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Tatalina AFS

1952 to 1983*

Name of Ski Area: Tatalina AFS (Air Force Station)
Location: Tokotna, on Tokotna Mountain, about 15 miles west of McGrath
Type of Area: Ski Hill, Sledding Road
Dates of Operation: 1952 to 1983 (*downsized in 1983-1984)
Who Built It?: The United States Air Force built this Long Range Radar Station.

~1400' for the Lower Camp, ~3200 for Top Camp

Lifts: Rope Tow, diesel powered.  Before the lift was installed a tracked vehicle, a Weasel, was used to carry skiers to the top of the hill.  The rope tow was built in 1974 by the motor pool maintenance airmen.
Facilities: A full-service remote Long Range Radar Station camp that would support over 100.  Roads that led from the Kuskokwim River up to the landing strip, Lower Camp and up to the Top Camp at the top of Takotna Mountain.  Also, a road that lead north to the hamlet of Takotna.

Information known about this ski area appears in a 1980 "Welcome to Tatalina" pamphlet (see below).  Under the recreation section this pamphlet mentions: "WE HAVE A TERRIFIC SKI SLOPE FULLY EQUIPPED WITH A TOW ROPE".  They were big into sledding here as well: "'THREE MILE HILL', A LONG DOWNHILL STRETCH BETWEEN TATALINA AND TAKOTNA, IS A FAVORITE SLEDDING SPOT FOR THE SITE PERSONNEL".  And if you wanted to ski or sled, the equipment was there for the asking: "SKI EQUIPMENT, SLEDS AND LARGE TRUCK INNER TUBES ARE AVAILABLE FOR WINTER TIME ENJOYMENT".

From this pamphlet it sounds like the site personnel were avid and proud of their winter-time outdoor pursuits.  Hopefully we can find out more details and stories of this remote and unique skiing site.

Johnie Morris contacted ALSAP to let us know that while he was there in 1966-1967 working as a cat skinner (dozer operator) - he cleared the brush off the ski hill and occasionally "groomed" the ski hill by back-dragging the snow with a bulldozer blade (see Johnie's email and pictures below).

Sources of Information:

Phillip G. Tackett; The Online Air-Defense Radar Museum - www.radomes.org/museum/; Ron Nigg; Johnie Morris; Larry Daniel; Bernard Shelton; Jimmy D. Rogers; Dick Laxton; Mike Ringwald; Dennis Tatman

~  Tatalina AFS Sledding Photos and Memories  ~

Courtesy of Phillip M. Tackett - Assigned to Tatalina AFS from Jan. 1983 to Oct. 1983

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[Left] Heading out to The Hill. Airstrip is just over the small hill in the distance.

[Right] The Tow Rope shed in the foreground, the "Red Apple" Ford Truck (the only vehicle allowed to be used for recreational purposes), Takotna Mountain in the background.


A good shot down The Hill


ith base camp in the background. The sharp turn half way down was difficult on a sled.

[Photos courtesy of Phillip M. Tackett]


[Left] The easiest way back up The Hill. The Airman who hit the tree is in front on this ride (I have forgotten his name), Mike Childers on the back.

[Right] The sun sets over the dirt berms (or ramps) near the bottom of The Hill.


Phil Tackett's Memories of the Tatalina AFS Ski and Sledding Hill

I was one of the last Airmen assigned to Tatalina AFS, where I spent about 10 ½ months as the new civilian stationed site was being built.  

I do not recall anyone skiing 3 Mile hill while I was there, but I do recall some reference to the site.  It was on the road to Takotna village.  I do, though, remember the sled hill with great fondness.  I can recall one particular cold winter day when, for the first time since my arrival Alaska, I experienced a real taste of just how beautiful and fun the Great White North can really be.

Growing up in Michigan I had spent many a bitter winter day on local sled hills and highway overpasses with makeshift sleds, but when my buddies suggested we shake off the winter blues by hitting the hill with skis and toboggans in hand I knew I was in for something really cool.

