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Ski Boot Hill

Late 1950's to 1984

Name of Ski Area: Ski Boot Hill
Location: Fairbanks, north of Farmers Loop Road, off Ski Boot Hill Road
Type of Area: Ski Hill
Dates of Operation: Late 1950's to 1984
Who Built It?: Built by Ole Thorgaard on land that was his homestead (see Susan Thorgaard email in notes at bottom of this web page for more historical information). Ole left Fairbanks in the early 1970's and then the Wagner family ran Ski Boot Hill until it closed.
Base/Top/ Vertical Drop:

Base: ~800' / Top: ~1000' / Vert: ~200' 

Lifts: 2 Parallel Rope Tows (one slow, one fast)
Facilities: Lodge, lunch counter
Miscellaneous: It was built on Ole Thorgaard's homestead.  At first the skiing hill was a gentle and large mowed south-facing field.  Later the rope tow was moved to an east-west alignment where the slope had a steeper pitch.  The area was lighted for night skiing.  It was where the Fairbanks high school alpine skiers practiced after school in the 60's.
Sources of Information:

Jim MaHaffey, Wendell Shiffler, John Estle, Roger Evans, Bruce Talbot (State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources); Doug Braddock; Randy Wagner; Tim Kelley; Bevinne McCann Morse; Bob Meritt; Twila Wagner; Susan Thorgaard

Photos: Does anyone have pictures of skiing at Ski Boot Hill (or current pictures of the vicinity) that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?


~  PICTURES  ~
 

1976-77 Photos Courtesy of Twila Wagner

       
   

 

1984 pictures above by Randy Wagner.  The Wagner family used to run Ski Boot Hill.

[Photo credits: Randall Wagner]
Cleary Summit ski instructors at Ski Boot Hill in 1970.  Left to Right: Erich Roiser (Austrian Ski Instructor), Darrellyn Meritt, Bob Meritt.

[Photo credit: Bevinne McCann Morse]

Cleary Summit ski instructors at Ski Boot Hill, low snow year of 1969-1970.  Left to Right: Darrellyn Meritt, Bob Meritt and Erich Roiser.

[Photo credit: Bob Meritt]


~  RECENT PICTURES  ~
 

October 2006 Site Pictures

This panoramic site shows the homestead field that was first used for a ski hill.  The later ski hill can be seen on the ridge behind this field.

This was the base for the parallel rope tow (one tow was fast, one slow) A concrete bunker anchored two steel pipes. Near the base of the pipes were pulleys that could be adjusted to take up rope slack (ingenious!) Pivoting pulleys on the top handled both ropes.
Looking up a remnant ski trail. Lift towers, each with double rope guides, can be found in the woods.
The lift house at the top of the ski hill is in good shape.  You can see the two slots where the parallel rope tow ropes ran.
I stuck my hand into one of the rope tow slots to take pictures of the large electric motors and rope drive wheels.
More rope guide poles laid around outside the lift house. Looking down an abandoned ski trail. The Ski Boot Hill legend lives on as a named road off of Farmers Loop Road.
Shots of the lodge foundation. Nearby the lodge are old lights, perhaps from the ski slope lighting system.

~  DOCUMENTS  ~

To the right is an excerpt from the 1982 State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources study entitled: "Ski Potential: Fairbanks Area".  This excerpt describes the ski area and the surroundings.

 

~  MAPS  ~

The 1975 topo map to the right shows the general vicinity of where the Ski Boot Hill ski area was.

(click on map if you want to enlarge it)

topo_skiboothill.jpg (188679 bytes)

The 1996 aerial photo to the right shows the general vicinity of where the Ski Boot Hill ski area was.  From this view you can make out where the north/south oriented runs were above the lodge.  And the later east/west oriented runs to the right of the lodge.

(click on map if you want to enlarge it)

terra_skiboothill.jpg (127795 bytes)

The 1982 "Ski Potential: Fairbanks Area" DNR study also proposed that the Ski Boot Hill could be expanded.  The large areas leading up to and extending north past the ridgeline were the proposed area expansion limits.  Note the "Potential Snowmaking Reservoir" depicted in the upper section of the map.  Also - you can see where the lift and ski runs were situated in 1982 by the solid black lines near the bottom of the area.

(Click on this map to expand it)

Research Correspondence 
[Wendell Shiffler - December 2003 email excerpt] 

Wendell Shiffler said this is the first place he ever went downhill skiing.
 

