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Sheridan Ski Club First Rope Tow

1948 to 1965 ?

Name of Ski Area: Sheridan Ski Club First Rope Tow (true name not known)
Location: Cordova, near the old wooden dam by the present-day Mews Apartments.  According to Stephen Bodnar - this dam was for a reservoir that once existed at the flat area to the left just across the road from the satellite dishes as you are driving/walking up to the present ski area.
Type of Area: Ski Hill
Dates of Operation: 1948 to 1965 ?
Who Built It?: Lawrence Barr, Johnny Hoover, Jack Dineen and Vince Addington
Base/ Vertical Drop:


Lifts: Rope Tow
Facilities: Lights for night skiing
Miscellaneous: Not much is known about this lost ski site except information from the Cordova Times article that Rita King wrote (see below) and "Skiing in Alaska" by Elizabeth Tower.

This rope tow may be the one referenced in "Skiing in Alaska" by this quote: "The Sheridan Ski Club ... operated a rope tow at the base of Tripod Mountain above Cordova.  During the winter a downtown street was closed so that the ski run could continue all the way into town".

The Sheridan Ski Club was formed in 1948.

Sources of Information:

Rita King; Elizabeth Tower - "Skiing in Alaska"; Stephen Bodnar; Sam Flora; Cathy Sherman and Sharon Ermold of the Cordova Historical Society


Does anyone have pictures of skiing at the Sheridan Ski Club First Rope Tow (or pictures of the current area) that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?

~  PHOTOS  ~

Cordova Historical Society - Early Cordova Skiing Pictures

[Photos property of the Cordova Historical Society]

Slalom race down C Street.  Exact date of this pictures is unknown, likely the 1930's or 1940's.
Richard Date racing a slalom course down C Street
Cross country skiers in Cordova  Date of this picture is unknown, perhaps the 1920's due to the single ski poles in use.

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale shows the location of Cordova.  Cordova is on the east side of Prince William Sound.  No roads lead from major Cordova to the road system.  Access is by air or water (or a very long ski from Valdez).

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_cordova.jpg (144922 bytes)

This zoomed in topo map shows the layout of Cordova and the lift of the Mount Eyak ski hill.  This map will be updated when more information about early ski sites at Cordova is acquired.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_cordova.jpg (118971 bytes)

Links to other Cordova Lost Ski Sites: Golden Stairs
Sheridan Ski Club First Rope Tow
Sheridan Ski Club Jump
Tripod Hill Ski Trails
Research Correspondence 
[Rita King - Special to the Cordova Times, date unknown]

Sheridan Ski Club Stretches Way Back

As Sheridan  Ski Club members prepared for their annual ski, skate and snowboard swap meet this month, they look back on a long history of skiing the slopes of Mt.Eyak.

A little history:  The first ski club was formed about 1920.  Skiing was done above the Golden Stairs near the reservoir.  In the late 40's, a ski jump was made between what is today Bertha Smith's and the Landaluce houses.

In 1948, the Sheridan Ski Club was started  Skiers Lawrence Barr, Johnny Hoover, Jack Dineen and Vince Addington set up a rope tow near the old wooden dam by the present-day Mews Apartments.  The club even had a lighted hill for nighttime skiing.

The next improvement came in 1966, when Fred Pettingill got a car chassis to work for a rope tow.  That same rope tow is still used today on the bunny hill at Mount Eyak.

In 1973, the City of Cordova got a $95,000 grand from BOR and a $52,000 grant from the Roads and Trails Grant fund.  These grants, plus the city's commitment of funds and the Sheridan Ski Club's contributions of approximately $29,000 and volunteer labor, were used to construct present-day facilities.

The single chairlift was purchased from Sun Valley, Idaho, and transported by train to Seattle, then by ferry to Cordova.  The Sheridan Ski Club painted the towers and repaired the chairs before the army used its helicopters to put the towers in place in 1974.

The City of Cordova and the Sheridan Ski Club have worked together since then to maintain and improve Mount Eyak.  together they provide for many healthy hours of fun and physical activity for Cordova residents of all ages and all abilities.  Certification and yearly refresher courses for the National Ski Patrol Outdoor Emergency Training are also provided for Mount Eyak's volunteer ski patrol.

[Stephen Bodnar - 25 December 2005 email excerpt]

I lived in Cordova from 1977 until 1999. During the years 1977-85 I was one of the local crazies - backcountry skier to the max. I also helped out with the ski patrol at the Mt. Eyak Ski Area (the downhill area with the chairlift) during that time. I became less active as a skier in my later years there due to injuries (tweaked
knee) and real winter work (read - couldn't make enough money fishing in the summer to support a winter-long ski addiction). I'm also still a lifetime member of the Cordova Historical Society, even though I now live in Kodiak.

I've done lots of historical research in the archives of the Cordova Museum - they have an incredible historical photograph collection. I've also tramped most of the hills around Cordova at one time or another.

I read with much interest your webpage http://www.alsap.org/GoldenStairs/GoldenStairs.htm and have a few corrections and some more info for you.

The reservoir that is referred to in the article was located in the flat area to the left just across the road from the satellite dishes as you are driving/walking up to the present ski area. It is different than the old reservoir that was located at the base of Mt. Eccles in the Heney Range. There is a bit of confusion about this in the article.

The wooden dam failed some years ago, and sent a flood down Cutthroat Creek (which is now mainly routed underground under downtown Cordova), destroying a garage and damaging several other buildings. It is a pretty well documented event in Cordova history, though I don't have the docs handy to tell you what year.

The old rope tow referred to in the article was located on the hill just above the satellite dishes. There were 2 runs, one down the lift line and one that ran through what is now and old gravel pit just up the road. This was in operation before the present day rope tow and chairlift were built.

The name Golden Stairs refers to the hills at the base of Mt. Eccles. Back in the Copper River Railroad days (1920's -30's) there was an extremely active group of skiers in Cordova. They used to hike and ski up to and on the foothills of Mt. Eccles.  There are several dated and captioned old photographs in the Cordova Museum archives that show the Golden Stairs.

It was always a bit odd backcountry skiing around Cordova. I'm sure I had a number of first ascents and especially first ski descents, but you know, I'm not claiming anything because those old-timers really were all over that country!

[Sam Flora - 14 September 2007 email]


Tim and Dave, the above Web address describes the first ski chair lift in the world, which is still operational in Cordova.  Because they had the money and interest for innovation at the time, Union Pacific Railroad, which started and owned Sun Valley Resort, developed the chair.  For other interesting articles you can check words such as “history, chairlift, and Sun Valley” on the Internet especially Wikipedia for some technical data on the first chairlift.  The reason that I knew about the chair lift is that I was the City Planner in Ketchum (Sun Valley), Idaho, and in Cordova.  Besides the downhill ski area, elite telemarking is popular in Cordova.  To the south and slightly downhill from the existing downhill ski area on Mt. Eyak are remnants of log cabins and cross-country trails that might have been developed by Scandinavians during and after the Kensington Mine and railroad era.  I read the background articles about Cordova on your Web site.  I am sending this information to help clarify and document the history of the chair lift.  Thanks for your work on this great project.



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