After a couple of the Sergeants spent some frustrating time getting the engine for the tow rope cranked up we spent all day (which equated to about 3 hours that time of year) running down, and being pulled up, that hill.  Sometimes we would go down one or two at a time, but the most fun was had when we would ride 5 or 6 to a toboggan.  The hill at Tatalina made this particularly challenging.  You would start with a 5 foot vertical drop and, if you could not expertly steer the sled, end the slope at a rather abrupt earth berm and a thick tree line.

Let me say now that there is a sound reason that most locally approved hills do not allow multiple riders.  As some of you may know, you do not want to be the first rider on a packed sled hurdling toward danger.  If you have to eject from the ride in a hurry, the person in the front often has precious few seconds to roll to safety.  Needless to say, our group of young, fearless, and in some cases drunken, Airmen spent a good part of the day playing ‘chicken’ and seeing who would stay with the sled longest.  On one of the last rides down the hill one of the younger kamikazes did not make it off the sled in time and was launched over the beam into the trees from where we heard a shattering ‘crack’. 

To this day I still believe that the only reason he was unharmed when we reached him is that he was totally limp from one to many beers.

I think we only got one more chance to hit the hill that winter, but outside of spending a night checking in dog teams for the Iditarod, and maybe the midnight softball game, no other memory of my time in Alaska stands out in my mind more than that day on the hill. 

I hope to get back that way one day.

Associated Facts (as I remember them):

§    Author, Phil Tackett - Assigned to Tatalina AFS from January 1983 through October 1983 as a Radar Operator and Weapons Technician.

§    I do not believe there was a tow rope at 3 mile hill, but there was a diesel powered tow rope at the sledding hill, which doubled as a short ski run. The rope was slow, but had tons of pull.

§   There was plenty of ski and sledding equipment made available by the Air Force.

§    The tram was no longer being used by the time I arrived.

§     I believe there were some cross country trails around the area as well. 

~  Tatalina AFS 1974-75 Pictures and Memories  ~

Courtesy of Airman Dennis Tatman

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Early snowboards (1974) Bilbo


Takotna Tavern HTT Jeep

Reeve Air



  Tatalina Tram  

Dennis Tatman's Memories of the Tatalina AFS Ski and Sledding Hill

I was so glad to find your website. These pics are from 1974-75, I was still an airmen, but full of life. With the help of a lot of great men we took to Alaska like a storm. I was in the motor pool maint. So everything that was broken we fixed.

First was the ski hill, which had no lift, so we pulled the unit from the old Tram and got it running. We poured a concrete slab on the top of ski hill, set the trans unit and motor. The building was next, followed by poles down the hill. We had to order the rope, thank you special services. The time came to connect the rope, but no one knew how to splice. After lots of beer we finally made it happen. The rope tow was awesome, just had to get the right speed. I need to give special credit to Charles Trap, Steve Ayat, James Black and Ron Hawkins.

As the months went by we added 2 recreation vehicles, the dodge 6X and the chev pu. People could check them out to go to Takotna or to haul the boats to the river at the fuel landing. We added 2 boats with brand new motors, thank you base commander. The HTT jeep was a creation from the old scrap yard down by the dump .It was used by 3 of us to help people get around.

More on the ski hill. My first pic is a story all its own. This is me holding the first snowboard that i know of ever .It was created by Steve Ayat of Hawaii. We were both in Florida at Patrick AFB and got orders to go to Tatalina. So it was only natural to find a way to surf and we did, crazy!! Next is our dog Bilbo at the top of the ski hill. Next is tubeing, followed by Drinks at the tavern in Takona. The old Tram up to the top.  Reeve Air coming in when no one else would. I have lots more pics and stories and memories i will never forget.

Dennis Tatman

~  Tatalina Cat Skinning and Ski Area Maintenance (by Dozer) Photos and Memories  ~

Courtesy of Johnie Morris - Assigned to Tatalina AFS from Summer 1966 to Summer 1967

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Johnie Morris at Tatalina "Hilltop" on a cold day. Cat skinners like Johnie punched through giant snowdrifts to keep the Tatalina roads open. Heading back from McGrath in a tracked vehicle (L to R: Dean, Morris, Teague)
[Johnie Morris email - 22/23 August 2005]

I just saw the [ALSAP] web site about Tatalina AFS for the first time today and it brought back a lot of memories.

