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Cape Romanzof AFS

1953 to Early 1980s

Name of Ski Area: Cape Romanzof (Air Force Station)
Location: Cape Romanzof, on the west coast of Alaska, on the Askinuk Mountains that jut out of the coastal edge of the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta, north of Hooper Bay
Type of Area: Natural terrain for downhill and cross country skiing
Dates of Operation: 1953 to early 1980s (*downsized in the mid 1980s)
Who Built It?: The United States Air Force built this Long Range Radar Station.

Bottom Camp: ~1000' / Top Camp: ~2300'

Lifts: Tram from base camp to top camp (when it was working).
Facilities: A full-service remote Long Range Radar Station camp that would support over 100.

The only information known about this ski area is what is mentioned in the Cape Romanzof section of the 1962 "Guide to AAC Remote Stations" (see below).  And that there was skiing done here in the 1970's (see email text below).  Many of the Cold War remote long range radar sites offered skiing as a recreational activity for servicemen.  Other sites that have skiing mentioned in the 1962 guide have confirmed that skiing was popular at those radar stations.

Sources of Information:

The Online Air-Defense Radar Museum - www.radomes.org/museum/; Joseph LeClair; Dave Butler; Bob Stanley; James Kreinhop; Mark Blevins; Ron Kruse; Stanley Amyx; Gary Shelly



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

(click on any image to expand it)

The document on the left 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 one of the "recreational features" of the base.

The Cape Romanzof AFS emblem, on the right, showed that the men stationed here had a quality needed to survive here - a sense of humor !!


CapeRomanzofAAC62.jpg (57604 bytes)

The photo on the right shows the Bottom Camp, Top Camp on top of Towak Mountain and a White Alice station off to the right on the ridge top.  This terrain looks very skiable. CapeRomanzofAFSAK0975-3.jpg (25764 bytes) CapeRomanzofAFSAK72dist.jpg (17943 bytes)
These winter shots show the rime ice encrusted top camp on the left (notice the tram tower).  To the right is a picture of Bottom Camp from Top Camp. CapeRomanzofAFSAK1175-5.jpg (22239 bytes) CapeRomanzofAFSAK1975-3.jpg (32648 bytes)
A great picture of the Top Camp entrance to the left.  And a recent (2001) picture of the current radar facility on the right. CapeRomanzofAFSAKWinter1960.jpg (33859 bytes) CapeRomanzofLRRSAKaerial.jpg (9312 bytes)
Here is a good article about life at remote Alaska Cold War radar stations.  It appeared in a March 2003 Air & Space magazine and it is by Paul R. Cochrane.  The illustration on the right shows a typical long range radar site.  The radar and top camp on a peak, a bottom camp down below near an airstrip.  And a road and tram leading from bottom camp to top camp. OneVeryColdWar_Page1.jpg (159965 bytes) OneVeryColdWar_Page2.jpg (154562 bytes)


Ron Kruse Photos,  1958 - 1959

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo map shows where the Cape Romanzof AFS was located - on the west end of the Askinuk Mountains, a coastal anomaly in the very flat Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta area.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_romanzof.jpg (125264 bytes)

A zoomed in view of the topo map shows little of the radar installation remains.  Top Camp was on top of Towak Mountain.  Bottom Camp is identified by the buildings to the west at the 1000 foot level.  The AFS landing strip was near sea level at the end of the road that led down from Bottom Camp.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_romanzof.jpg (175169 bytes)

Research Correspondence 

[Joseph LeClair - 11 December 2007 email] 

I was stationed there for one year 1953 to 1954 and can assure you that we had access to skis but nobody did any skiing.  I was a radio technician, base barber, and was sent to demolition school at Elmendorf for a few weeks so I could return to widen the airstrip so C-46's could land. Until then only Canadian Beavers could do so.  I also have numerous slides of the area and myself ( I turned 21 while stationed there).  I am now 74.   There were 110 men stationed there at the time.  I worked mainly in the Radio Shack located about 1 mile from the base camp.  It was quite an adventure.  Sincerely,   Dr. Joseph LeClair

[Dave Butler - 18 January 2008 email] 

