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Romig Hill

1950's to 1960's

Name of Ski Area: Romig Hill, Hillcrest Ski Hill
Location: Anchorage, North (across Hillcrest Drive) from West High and Romig Junior High.  On the slope that leads north down to Westchester Lagoon.
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Ski Jump
Dates of Operation: 1950's ? to 1960's ?
Who Built It?: Not sure, possibly the City?  Or the Mt. McKinley Lions Club?
Base/Top/ Vertical Drop:

Base: 0 / Top: ~100 / Vertical: ~100

Lifts: 1 Rope Tow that started near the high tide level of Bootleggers Cove.  This ski area existed prior to Bootlegger Cove being damned and turned into Westchester Lagoon.
Facilities: Quonset hut, lights, a regulation jump (estimated a 10 meter jump - see John McCleary email below), an intercom system that played polka music to the skiers
Miscellaneous: This ski hill was open until 9-10 at night.  Gary King started a ski school here.  The Mt. McKinley Lions Club gave ski lessons here.

In 1963 Sewell Faulkner suggested to the Municipality that recreational monies should be spent on other ski facilities, rather than upgrading the Romig Hill warm-up hut.  He argued that this ski area was a victim of weather and winds resulting in poor snow conditions and that the warm-up hut would see limited use.  $5000 that was initially intended for a new warm-up hut at Romig was likely used instead to build the Russian Jack Ski Jump and Rope Tow (see John McCleary email below).

Sources of Information:

Jim MaHaffey, Frank Gwartney, Joel Wieman, Tim Kelley, John McCleary, Anchorage Museum of History and Art

Photos: Does anyone have pictures of skiing at Romig Hill that they would like to contribute to ALSAP?

~ Photos ~

Romig Hill in 1963

[Photo Credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art, MCC 14075 Skiing - Romig Hill]

This shot, courtesy of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art - Steve McCutcheon collection, shows skiers enjoying a nice day at Romig Hill in 1963.  As one can see, this ski hill was an easily accessible recreational facility for the folks living in downtown Anchorage. The same rope tow pulley that is shown in the center of the picture can be seen in a 2004 picture below.  Note that Westchester Lagoon had not been made yet.  You can see ice on a meander of Chester Creek at the bottom of the ski hill to the right.  Also note the youngster struggling to keep the tow rope off the snow as it whisks him or her to the top of the hill.
 

Back in the 'old days' of Anchorage skiing, there were several neighborhood ski hills that residents could ski at, to their heart's content, for free, or very cheaply.  Skiing was not an elitist sport.  It was easily affordable and available to everyone.  And it was a cherished activity for many of Anchorage's youth.  The spirit of Anchorage skiing in those days is wonderfully captured in this quote by Joel Wieman:

"[Romig Hill] was open until 9 or 10 at night and polka music was played over the intercom for the skiers.  I skied there a great deal after dinner and many times had to make the walk to the top of the hill as a result of trying to get in one more run before the lift shut down for the night."

 

Site Photos
(by Tim Kelley / Oct. 2004)

(Click on any of these pictures to enlarge them)

From this shot on the north edge of Westchester Lagoon looking south - you can see faint swaths in the trees of where the Romig Hill rope tow and ski jump were located.

 

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To the left is looking down the rope tow line.  The shot on the right is looking up it.

Romig4.jpg (192950 bytes)

There isn't much question that this was the rope tow route.  Because half-way down the slope is an old rope tow pulley (attached to a rotting telephone pole).

[Tim Kelley]  After I noticed this pulley and dug the leaves off of it my thoughts were: "This is a unique piece of Anchorage skiing history.  Isn't there a better place for this ski-sacred relic to rest, other than lying forgotten in the alders?"

 

Romig3.jpg (182766 bytes)

 
This is a shot looking up the area of the jump landing hill.  You can see that a lot of earthwork was done to build up the outrun of the jump.  The outrun is raised and fairly narrow ... you would not have wanted to fall high up on this landing hill.  Because chances are you would have slid down off the edge of this berm.