I spent my year there from summer 1966 to summer 1967 during the height of the Cold War. I thought it was a beautiful place, made a lot of friends on site and a few in McGrath and did some great hunting and fishing while there.

When the spring of 1967 rolled around, it turned out that I was the only G.I. left who had ever driven on the road to Sterling Landing over on the Kuskokwim river, so I was elected to run the lead dozer, we had Allis Chalmer HD16's, clearing the way before the spring thaw washed the entire road away.

It was simply a matter of heading the dozer into the 20-foot snowdrifts until I found where the road met the mountain then pushing the snow toward the edge until I ran out of road. For a 20 year old Cat Skinner with a broken right hand, it was a piece of cake. The medic borrowed a big ladle from the cook, wrapped my hand and arm with an ace bandage, and then taped it to my hand and arm. I bent the handle down on the end so I could grab the blade lever between the end of the ladle and my forearm and it worked quite well. If I remember correctly, it was well over 20 miles from the landing strip to the river and took a few days to clear. After the road was opened, they sent me to Elmendorf AFB to have the bone in my hand re-broken and re-set and a cast put on.

About half my time was spent maintaining that 3700 feet of slate runway and then keeping a good snow pack on it in the winter. I was the guy who first put the day-glow orange plywood tents on the runway at both ends marking the touchdown area. These things had 4 or five coats of paint and were sprinkled with glass beads while the paint was still wet so they really sparkled. The first time one of our C130 supply planes crossed the Alaska Range and saw them, they reported 4 bright-unidentified objects floating in the distance; F102's were scrambled from Elmendorf to check it out. They really rode that poor C130 pilot hard about that for quite a while.

The rest of the time I was keeping the roads around the base open. RCA kept the road to hilltop open with their bigger HD21 but once in a while I was called on to do that one also.

I kept the road to Takotna open all winter but had to turn back at the bridge because of the load limit. One Monday morning, while feeling a little nervy and still a little to drunk to be considered hung over, and knowing the ice to be a good 3 feet thick because we had been ice fishing on it the previous day, I decided to cross that river. I drove my Dozer down to the edge of the river, pointed it at the other side, raised the blade as high as possible, set the throttle at ½, put it in low gear, let out the hand clutch and jumped off and ran across the bridge and waited for it on the other bank. It came right on across with no problem so I climbed in and cleared the rest of the road into Takotna. I was feeling pretty spunky after that because I'd had a little more libation at Miller's place and didn't feel like walking so I actually drove it back across a few yards down river.

The hill where the sled is in your photo was overgrown with scrub when I got there so I cleaned it up really nice with the dozer and back dragged it and when winter came, it was a passable ski slope. When the skiers got to the bottom, I'd meet them and take them back to the top in the VW snow-go. We didn't have a towrope.

The gondola system didn't work while I was there either and there were no plans to fix it so we cut some of the cable up and made choker's out of it to use to pull the dozers out when they would get stuck in the snow.

I have quite a few photos taken while I was there and got them out to take a look. I've attached a few for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks again for the memories. This 20-year-old cat skinner is now a 59-year-old grandpa. Time flies when you're having fun. When I retire in a few more years, my wife and I plan on flying back up there.

Johnie Morris
Former Sgt. USAF

[Tim Kelley email excerpt to Johnie Morris]

Hey Johnie, You mentioned a "VW snow-go" used to haul skiers back up the hill. What do you mean by that? Was it a VW that was modified to have tracks? Or some custom tracked vehicle with a VW engine?

