tim Kelley preface: The neighborhood uphill from the end of Goldenview Drive is refered to on the Municipality of Anchorage platting maps as the Paradise Valley subdivision.  A power line runs along the north and east sides of this subdivision.  To the north of the power line is the Kempton Hills subdivision.

Here is the story of the Paradise Valley rope tow as told by Ken Richardson.

In the mid 1970's there were only four families that lived at the end of Switzerland Drive in the Paradise Valley subdivision on the southern hillside of Anchorage.  These were the Sam Hayes, Ken Richardson, Jim Sizemore and Dan and Helen Rogers families.  Sam Hayes and his wife were school principals in the Anchorage School District.  Sam was also the head of the USSA (United States Ski Association) alpine skiing program for Alaska.  So Sam had strong connections with the Alyeska Ski Resort.

In the early 1970's Alyeska decomissioned a rope tow that served the slopes just above the day lodge.  This rope tow apparatus was stored for a while on Alyeska property.  Sam instigated an arrangement with Alyeska to get the rope tow for free (or for very cheap).  So Sam got together with neighbors Jim Sizemore and Ken Richardson and they drove down to Alyeska to pick up the rope tow.  Alyeska had the equipment to easily load the rope tow power plant into the back of Ken's half ton, old Jeep.  But this monstrous mass of metal weighed down Ken's truck so much that the front wheels barely stayed on the ground.  It was a harrowing ride back to Anchorage.  The Seward Highway in those days was quite rough.  And every bump would raise the front wheels off the road for a bit and steering was impossible.

Finally, the threesome were able to coax Ken's Jeep to the power line junction at the northeast corner of the Paradise Valley subdivision.  At the time Ken owned 10 acres directly to the north of this point on the power line.  And this was where they planned to make their ski area.  Sam, Jim, Ken, and now Ken Bolanger, came up with a plan on how to unload the massive electric engine and base from the Jeep.  The plan worked, they got the engine out of the jeep ... but they also ended up tearing the tailgate off of Ken's jeep.  Once the rope tow power plant hit the ground they all agreed: "OK.  This will be the top of the ski hill!"

A tree was picked at the base of the hill and a return pulley was attached to it.  Sam spliced the tow rope and they wired the rope tow engine to the lines on a nearby power pole.  As luck would have it, the school Sam worked at was re-lighting their parking lot.  So Sam was able to obtain the old street lights and they were put in trees along the rope tow and wired up to light up this little ski area.  Each of the four families that lived near this rope tow had a key to a box with switches for the rope tow and lights.  So whenever someone felt like skiing ... they'd just go up and turn on their ski area and ski to their heart's content.

Ken said that this was a great little ski hill for the kids of the Switzerland Drive families.  They all became good skiers due to this hill.  Ken said that it was a "neat experience" to have a private neighborhood ski hill.  The rope tow was operational from the mid 70s for 7 to 8 years (into the early 80's).  Eventually Sam Hayes moved out of the neighborhood and Ken Richardson sold the property that the rope tow was on.  After the sale of this property, the rope tow was shut down.  The fate of the rope tow power plant is unknown.

Ken also mentioned that cross country skiing was done in this neighborhood during the 70's.  To the northeast of the junction of Switzerland and Norway Drives (though Norway Drive did not exist back then) Ken set up tripods that held kerosene lanterns.  These lanterns light up trails so he and his sons could ski at night.  Ken also mentioned that Sepp Weber was friends with his neighbor Jim Sizemore and they once skied from Switzerland Drive east over the ridges to the Rainbow Valley.

[Jim Rogers - 13 October 2005 email excerpts] 

The location on the web site is inaccurate. I have edited the image to block out the portion that did not exist. The upper portion that you depict on your site was actually our property at the time, and the rope tow did not extend onto our property. This upper section was pretty steep, and covered with alders and there was a straight path down to the rope tow that was a section line cut. As I recall getting down this first section to ski was the most challenging part, since it was steep and only about 15 feet wide.

I would say that it would be stretching it to say there was 100 vertical feet on the hill. I would say that it would be more like 30 feet vertically.

[Dan Rogers - 15 October 2005 email excerpts] 

Great job on the website and the research - and cool site.
Ken Bolanger wasn't up in Keno Hills in 1975-ish when it was built.  The ski hill families were Doc Richardson, Sam Hayes, Jim Sizemore, and our mom/dad, Dan and Helen Rogers.  The motor for the rope tow was located at the top of the hill, where Jim indicated, at the SW corner of Mountainside Village/NE corner of Paradise Valley.  We had talked about moving it up the hill towards our place (which is now Lot 1, Block 3 Mountainside Village), but it never happened.  Jim and I, skied on it a number of times.  It was a pretty gentle run, but close and convenient.



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