[Roger Evans - October 2004 email excerpts] 

Ski boot hill originally ran north/south but didn't go very high up, and was mostly gentle.  in the 70's the rope tow was moved to an east/west alignment that had a better pitch.  the ski hill ran from the late 50's to the late 70's

ski boot hill was lighted, and the high school team (we had them in the 60's) would go practice after school.

i'm now 55 and started skiing here about 50 years ago.  for more on ski boot hill you can contact lanny wagner (works for gci), who ran it till the end, got married at the lodge, still gets a pass at moose every year, although he's a dedicated skilander too.
 

[Doug Braddock - 22 November 2005 email excerpt] 

Ski Boot Hill was the first place I downhilled in Alaska.  Iím almost sure the place operated at least until 1984.  I can recall skiing there with my new wife (Joan) on Wednesday nights, and then going to Skiland on the weekends.  While not as exciting as Skiland, it was a great place to spend the occasional Wednesday evening!  I bought new skis (Rossignol Escorts) at Alpine Haus in Fairbanks in 1983 and used them several times at Ski boot Hill during the winter of 1983/84.
 

[Randy Wagner - 26 December 2005 email excerpt] 

I ran Ski Boot Hill after brother Lanny and my niece Debbie Wagner and family ran the ski area after me.  It was a family business owned by Rick Wagner (456-5302).  Many Fairbanks kids learned to ski there.

Ski Boot Hill was owned (and I think started by Ollie Thorgard, who built it.  It had a very well engineered counter balance, and even snowmaking (for a short time). Two parallel rope tows, one slow and one faster.
 

[Bob Meritt - 18 January 2007 email excerpt] 

I recently found your interesting web site.  I  have been sking here in Alaska for many years and took many pictures.  ... You have a picture taken at Ski Boot Hill. I am in the picture. I'm Bob Meritt with my then wife Darrellyn Meritt and Erich Roiser our Austrian Ski School Director.  Darrellyn and I were instructors working for the Cleary Ski School . I think the year was 1970 and we did not have enough snow to teach at Cleary. The owner manager Oley Thorgard was making snow at Ski Boot so that's where we taught that winter. 
 

[Randy Wagner - 12 April 2010 email excerpt] 

We did run it in 84. It was very popular and we taught about 500 kids a season to ski. We had a donut maker in the basement and had hot donuts in the morning.

I also ran Independence Mine Ski Resort at Hatcher Pass in 1970 with Charlie Wansor, Lief Kopperud, and Ron Jaeger.
Rope tow and a T-Bar operated by some old 1930-40's mining equipment.

And while I'm at it I SKIED the Arcticman in 1986, 87, & 88.
I started skiing at Cleary Summit in 1953 on the rope tow. Still skiing.

I love what you are doing. Good history.

 

[Twila Wagner - 04 June 2010 email excerpt] 

Hello, My Name is Twila Wagner.  Randy Wagner and I took on the Ski Boot Hill area for a while in the 1970's, Randy would have the exact dates.
I am moving and came across this batch of photo's. I hope you can use them.
I really enjoyed taking care of the little snack bar, and having the opportunity to take part in the ski area was a real joy. My kids and many more had some great times. I wish it still was in working order.
Twila Wagner

 

[Susan Thorgaard - 04 August 2013 email excerpt] 

I knew the Tordoff family.  They were friends of Ole, but never owners or builders of Ski Boot Hill. 
 
I am Ole's niece, who learned to ski at Ski Boot Hill before it went public.  It was first a hill for friends, but Olaf then developed a ski hill for the public.
 
Ski Boot Hill was Ole's homestead.  His cabin was on the first "ski hill" Ole developed, which had a rope tow, but was generally for friends and not a public hill.  With the development of the public hill, the first hill was no longer used.
 
When Ole decided to have a public ski slope, he developed a second ski slope on his homestead, which was approximately west of the first hill.  Ole then built a lodge and parking lot, cleared another road to the lodge, and cleared higher on the second hill to make a longer slope for skiing.  That longer, newer hill became the new, public ski hill.  Ole electrified the hill for night skiing, built the ski tows and tow-shacks, and created the first snow-making equipment in the Fairbanks area.  Ole himself
ran the entire ski enterprise, sometimes hiring  help for the rope tow and lodge's snackbar. 
 
Ole left Fairbanks for Tenakee Springs, Alaska, in the early 70's, and sold his homestead at that time to Rick Wagner.  I can't provide history about Ski Boot Hill after Ole Thorgaard sold his homestead to Rick Wagner. 

 

 

 

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