[Johnie's reply]

Hi Tim,
Thanks for your reply. A VW snow-go was a great little machine, I'm not sure if that was the real name but that's what we called it. The engine was in the front so the gear shift was exactly backward because all the running gear remained the same. It would go about 40 mph which seemed like a 100 out on the tundra. I drove it to McGrath quite a bit. I've attached a picture [see above]. Sorry, but Sgt. Dean, Me, and Teaque are blocking most of the snow-go. In this photo we are returning from McGrath. We had stayed the night because we had spent a little too long sitting at the bar in Jack McGuires Tading Post and if I remember correctly, Jack had more or less insisted. That is the base of Takotna Mountain in the background. If you have the resources, you should really research old Jack, he had a colorful and rather checkered background but he was a hell of a guy! He was in his 70's back then but was built like a bear and tough as nails. He'd been in Alaska for years and acted as guide for European Royalty when they came to Alaska to hunt. He had old newspaper clippings tacked up all over the place with photos.
take care,



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

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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.

The document on the left is a page from a Febrary 1980 "Welcome to Tatalina" pamphlet.  The ski slope, rope tow and sledding are mentioned under the "Recreation" section.


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The aerial photo on the right shows the Lower Camp and the road leading to the radar installations at Top Camp on the top of Takotna Mountain.  As with many remote Alaska Cold War radar sites, they had a tram to moved supplies up the mountain.  The tram can be seen in this picture.

On the right is a stark shot of White Alice communication dishes and radomes in the distance.  Many people once lived here.


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Keeping the road open to the top of the mountain had its challenging moments.

At right is a good shot of a couple of the tram towers near the top of the mountain. 


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(Left) The Tatalina AFS patch.

(Right) A 2001 view of the weather station on top of Takotna Mountain and the Lower Camp site below.  The road can be seen leading to the airstrip.  A road leads on from there to the Kuskokwim River.


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~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo map shows where the Tatalina AFS is situated relative to Takotna to the north and McGrath to the east.

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A zoomed in view of the topo map shows the location of the Tatalina Air Force Station at about the 1400 foot level on the south side of Takotna Mountain.  The road heading north to Takotna is where the infamous "Three Mile Hill" is.

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Research Correspondence 
[Ron Nigg - 5 July 2005 email]


As I mentioned yesterday in my email about Indian Mountain I was stationed at Tatalina in 63-64. We had no tow rope but we used to Sled down the road from bottom camp to the flight line and then someone would haul us back up in a Pickup and then down we would go again. We had to have someone with a vehicle and weapon as we would pass the dump and there were always bears around that area.  Being in Radar Maint. (303X2) I spent 6 months at lower camp and 6 months on the hill top. At Hill Top I was the only one licensed to drive the Hilltop Road so I spent a lot of time doing that and cutting hair. One time I was snowed in at lower camp for a couple of days so one of the civilian Cat Skinners volunteered to take me back to top camp in a Snow Cat. We didn’t use the road as I knew it but instead went up the back side of the mountain as the old guy had helped build the site and knew the mountain like the back of his hand. We also drank a fifth of VO on that three to four hour trip. (On the back side of the mountain we had no radio contact with either top or bottom camp but could talk to the White Alice site)  The old cat skinner was pretty good and got us there safe and sound with the mail so we were somewhat of Hero’s that night. At that time there were eleven of us on Hilltop including Radio, Radar Maint. and one cook. On weekends we cooked for ourselves. Again I do have pictures and if I can find them I’ll send them along also.

Ron Nigg

[Larry Daniel - 25 January 2008 email excerpt]

I stumbled across your site, and found it interesting and thought provoking.

I was stationed at Tatalina AFS from January 1971 to February 1972, I was 21 at the time.  While most of those 13 months were not noteworthy, there are a few items I would like to share.

As a Radar Operator, 276X0, I worked in Operations, and we were charged with the duties of Road Patrol.  We didn’t drive the roads, we gave permission via radio, for people to travel from one location to the other.  This was for safety year round, and necessary in the winter for the road to top camp, as it was a one lane passage.  The driver would radio Ops and ask for clearance, which he would be granted if there was no other traffic or extenuating conditions, and he would have the right of way.

