home updates map photos alsappers contact about  

Turnagain Pass Ski Trails

1970's to Mid 1980's

Name of Ski Area: Turnagain Pass
Location: Miles 67-64 of the Seward Highway (60 miles south of Anchorage) at Turnagain Pass on the Kenai Peninsula
Type of Area: Cross Country Ski Trails
Dates of Operation: 1970's to Mid 1980's
Who Built It?: Race Trails: Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage; Ski Camp Trails: Bill Spencer (note: No trails or brush were cut.  Deep heavy snow compacted and covered all brush.  Natural openings were linked to allow track setting of race and training trails).

~900' to ~1200'

Facilities: Roadside public restrooms
History: Turnagain Pass was once a venue for cross country ski races when snow conditions in Anchorage were too poor to stage races.

The last known cross country ski races held at Turnagain Pass were the World Airline Championships in April 1986.  This race was open to employees of the airline industry.  Bjorn Arvnes of Norway and SAS won the men's 14 kilometer race.

The last know regional race at Turnagain Pass was a Tang Cup race on February 17, 1986.  Some pictures from this race, taken by Tammy Thiele, are shown below.

In the early to mid-1980s regular late spring ski camps (in early June just after school got out) were held here.  Bill Spencer, Jim Galanes and John Estle were the main organizers of these camps.  Other coaches helped out and the camps were heavily attended by skiers from around Alaska.  Often in early June there would be 6 feet of snow at this paved road accessible and low altitude (~1000') location.  But the camps were discontinued because since the mid 1980's there has rarely been adequate snow cover in early June to hold the camps.  In the late 1980's an attempt to resurrect the ski camps was made, but the US Forest Service would not permit setting of ski tracks because motorized snow travel would be needed. 

Sources of Information:

Jim Galanes, Tim Kelley, Tammy Thiele

~  PHOTOS  ~

The following shots were taken at a Tang Cup race at Turnagain Pass in February of 1986.  Lack of snow in Anchorage prompted a race venue move to Turnagain Pass.  These photos show: 1) The start of the senior men's division, 2) Tim Kelley leading at the start with Bill Spencer in the foreground in the US Ski Team uniform, 3) Bill Spencer laying down the hurt on the field (notice the Piston Bully groomed trails), 4) UAF skier being followed by Kelley and 5) Kelley double poling.  Notice that the racers are skating in low-cut boots.  Skating was a relatively new technique, so skate boots had not evolved yet and skiers skated in classic boots.

(click on photos to expand them)

[Photo credits: Tammy Thiele]

TP1984_2.jpg (34592 bytes)

TP1984_3.jpg (36081 bytes)
TP1984_4.jpg (33009 bytes)

TP1984_5.jpg (34291 bytes)

TP1984_6.jpg (35272 bytes)


This topo map shows where Turnagain Pass is located at relative to Girdwood and Portage.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_turnagain.jpg (193720 bytes)

A 1975 topo map shows the locations of where race trails were set and where ski camps would set trails.

(click on map to expand it)

topo_zoom_turnagain.jpg (119156 bytes)

A zoomed in 1997 aerial view shows again where race trails and ski camp trails were once set.

(click on view to expand it)

terra_zoom_turnagain.jpg (88002 bytes)

A further zoomed in aerial view shows the course that was used for the 1986 Tang Cup race.

(click on view to expand it)

terra_zoom_max_turnagain.jpg (75997 bytes)

Research Correspondence 

[Tim Kelley - 1986 - memories ] 

Turnagain Pass was a beautiful and fun place to ski race.  Tons of snow and good terrain.  Just take a look at the pictures above.  It's a bummer spring races aren't still held there.



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