Just recently visited your lost ski sites web page relating to the old USAF AC&W station at Cape Romanzof, Alaska. I found the comments of Dr Joseph LeClair quite interesting. I was also stationed on "The Cape" with the 795th AC&W Sq many years after Joseph was there. I arrived on site in December 1969 and left in December 1970. As to skis and skiing on site, in my year out there on Cape Romanzof I never so much as saw a set of ski's let alone saw anyone go skiing. I was a General Purpose Vehicle repair tech and worked in the vehicle repair section, or "motor pool" as it was more commonly called. My workmates and I were one of the few personal on site with AFSC's that didn't have outdoors restrictions during winter months so if something was shaking outside I was either directly involved or knew about it and was in the shop monitoring the com base station. Our section also provided "taxi" support for Weather Shack and Top Camp. And of course our section provided mobile repair services for the engineering section when they were out working snow and ice removal on the roads and runway. The dozers and graders worked the roads and runway year around. We had to to stay ahead of the snow and chug hole build up as that runway and the road leading to it were our vital life line. Everything and everyone came into and off the Cape by air.

Of course the Cool Barge landed in late July with fresh winter and bulk fuel stores as well. As long as the weather was good and the seas were relatively light the cool barge operation was 24 hours a day until all supplies were off loaded. During my cool barge experience they brought us in a new crewcab 4x4 pickup, a new grader, and one new dozer. We shipped the vehicles they replaced out to salvage depot on the same barge the new replacements arrived on. The USAF was no longer allowed to abandon salvage equipment and vehicles on site by the time I pulled my remote duty in Alaska. I suppose one can reasonably say the runway at Cape Romanzof  is "close" to sea level. If you don't take into consideration the 130-150 foot sheer drop off at the bay end of the runway! The runway was large enough to land a C-130 when I was on the Cape but it really taxed a heavily loaded 130's capability to take off. They had to turn her around, reverse props and back her to the extreme eastern end of the runway with about a fourth of the aircraft overhanging that end of the grade, bring all engine to full rev's and set full flaps, then after a run-up to full power release the brake and "shoot" off down the runway. Even then the three 130's I saw roll off at the Cape just did go airborne within 100 or so feet of the bay end of the runway and it's abrupt drop off.

I was assigned extra duty as a site fire fighter augmentee so I luckily was on the strip in "Big Red" and helped to greet every aircraft that landed on the Cape in my time there. Most aircraft that landed were Alaskan Air Command C-123's or Munns Airlines Twin Otters out of Nome and Bethal. C-130 landings were not very common. The runway was cut out of the northern slope of the Towak Mountain and ran up hill from the bay toward the east. I am not sure of it's actual length but it wasn't far that I can say for sure. A half mile or so.

The road to top camp and White Alice site was only accessible by Track Master or dozer in winter months. And the tramway to top camp was pretty much a coin toss every time she was placed in service. If we were real lucky she worked. It was out of service most of the time I was there! I had to make several trips to top camp with the Sq. CO and medic in a Track Masters as a result. We had 3 Track Masters on the site and they were one of my primary areas of responsibility as the Squadron's only "GP" mechanic. All the other mechanics in motor pool were heavy equipment techs. I so disliked that ride to top camp in winter weather. Looking back today I dislike it even more!  Even though we all went about our duties on the Cape in a professional and proper military manner it did not take you long to reason that you had to take most things that happened on site with a grain of salt. Without a sense of humor you'd go off your gord in a place like Cape Romanzof!  A couple of the troops did just that too. Unless you have "been there and done that" it is hard to understand what these old cold war veterans experienced on these remote tours out on the "DEW Line". It was no where near the "easy duty" many who never went THINK it was that I have talked to about it. I have to be honest here and say there is nothing I miss about Cape Romanzof and I don't care to ever see the place again. That said I am very grateful to the Air Force for the experience and skills that tour of duty gave me.  Winter maintenance skills I still use to this day in fact. I have several scans of photo's I took on the Cap here, but none relate to skiing. If you'd like I will share them with you, just let me know.  Thanks for the site and keep up the good work. We really do need to keep a place for these old sites in our history. Some very good and honorable men, and women I am sure, pulled tours of duty on these sites.