I made one trip up the mountain, during which we stopped to admire the beauty of the view.  The SSgt driving pointed out a vehicle at the bottom of the mountain, which was a long way down, and told us that an Airman that was stationed there in the late 50’s had stopped, as we had, to admire the scene, he took out his camera and took a picture, and then as he was taking the second shot, a vehicle appeared in the photo.  It seems as though he did not securely engage the emergency brake, and his vehicle began rolling and went down the mountain.  The only bit of confirmation any of us ever got for the story was the fact that there was, or maybe still is, a wrecked vehicle at the bottom of the mountain.  I can’t figure any other plausible explanation for one being there.

The site supplies came in by barge in May or June, coming up the river to the landing.  The supply Sergeant would hire us GIs to offload the barge and haul the food and beverages (a lot of booze and beer) to the supply warehouse and freezer.  It was hard work and the mosquitoes were about as big as a housefly and as thick as a fog, and made a big whelp.

The only real entertainment centered around or in the NCO club, where you could watch your fellow airmen get toasted night after night.  There was also a nightly poker game that was open to anyone with money.  The locals from Takotna and some from McGrath would come into the site and play poker.  The local tribal chief was a regular.  There was also a makeshift movie theatre next to the NCO club.  We would get about 4 movies a week sent in, and many had been there before.  

Special Services had all types of gear and equipment that we could use for entertainment or recreation, and that included a couple of Jeeps.  In the winter, it was fun to get the jeeps on the frozen river, get up some speed and then spin the steering wheel.  This would send the jeep into an uncontrollable slide that was a hoot to experience, and alcohol was not necessary, however it was usually there and well consumed.

I recall playing softball during the celebration of the Midnight Sun, and I remember seeing the Northern Lights, Officially called the Aurora Borealis, and more wildlife than one can imagine.  It is much easier looking back on the experience than it was living it at the time.  The beauty was more than offset by the loneliness and isolation that we experienced, as at that time, there were no females stationed there.  Just about 85 GIs.

We skied the slope, and we sledded the road to the air strip, and I quickly decided one day, as the Fire truck rounded the curve coming from the air strip, and I was on a sled, hauling butt down the road, that I was on my last sled ride in Alaska.  I had no way of steering the sled, and the truck had no where it could go, so Sparky, the driver and fireman simply stopped.  I slid under the truck and on into the ditch where the curve began.  I busted my rear, but was luck that fire trucks have a high clearance, and it could have been worse.  I climbed out of the ditch and we hauled the sled back up the road, and I retired from sledding.

We worked with the White Alice workers from RCA, and the locals would come to visit regularly, but the isolation and lack of a social atmosphere took its toll on several of the guys stationed there.  On site, we operated a TV station, with reruns of “Leave it to Beaver” and “Lucy” and the like, but nothing recent, and why would there be, I’ll bet there weren’t three TV sets to get the signal.  We operated a radio station too, but it was staffed with local talent, you know, the GIs that you worked with, who would talk and play records.  The only good thing was, there were no commercials, but, you know, commercials might have been an improvement in quality programming.

There are many people stationed there, that rotated in and out during my time there, and sadly, I never stayed in touch with any of them.  But, that is the way it is in the military.

I left Tatalina on February 9, 1972, and when the pilot and three passengers with baggage started loading into a two seated Cessna, we ran out of room.  I opened my footlocker and extracted the items I needed, and left it on the strip.  I guess somebody figured I needed the stuff, because almost a year late, it was delivered to my parents home.

God Bless.

Larry Daniel

[Bernard Shelton - 30 October 2008 email]
I was attached to the 717th from the 10th Radio Relay approximately from June 1954 to October  1955.  This was at the very beginning of the 'cold war'.  Until Jan 1, 1955, access to the radar and communications area was by means of a tram suspended up to the top of the mountain.  Just after midnight on 12/31/54, the tram was returning the communications men to the main camp when it crashed into one of the towers.  I was a passenger on that tram.
The tram operator at the base camp was able to force the car back to near the top.  From that time on, transportation was only by road (when it was passable).  We were not able to return to the main camp after the accident for almost 6 weeks.  Fortunately there existed an adequate supply of C and K rations to sustain the approximately 8-10 men.  Water was obtained by melting snow.
Hope this was of some interest. 
Bernard Shelton,  USAF veteran 
[Jon ???? - 24 April 2009 email]

The Snow Trac at Tatalina was this Model. Others had big wheels in front instead of the little bogies. 


