A group planning to open a rare new American ski area just got a big boost, securing $500,000 towards building chairlift number one yesterday. Despite encompassing 425 million acres and with more residents than Vermont and Wyoming, the great state of Alaska includes just five lift-served public ski mountains, three of which are in close proximity to Anchorage. The proposed Hatcher Alpine Xperience sits in the Mat-Su Valley, well north of the Alyeska, Hilltop and Arctic Valley ski areas, where locals have been dreaming of their own mountain for decades.
Not satisfied with dreaming, citizens formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2015 and got to work. Already, they’ve completed a federal environmental impact statement, forged an agreement to operate within the Government Peak Recreation Area, cleared trails and built a maintenance facility. An access road, parking lot and utilities are also in place. This winter, trails will be groomed but without lift service. Hatcher Pass tentatively plans to acquire a used triple chair from SkyTrans next spring and install for a 2018-19 opening. Just today I learned Vail Resorts removed Chair 8 from Afton Alps, Minnesota over the summer – a 1969 Heron which was 1,280′ x 190′ – and might be the lift in question. It’s just a theory, but no other recently-removed triple chair matches the stats.
Private investors have proposed sprawling ski resorts near Government Peak in the past, many requiring significant real estate development alongside. This time the vision is a modest community ski area in the fastest-growing region of the Last Frontier, where the population grew 50 percent between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. The next phase of the Hatcher Pass project includes a longer high-speed quad chair and day lodge.