Sincerely,  Dave Butler, Jonesborough, TN

[Bob Stanley - 03 August 2008 email] 

I enjoyed your Cape Romanzof website. I was there from Sept 1957 until  July 1958. I was in charge of the radar maintenance team there.  We had an FPS-3 long range early warning radar which ran beautifully the time I was there. The tram was not working as it had burned just before I got there so we went from the bottom to the top on a sled pulled by a weasel. Coming down was easy, we just slid down the mountain. I never saw any skis there. There were several wild dogs in the area, lots of Ptarmigan, Ermine and Lemmings. We had 110 men there with 6 or 7 on top. Bob Hope tried to come there one day and we saw his plane trying to land on that small and dangerous runway but it was too windy so he flew on to a sister site.
GOD Bless,
Bob Stanley

[Dave Hannum - 08 September 2008 email via Tom Page] 

While I was not a radar operator, I was one of the weather folks with OL-G, 11th Weather Squadron, Cape Romanzoff AFS, from June of 1973 – June of 1974.   I used to ski from main site down to the strip shed on the airstrip.   Glad you all have the website.  Brings back memories.   No longer have pictures.  Too bad there is not a Cape Romanzoff AFS association.

[James Kreinhop - 13 December 2008] 

I was browsing around and found this site concerning CZF.  I was NCOIC of the weather station from July 1974-June 1975.  The weather station was located at the approach end of the runway, near the beach warehouse.  We had one man who could ski and we found an old pair of skis in the station.  He used them a few times on  the long slope behind the station.  Even with a lot of snow there were large rocks that were dangerous.  On e time he skied down the slope and right up on to the roof of the weather station.  We also had a toboggan that we nearly broke our necks on several times.  All in all I would not recommend it as a location for winter sports.  It was my last assignment of my 20+ years in the AF.  Most of the time the weather station had three men to man it 18 hours a day.  We were pretty self sufficient.  We lived in the station and did all of our own cooking, laundry and anything else needed for survival.  The only really fun memories of the place was fishing in the stream that ran down to the bay.  Shortly after I arrived there were humpback salmon coming up the stream.  They wouldn't take a lure but you could snag them with a treble hook.  They put up a real fight in the fast flowing water.  After them, Dolly Varden trout came up the stream.  They would sometimes strike a lure but were hard to get.  During the winter Eskimos would come across the bay on snowmobiles to fish through the ice.  One time they were camped under a bluff and snow wiped out the camp.  They came up to the weather station and we put them up for a couple of days.  I remember that they had coats made of un-tanned skins and we made the mistake of putting one of them in the dryer.  The place stunk for a long time.  Sorry, I have no pictures.  This was probably not the kind of in formation you were seeking but I couldn't resist some of the old memories.
Jim Kreinhop

[Mark Blevins - 30 December 2008] 

I discovered your web site yesterday while searching for some information to share with friends.  Post Katrina, an old friend of mine moved from New Orleans area to Anchorage.  He works on the North Slope and I wanted to share some of my Alaskan experiences with him.

I was stationed at the Cape from Dec 78 to Dec 79.  There were 15 AF staff on site then with about 35 civilians.  Only the radar operations were handled by military staff.  All maintenance of the site and radar itself was performed by the civilian staff, many of which were former AF.  I helped to build the new satellite antenna site there in the summer of 79.  A crew came on site to manage and a few of us airmen were hired to do labor on our off time.  Mixing and pouring concrete into a 4’ thick pad with more rebar than I had ever seen before was my contribution.  I left before the antenna was operational.

The tram was not operational during my stay.  Many stories of its up and down history were told, but no one on site had ridden the tram while I was there.  I did have the pleasure of watching a stir crazy radar maintenance crew try to get down to the main site in a makeshift toboggan from White Top.  They had run out of beer and wanted to get down to main camp badly.  I was on duty and went to the back door at the ops room and watched them as my crew members talked to them on the phone.  Two of them got into the toboggan and started to slide down the mountain.  I did not take long before they were airborne and subsequently bailed out.  The toboggan made the trip to the bottom by itself.  Its two passengers climbed back inside the radome to change their pants.  I don’t think they were anticipated flying to the bottom.  We laughed at this classic redneck “watch this” episode for a long time.  The boys did without the beer.