1968 Snow-Trac, AB Westerasmskiner of Sweden built 2,220 Snow Trac machines between the years 1957 and 1980. These machines were primarily sold in Northern European countries to be used on snow covered terrain. Ski resorts also employed these machines to groom trails. While not built to be a military vehicle, some European Armies drafted Snow Tracs into service. This particular Snow Trac was purchased new in 1968 by the caretaker of a 6,500 acre Gentleman's Hunting Estate in Scotland and was used for maneuvering the hilly terrain. He thought he had died and gone to heaven when the new machine was delivered and was finally able to retire his old horse and buggy. Originally painted Red, the caretaker of the estate painted the Machine Green (with a brush) so his machine would blend in with the surroundings. A Snow Trac enjoyed momentary Hollywood fame in the 1980 movie, The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall. You might remember Ms. Duvall's daring escape in the Snow Trac at the conclusion of the movie. Chicago Classic Cars acquired this Snow Trac from the Hunting Estate. VIN: 01069 Stats Powered by an air cooled 4 cylinder Volkswagen engine, 4 speed transmission, Variator Steering arrangement. Top speed: 13.7 miles per hour. Weight: 3,307 lbs. Frame: welded steel. Body: aluminum. Seating for 6 adults. Low center of gravity for ease of control on steep slopes.


[Jimmy D. Rogers - 28 November 2010 email]

I thought I would contribute.  As I look back and remember my military career I can honestly say that Alaska was my favorite assignment.  I was 18 years old and was assigned to the 1931st Comm Group.  I was a telecommunications specialist at Elmendorf.  Being board I never joined the military to sit in some basement, even thought it was the AAC headquarters, it was still boring.  The building always reminded me of the gold storage building at Ft. Knox.  Anyhow I volunteered to go remote.  Was it ever the best decision I made while I was up there - yes it was.  The flight took to McGrath Alaska, then over to Tatalina AFS.  I was amazed at home everything fit into this tiny little complex at the bottom of the mountain or bottom camp as they called it.  My job was simple to take care of the crypto stuff and teletype.  Well, yea it was work, but I found it more fun then anything else. 

The NCO club was the center of all activity with nightly drinking by all.  I refrained, having taken the advice of one of the sergeants, at least for a little bit.  They had this tradition of buying you the first drink, and the first drink and the first drink.  I made the mistake of ordering a tequila sunrise, next thing I know I was drinking out of this large beer stein full of them.  Oh, they had an arts and craft center where you could make ceramic steins.  The food was outstanding and I always looked forward to lunch, when we would eat while watching "AFARTS" tapes of  television shows.  Everyone was close knit there.

The sledding trip took us to Top Camp via the red pick up truck,  I remember riding in the back trying to drink a beer before it turned to slush.  We had somehow acquired "flexible" flyers that the weld shop had modified to accommodate the heavier guys.  Once at the top we would ride these things down to bottom camp, sometimes going over the edge and rolling down the side of the mountain.  You had so much on it didn't hurt much.

One day, I thought I would head over to the "Ski Slope", which was a very bad idea.  I checked out the equipment and well the skis looked OK, the boots, yes they were boots with laces were issued me (this was 1977), something the Von Trapp family would have worn.  I went down a few times but these boots almost killed me.  I left, went back to the buildings.

The biggest adventure we went on, was in the spring.  We had the great Idea we could pan for gold.  We hiked out, down a gravel road and found ourselves in some old dredge "camp" with antique equipment and old buildings.  The mosquitoes were bad, read bad and we took refuge in a building and lit a mosquito coil.  This was welcome relief until someone announced bear and of course all of us got a little excited.  Fortunately it was a small brown bear, that had been curious.  Well, we were back in the river panning for gold, with no results.  We left, started the hike back and realized we had not taken water with us.  My idea was just to drink out of the streams.  Anyhow I heard running water, like a mountain stream.  I ran to the small water fall, for water.  I began to drink, then looked down - there in a pool of water was a six pack of beer.  I yelled down to the others at what I had found - they laughed, thinking it was a joke.  I cracked one of them open, started drinking - the others rushed up the hill.  I often wonder how that beer had gotten there and what the reaction was to the person returning to find it gone.

