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Tripod Ski Trails

1942 to ????

Name of Ski Area: Tripod Ski Trails (true name not known)
Location: Cordova, the ski trails went from the saddle between Tripod Hill and Mt. Eyak down to Cordova, with side trails to the CCC Tripod Ski Cabin and the lily ponds in the muskegs to the east of the cabin.  Possibly there were more ski trails cleared from the muskeg on up towards the top of Tripod Hill.
Type of Area: Downhill Ski Trails
Dates of Operation: 1942 to ???? (still researching)
Who Built It?: CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps)
Base/ Vertical Drop:

Sea level to 1300 feet.  The CCC cabin was at 750 feet.

Lifts: Possibly there was a lift to the east of the Tripod Ski Cabin that served cleared slopes heading uphill from the muskeg area.  In this muskeg there is the remains of an old Model A or T chassis and engine that was once used to power a rope tow.
Facilities: Tripod Ski Cabin, built by the CCC.  This cabin no longer exists.

The Sheridan Ski Club was formed in 1948, so this was a pre-Sheridan Ski Club ski trail project undertaken by the CCC.

Sources of Information:

Stephen Bodnar; Lesli Schick (Chugach National Forest Archaeologists); Leo Americus;  Cathy Sherman and Sharon Ermold of the Cordova Historical Society; Seth Steben


Does anyone have pictures of skiing at the Tripod Ski Trails (or pictures of the current area) that they would like to contribute to ALSAP ?

~  PHOTOS  ~
Cordova Historical Society - Tripod Ski Cabin Pictures

[Photos property of the Cordova Historical Society]

Skiing in front of the Tripod Ski Cabin Tripod Ski Cabin in 1940 Tripod Ski Cabin in 1943

2008 Photos of the Tripod Ski Cabin Remains Courtesy of Leo Americus

2011 Photos and Google Earth Maps by Seth Steben
Old engine block, once possibly part of a ski tow.  Cabin chimney can be seen in the background. Old engine block. View from old ski area.
View from old ski area.

Sven and Ole's Trail.  "The trail mentioned [in the 1942 progress report below] is almost certainly what we now call Sven and Ole's.

It is likely there were other trails back then, and areas not so crowded with trees as they are now, but every description matches, and there are still a few original signs along the way."

Google Earth images showing the location of the old ski cabin site and the engine block, and ski routes that encompass the old ski area (click on above images to enlarge them).
13 June 2011 Update: Just thought I'd send you a better picture of the old engine/chassis thought to have once run a rope tow - it is bolted to a rotted wood frame, and there is no way it could have gotten there by accident.   However, there is no real evidence it was used for a tow.  Anyways, it is a 6 cylinder flathead with gear still attached.

Seth Steben - 25 April 2011 email excerpt: Some of this area is still used by a number of backcountry skiers, as you can see in Google Earth along my track-lines - zooming in will show the tracks in the snow if you are using Google Earth. Currently, most people go the short route from the road above the satellite dishes past the old cabin, and many eventually go up what is known as Sven and Ole's, which joins the Mt Eyak trail behind the top station of the modern ski hill - my track also shows a lower trail going through the woods (see the photo of the OLD sign on the tree) also to the old cabin, then following the main trail to the right, past some jumps that were built this year, up Sven and Ole's, turning right on the Mt Eyak trail behind top station up towards the ridge, then back down partly through the new ski area, dropping down from Mambo to the old cabin, then following the main trail back to the satellite area.

Currently, there are tentative plans to cut a road from the base of the new ski hill over to a hill which is not far above the old cabin - making a run we call Satellite more accessible, further blurring the lines of distinction between old and new.


2012 Photos by Seth Steben

Old slopes to the east and above the old ski cabin site. Sven and Ole chute. At the old ski cabin site.
Seth Steben - 16 April 2012 email excerpt: The use of the engine block for a rope tow HAS BEEN CONFIRMED by several local old-timers, namely Dick Shellhorn and Jim Webber. I have found no further evidence, but both these gentlemen and a couple of others have confirmed to me that it was in use at one time.


Cordova CCC Documents from 1941 and 1942, courtesy of the Chugach National Forest Archives Department

(Click on any document to expand it to readable size)

An article written by a CCC Foreman, mentions the Tripod Ski Cabin and skiing on the slopes of Mt. Eyak. CCC progress report, work started on trail from Tripod Ski Cabin to saddle between Tripod and Mt. Eyak CCC progress report, ski trails finished.


Cordova Times Editorial about the Tripod Ski Cabin, Date Unknown
(Click on the image below to read the entire letter)


A 1922 Political Cartoon by Ernest F. Jessen about Alaska's Problems Gaining Statehood That References Cordova
[Image property: UAF, Archives]

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale shows the location of Cordova.  Cordova is on the east side of Prince William Sound.  No roads lead from Cordova to the road system.  Access is by air or water.

(click on this map to expand it)

This zoomed in topo map shows the layout of Cordova and the Tripod Ski Trail climbing out of Cordova.  The ski trail once ended in the col between Tripod Hill and Mt. Eyak.  The Mt. Eyak trail now continues past that point.  Also show is the site of the CCC Tripod Ski Cabin.

(click on this map to expand it)

Stephen Bodnar shared this images of a 1922 Chugach National Forest Cover Atlas which identified potential logging areas in Prince William Sound.  No trails are shown.  But the aqueduct up onto the slopes of Mount Eccles is shown.

(click on this map to expand it)

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 
[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.

There is also, in fact, another lost ski area on Mt. Eyak. The old Mt Eyak hiking trail was blazed back in the Railroad days.  Few people use the lower stretches of the trail now as it is easier to go up through the ski area. The old trail used to start behind Larry Kritchen's house. The main trail was called the Evergreen Trail and it went over to Nirvana Park and Lake Eyak before the road was built. This part of the trail was much used while I lived there. The fork that goes up to Mt. Eyak had a number of houses built on it. If you hike above the satellite dishes you can connect with it, and it comes out at the upper end of the ski run known as Mambo Alley. Just below here there used to be the remains of a log A-frame ski lodge that was built back in the CCC days. There was even a stone fireplace in the cabin. You used to be able to walk across the muskeg to the south from the cabin and find the remains of an old either Model A or T Ford that was [possibly] used to power the rope tow (!!!).  How on earth they got that thing up there in the days before helicopters is anyone's guess! The trail continues above the top of the present day chairlift to the top of Mt. Eyak and was blazed with Cross-Country Ski Trail signs on the lower parts.

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!

[Stephen Bodnar - 04 January 2006 email excerpt]

The old ski trail markers were all the way up along the ridgetop from the top of the ski lift on Tripod Hill all the way to the flat spot on the Mt. Eyak Trail at about 1300 ft elevation. The trail is really, really old - I found a Mercury dime on top of Mt Eyak, I believe it was dated sometime in the teens.

I was told that the carcass of the old car at the muskeg pond was a Model T or Model A. All that was left when I saw it was the engine, frame, and transaxle. I know a bit about old cars and it sure looked like it could be of that vintage, but I couldn't find any identifying marks.  It was positioned so it would be pulling towards the cabin...maybe they just used it as a winch to build the cabin...but there are a few cleared hills around that would have made dandy runs on old gear. There is no other reason for that vehicle to be there except something to do with the ski cabin...I doubt a couple high school kids could have driven up on the weekend!
But there's no reason that it could have been a teen's or 20's car that was put up there in the 40's...there are still a few of those old vintage cars around Cordova.

[George Hanson - 03 May 2012 email]

A Screenshot clip from a 16mm movie film by my father Virgil Hanson taken in Cordova in the 1940's:




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