The Skeetawk ski area located in the Hatcher Pass will get funding for its first ski lift. The Skeetawk is a great area now for sledding but by Christmas next year it will have a downhill slope served by a lift.
The name Skeetawek is a phonetic spel of a Dena’ina word – Shk’ituk’t that means ‘where we slide down’ as per Louisa Branchflower, board president for Hatcher Alpine Xperience (HAX).
Amy O’Connor, the Executive Director of the non-profit group HAX in charge of building the Valley’s first downhill resort in the Mat-Su said that it will be a 1,200-foot triple chairlift with a 300+ foot of vertical drop.
Partnering with groups such as Rasmuson Foundation and the Mat-Su Health Foundation and thanks to also some private donations, HAX has got the $1.2 million it needs to purchase its first ski lift that will be put up in the next summer. The group will need $750,000 to cover installation costs.
O’Connor said “Building a ski resort from scratch is a ton of money, but it’s something we figured out is very doable. Our goal is to make this a community ski area so having support from small businesses, being able to have your kids ski, sit on a chair with a plaque on the back that says this chair was sponsored by, and getting families and businesses that they know, and love involved is really the feeling we’re going for.”
Skeetawk is receiving a big boost from the Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA). They are receiving the needed fiber for internet connectivity and the funding for the ski patrol for three years.
The total donation is about $300,000 as per Communications Director Jackie Kenshalo.
“We believe it’s a wise investment in our community and a wise investment in economic development and the health and wellness of our area,” Kenshalo said.
The aim of HAX members is to make skiing in the Valley affordable and accessible. Now people need to drive to Anchorage or Girdwood or come here to hit the back country. Sheetawk is a short drive from Palmer and Wasilla and will have easier runs for little ones.
“The backcountry skiing in Hatcher Pass is not the most kid-friendly,” O’Connor said. “Just the access is pretty tough, even starting kids out at the Mile 16 run is pretty challenging for first-time skiers.”
O’Connor said also that the long-term plan is to have a 6,000-foot detachable high-speed quad, in about five years on what will be the second phase of this project.
The 20-year goal will be a lift that goes all the way to Peak 4068 in the Government Peak area.
A bit more of Hatcher Pass from Wikipedia:
Hatcher Pass (3,886 ft or 1,148 m), also known as Hatcher’s Pass, is a mountain pass through the southwest part of the Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska. It is named after Robert Hatcher, a prospector and miner. The nearest cities are Palmer and Wasilla approximately 12 miles (19 km) to the south, and Willow approximately 26 mi (42 km) to the west. The communities are at an elevation of approximately 250 ft (76 m) in the Mat-Su valley.
The area has a rich skiing heritage. Historic photos show miners recreating on skis. In the 1930s, Anchorage skiers were bused to the Fishhook Inn to use the rope tow there. That was only one of several small rope-tow ski lifts that have operated near the pass over the years up to the 1960s, although only traces of them can be found now. Many proposals to build a modern alpine ski area have been advanced over the years. In 2005 the Mat-Su Borough extended the electric grid and built a short access road to the proposed site of a base lodge.
The pass is one of the most popular road-accessible backcountry skiing areas in the state. Usually it is the first urban-accessible area of Alaska to get skiable snow in the fall.
The backcountry alpine skiing season generally extends from late September to late April.
Groomed skate and diagonal skiing trails winding amongst historical mining facilities in the high alpine area near the Hatcher Pass Lodge and the museum have a season that typically extends from October to April.
The first 10 kilometers of a Nordic ski area in the forests and glades at Government Peak Recreation Area the base of Government Peak were opened in December 2012 and a chalet was built in 2013.
Snowmachines are prohibited within large areas of the Hatcher Pass State Management Area that are frequented by skiers. There are several backcountry huts in the area; a wilderness loop can be travelled over the mountain passes and glaciers linking these huts.
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Featured Image: Hatcher Pass in Winter, where Skeetawk resort will be developed. Skeetawk ski area gets funding for first ski lift.