The Anchorage Ski Club (ASC), non-profit owner of Arctic Valley Ski Area, is the oldest ski club in Southcentral Alaska and was founded in 1937. The ski area encompasses 320 acres and is a gateway to the Chugach Mountain Range, which provides access to an additional 400 acres of skiing and snowboarding. From a base elevation of 2,500 feet, Arctic Valley’s lifts rise to almost the 4,000-foot level. The Anchorage Ski Club’s presence in Arctic Valley predates the formation of Chugach State Park.
Throughout the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, the Anchorage Ski Club was a very active social group, sponsoring ski trains, group outings, dances, and many after hours parties. Group outings included heli-skiing in Turnagain Pass, and ski trips along the State’s few highways.
In the 1930’s, the club concentrated on developing the old City Ski Bowl, which was a ropetow and ski jump located in Anchorage on the bluff where the old Native Hospital used to be (just below 3rd Avenue and Gambell Street in Anchorage).
In the 1940’s the Club collaborated with the Military and began focusing on the Arctic Valley area, where they jointly used and operated the military ski facility, which was adjacent to the current ski area (see below).
Original rope tows
In the 1950’s, when skiers became so numerous that the Army’s warming hut was no longer adequate, the Ski Club moved up the valley and began developing its own area. A small lodge with accompanying outhouse and several rope tows were built, completely with volunteer labor and almost completely with donated materials. At that time, the civilian ski area required its own patrol, and the Denali Ski Patrol was formed. This dedicated volunteer organization still serves Arctic Valley today, and was the genesis of the Alyeska, Nordic, and Skeetawk patrols.
The first civilian lodge at Arctic Valley
In the late 50’s, the Club began focusing on expansion of the ski area. In 1961 a T-Bar/Platter lift was constructed to replace the old Thompson and Ptarmigan ropetows. The Thompson Chairlift (Chair 1) was opened for business in 1969. During this time of expansion, Club members also built a “clubhouse” in Girdwood and eventually some members broke off from ASC to make Alyeska Ski Resort their home.
In 1972 the Club finished construction of a new lodge, which is the building that you see today. This lodge was built with a combination of volunteer and contract labor, and donated materials along with materials purchased by the Club from proceeds from ski lift ticket and life membership sales. The old ski lodge and outdoor toilet or “biffy”, as it was referred to by skiers, were then dismantled. The only traces that remain of these two buildings are the road that is located near the base of the bunny tow, and the current lodge deck that is built out of old growth cedar salvaged from the old buildings. In 1979, the Little Teton Chairlift (Chair 2) was completed. In the late 1980’s and throughout the 90’s, the Club concentrated on bringing snow grooming and night skiing to the ski area, as well as ski racing.
Building Chair 2
From 1961 through 1996, managers and employees were hired to run the area on behalf of the Anchorage Ski Club so that the Club could grow the area and offer programs to support the community. In 1997, the ASC returned to its all-volunteer operations. The Club started renting out the lodge for weddings and other summer events. In 2001 ASC obtained it’ 501(c)3 non-profit status, and throughout the 2000’s the Club focused on repairing and refurbishing the ski area, and increasing the quality of summertime recreational activities. Outdoor toilets, picnic shelters and a trailhead were added. Trail improvements were made and the summer “Espresso Shack” opened. In 2006 Chair 1 was completely overhauled and refurbished.
In the 2010s, the Club focused on improving guest services and providing more reliable and diverse activities and operations. The Alpenglow Bar first opened for business in 2010. The Tube Park was installed, then had lights added, and finally snowmaking started in 2016. Chair 2 and the T-Bar both received overhauls. A winch cat was purchased and winch anchors were installed at the top of the ridge to provide better grooming.
The tubing hill
In 2020, ASC and Chugach State Park completed a 20-year concession agreement with two 20-year extension periods. This has allowed ASC to once again focus on long-term planning and capital fundraising. A Strategic Plan was developed, and we have engaged the services of Huddle, SE Group, McKinley Research and Interior Trails to help develop a Master Plan for Arctic Valley. We continue to focus on improving user experiences and adding new recreational opportunities, as well as providing an important community outdoor resource during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 we built our first summer public use cabin (PUC) and in 2021, both groomers were upgraded.
MORE ARCTIC VALLEY HISTORY
Arctic Valley lies within Dena’ina Elnena (Dena’ina Country) and is home to the K’enaht’ana, the indigenous people of Nuti (Knik Arm), who today are members of the Eklutna (Eydlughet) and Knik (K’enakatnu) tribes. As such, ASC is grateful to and would like to acknowledge the K’enaht’ana community for being historic, present and future stewards of the land, plants and wildlife, and we encourage all visitors to treat Arctic Valley with the same respect. ASC values our relationship with our neighbors and looks forward to future collaborative planning efforts and partnerships.
Arctic Valley Ski Bowl (old military ski area)
For a great history of the Arctic Valley Ski Bowl please visit the “Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project.” Although Arctic Valley is not “lost,” this resource provides a rich history of the military portion of Arctic Valley which was removed in the early 2000s.
Nike Site Summit
What are those buildings across the valley? For a great history of the Nike Site Summit, please visit the “Friends of Nike Site Summit (FONSS)”. https://www.nikesitesummit.net
The Christmas star sits on the flank of Mount Gordon Lyon adjacent to Arctic Valley and has illuminated the skyline of Anchorage since 1958. It has moved, become bigger, been taken out by avalanches and rebuilt, and recently modernized with LED lights.
Check out these articles about the history of the Anchorage Star…