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On the top of the ski hill it looked like a connector trail came from the top of the rope tow over to the jump.  This is always a fun arrangement ... if you don't have to take your jumping skis off you can ride up, take a jump, ride up, take a jump, etc.  It sure beats having to carry jumping skis all the way to the top of a jump trestle.

Near the area of the top of the jump there was this pole with some metal brackets on it.  Perhaps these brackets held lights for night skiing.  Or maybe they held the speakers that blared polka music to the happy neighborhood crowds that played on these slopes.

 

 

 

This photo from the 1940's, prior to Romig Hill being built, shows what the outrun of the hill would have been like.  During the time Romig Hill was in operation Westchester Lagoon had not been made by damming Chester Creek's outflow.  The outrun of the ski run would have been out onto these Chester Creek tidal flats, up in the upper right corner.  Note: In this picture West High (the 2nd location of the former Anchorage High School) had not yet been built.  So this picture is pre-1952 for sure.

[Photo Credit:  Anchorage Museum of History and Art]

AMHA_Romig_1940s_chestercreek.jpg (52296 bytes)

 

 

 

 

~  Aerial Views  ~

This 2002 aerial view of Anchorage shows the location of the old Romig Hill ski area (click on this view to expand it).

terra_romig.jpg (131827 bytes)

Zooming in on the Romig Hill ski site, you can see where the rope tow and ski jump (and outrun) was located (click on this view to expand it).

terra_zoom_romig.jpg (112279 bytes)

Research Correspondence 
[Frank Gwartney - December 2003 email excerpt] 

I skied on the Romig Hill ski slope with a single rope tow in 1959 and 1960 as a 5th and 6th grader.  Gary King started his ski school there.  It was located due North of the existing West Anchorage High School Parking lot.  I was talking to Marty Sherman not long ago, who was an adult back then, and he informed me that prior to Romig Hill the Forest Park golf course was used.  The golf course was subsequently purchased by  Bob Atwood for his residence.  

[Joel Wieman - excerpts from a note to Dave Brann] 

Back in the 50s there was a Quonset hut there for warming and a rope tow that went down to the tidal zone that is now Westchester Lagoon.  It was a really good hill when first developed.  But someone decided to make some terrain improvements for variety and it dropped in popularity after that.  It was open until 9 or 10 at night and polka music was played over the intercom for the skiers.  I skied there a great deal after dinner and many times had to make the walk to the top of the hill as a result of trying to get in one more run before the lift shut down for the night.  I believe the hill was run by the city, but it could have been developed and run by the Spenard Lions as they had lessons there.  These were my first lessons and we were taught by Bill McGee who is a retired engineer and still living in Anchorage.

[Jon Domela - excerpts from a note to Dave Brann] 

The name of the Lions  club was not Spenard Lions......it was Mt. Mckinley Lions Club.

[John McCleary, MOA Dept. of Parks and Recreation - excerpt from 29 November 2004 email] 

During my information quest on the RJS jump, found a memo dated March 7, 1963 from Council Person, Sewell Faulkner, an advocate of downhill skiing and jumping.  He requested that the Parks and Recreation Department investigate the possibility of construct a 25 or 30 meter jump and constructing a separate 10 meter jump by diverting the $5,000 approved P&R budget item for a warm up hut at the Romig Hill.  The author stated that the hill [Romig Hill] for the past 5 years (placing the hill starting around 1958) was a victim of weather and winds resulting in poor snow conditions.  He felt that the new warm up hut would receive limited use and that jumping would bring more users and would help pay for the city operations of the hill/new jumps.  A drawing was attached showing a tower near to the top of the hill and the jump about mid way on a modified slope.

[Tony Reetz email - 11 April 2014 email] 

My earliest skiing memories are from the gravel pit by Airport Heights Elementary School in Anchorage, the Forest Park hill, and a really steep hill by West High down to the north that had a rope tow.

 

 

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