Anyhow, I have pictures of a lot of my adventures and will send them if you like.  Alaska, it was a good time and I miss it.  later on I went to other remote sites, such as a place on top of a hill on an island called Unalaska.

Jimmy D. Rogers (1976-1978)

[Dick Laxton - 10 December 2012 email]

,I would like to add a little clarification to a couple of things.  First off my name is Dick Laxton ,age 76 and I live in Rosenberg ,Texas.  I was stationed at Tatalina in 1955-56 and again in 1960-61.The reason for the second go around was Tatalina was considered to be one of the better AF Installations in Alaska so when I was reassigned Alaska Remote again,  I requested Tatalina.

One of the posts by Larry Daniel's I believe mentioned a vehicle that had gone over the road edge on the mountain and a story that went with it.  I'm not sure just when this happened  in my 1st or 2nd tour that I had.  I did see it the morning after if happened ,the real story was a 6 x 6 military truck was coming down the mountain with the GI's that were coming down after shift change.  The brakes on the vehicle failed and the driver had attempted to slow the vehicle by ramming it into the up hill side of the mountain bounce off and then ram it again as he hollered for everyone to jump, he and one other sitting in the front with him were the last to jump just as it went over the edge.  The worst injury was a broken arm.  Myself and 3 or 4 others after getting off work from a midnight shift decided to hike up to the wreck site a few days later.  We did so and noticed the set of rear dually's with the drive shaft still attached hung up on some rocks.  The truck was pretty well totaled.  We decided to have some fun and pushed and tugged on that unit until we got it moving  .It made one bounce and broke off the drive shaft and then became a downhill runaway bouncing very high at times, when it hit the tree line it mowed down the small trees like a large lawnmower had been thru there.  BTW there is also a jeep over the side between the river and the site.  A Lt. I worked with asked our crew members if we wanted to go to Maries, a bar in Takotna, after work, naturally we all did so we packed into this jeep little did we know that he had taken it with out permission , we thought the C.O. had sanctioned it.  The Lt. had to pay for it $750 I think it was at that time we offered to help but he refused saying it was his fault.

Another statement in another post by someone spoke of the Mona Lisa yearly resupply where the Supply Sgt hired GI's to help.  When I was there it was all part of the day of an airman and you were expected to help and you got no extra pay for it.

The ski tow, hill and sled run was also not there.  We built the first Bobsled at Tatalina and used to run it down the mountain road starting about half way up where we were towed by a weapons carrier.  We opened the gate into the fuel depo area in case of a runaway.  The attempt was to slow the sled so you could make the turn onto the Sterling Hi-Way Road and head to the Landing Strip.If that was successful then you could get a 2 to 3 mile ride and then a tow back up and go again.  The driver said he was going 50mph+ and the sled was catching him on many occasions.  Things had to be perfect to make it all the way to the flight line, we usually stopped some where around the dump.  There were a number of over the side spills and once again the worst injury was a broken arm.  The Bobsled did not have a brake so the only way to slow it was to put it in an intentional skid,  if that failed then it was 6 riders over the side.  The snow usually stopped us within a 100 feet of the road.

You speak of a tracked vehicle, we had an old military "Weasel Amphibian",  I wonder if the under carriage of that was the OLD Weasel.  We nearly sunk it in the Takotna River once ,the one and only time it went in the water while I was there. If any of the readers happened to read this and the Radar Ops Ready Room still existed when you were there ,I personally hand cut the tile with the words  "Radar Operations" that appeared on the floor.

Lots of memories are still there by many,there are many stories that will never be told.

[Mike Ringwald - 15 June 2013 email excerpt]

I was stationed at the 717 ACW in 1983 when we shut down, was one of the NCOs  who would operator the  lift, so everyone who was crazy enough could sled down the hill.



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