We also, as did many others I am sure, went without a resupply plane of any type for 45 days due to inclement weather.  During one of the storms of that period, I was in the Ops room wearing winter parka etc as we were under attack by full hurricane force winds.  The rather large (36” or 48”) exhaust fan located in this room for pushing HOT air outside, was spun backwards more than once during my shift one long night.  The heavy equipment operators actually went outside in the D8 Cats to push snow up against the cold storage building and others to protect it from the wind.   That storm caused damage at a few of the sites.  Seems that either Sparavohn or Tatalina lost a roof on one of their buildings.  It was quite a ride.

I am pretty sure I am one of two people that skied at the Cape that year.  There was an old pair of cross country skis on site that were literally I think as old as I was at the time.  They consisted of two rather long boards with leather straps attached as bindings.  They were crude and while I can’t say for sure, may have been home made.

I used them to trudge around the site a time or two and once braved the slope behind the site in downhill mode.  The fact I am alive to retell this episode is somewhat amazing.  Trying to turn 8’ skis while bombing down a long steep slope is something one should consider before committing to the ride.

It was a real experience to be at the Cape.  I have many slides taken at the site which I can make available to you upon request.

Thanks for keeping the memory alive!

[Ron Kruse - 12 July 2009] 

I was stationed at Cape Romanzof from August 1958 through July 1959. There were 95 military and white Alice civilians. I worked the power plant.
Had a great time, there was little or no skiing.
I am looking to locate Don Christensen who ran the Boiler Plant and Jack Butler who worked the Power plant.

After the Cape I was stationed at Castle A.F.B California. I was retrained to Ground Power Equipment. My four years of service was extended to four and a half. Discharged July of 1962, returned to Cincinnati, OH.

Attached are a few photos.


Ron Kruse

[Stanley Amyx - 25 May 2010] 

I have read with great interest the previous comments.  They have brought back many memories of my year at Cape Romanzof.  I was there from July of 1956 to July of 1957. 

Among other duties, I was the postal clerk for the unit.  This required that I make many trips down to the strip or to the bay to meet the mail plane.  In the summer they would land on wheels or on the bay on pontoons.  The mail was usually delivered by planes from the Northern Consolidated Airlines out of Bethal. Delivery was always dictated by the weather and the longest that we went without was a month.  The trip up and down was exciting in the winter as track vehicle were always needed.

Others have mentioned the tram that burned.  I helped to fight that fire and remember carrying fire hoses that were frozen stiff.

We had skis available to us and I did some cross country but never any downhill.  I was too dangerous because of the rocks.

My only regret is that I did not keep a list of the men and their hometowns so that I could have kept track of them.

Looking forward to more comments.

Stanley Amyx A/1C

[Gary Shelly - 09 January 2013] 

I was pleasantly surprised to come across anything on Romanzof online. I was the resident Recreation Specialist there from September 1973 to September 1974 and most likely knew one of the other contributors, Dave Hannum, although his name doesn't ring any bells this many years later. During my tenure there wasn't much in the way of skiing going on although there was enough equipment available for maybe 5 or 6 guys to hit the slopes if they so desired. I did make a few runs with a Captain from the main camp down to the air strip that were fun but nothing to brag about since there were few places with any great degree of slope. Perhaps the best starting point would have been to get dropped off on the road to top camp a ways before it narrowed  to run the ridge. This would give you a fairly good slope to get started. As for any idea of making a run from the Radome directly down to the main camp, I think not. The physical makeup of that area was pretty much boulders the size of small cars, very steep and for the most part ice.

My skiing abilities were maybe bunny slope plus at best but since, at that time, they didn't allow people to go out alone I was the designated escort. So I cut down a pair of skis and moved the bindings forward to be able to be the "buddy" for anyone wanting to go out. One had to be pretty careful due to the rocks that littered the landscape, they'd be hidden just below the ice crystal powder, and patches of glare ice were quite common. As I recall the amount of snowfall was only something like 78 inches but the wind was constantly blowing anything loose from the Bering Sea right on to us making it seem like about 3-4 times as much - maybe it was.

I do have some pictures digitized of the site and would be happy to forward a few to whoever might be interested. Can't really say they are great shots though, it was hard at times to not wind up with lightning bolts across the image due to static electricity when winding the film.

Gary Shelly.



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