Lift-Served Skiing Likely Coming to Hatcher Pass, Alaska

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An approved day-use ski area on Hatcher Pass includes two chairlifts and support buildings.

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.

The Alaska Pacific Mining Company proposed building a 6,300′ Riblet double chair on Hatcher Pass in the 1960s which was never built. Photo credit: Alaska Public Media

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.

A future phase could include a third lift on Peak 4068.  I’d ski there.

You can follow the dream at skihatcherpass.org or their Facebook page and donations of equipment, time and/or money are always welcome.

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15 thoughts on “Lift-Served Skiing Likely Coming to Hatcher Pass, Alaska

  1. Peter Landsman November 21, 2017 / 8:39 pm

    This project reminds me a bit of Revelstoke and Kicking Horse, which both started out small and decades later were taken huge by new investors.

    Powder Springs – later became Revelstoke Mountain Resort

    Whitetooth – became Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

    Like

    • tbar November 21, 2017 / 10:20 pm

      What other single lift ski areas do you think could be expanded into fancy resorts?

      Like

      • trj820 November 22, 2017 / 9:07 pm

        Funny enough, Sasquatch (formerly Hemlock) in B.C. plans to do exactly this. Who knows if it would work, but it would be cool to see. http://www.brentharley.com/portfolio-item/hemlock-resort-british-columbia-canada/

        I have a hobby of designing fictional resorts in Google Earth, and I’ve noticed an area that has potential. This may be cheating, as it’s got the biggest vertical of any complete-circuit lift in North America, but there have been proposals for decades to build an area on Mt. Howard, the site of the Wallowa Lake Tramway. I took a shot at a lift layout a few weeks ago, so here is the most recent concept. I’d think of it as a cross between Telluride and Sun Valley.

        https://www.dropbox.com/s/rj6r50tdk0sc3hw/High%20Wallowa%20Plan%201.1.kmz?dl=0

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      • Peter Landsman November 23, 2017 / 7:44 am

        Cooper Spur has the terrain potential on Mt. Hood. Don’t think it will ever happen in today’s regulatory environment though. The ski area has actually shrunk in recent years.

        It seems Alaska may be a holdout where new ski development is still possible, like in British Columbia.

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  2. Ryan November 21, 2017 / 11:08 pm

    According to the Hatcher page, they seem to be looking at a used Tripple from somewhere in New Hampshire.

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    • Peter Landsman November 22, 2017 / 5:36 am

      Only a handful of triples have ever been removed from NH and none seem to match. SkyTrans is in New Hampshire though and rescues lifts from all over. They took down Sugarloaf’s Bucksaw lift, for example, refurbished at their shop then installed it in New York this year.

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    • Max Hart November 22, 2017 / 5:42 am

      Could be one of the old triples from Ascutney VT, which are all in a Pat’s Peak NH parking lot (1984-1987 CTECs). It could also be the former Spear Mountain triple, a 1972 Hall triple with a Von Roll drive.

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      • Peter Landsman November 22, 2017 / 5:53 am

        One of the Ascutney triples is likely headed to Liberty Mountain, PA. That still leaves one more though.

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      • tjskiloaf17 November 22, 2017 / 6:38 am

        I was thinking the same thing, possibly the spear triple from ragged.

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      • Max Hart November 22, 2017 / 7:34 am

        It could also be one of the 2002 Parteks from the Balsams (they aren’t gone yet, but I don’t think Les Otten plans to keep them at the Balsams).

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      • Collin November 22, 2017 / 9:17 am

        There are also likely parts leftover from the Pat’s Peak installation since it is shorter than the original Snowdance Triple. The Village and Novice triples remain. Something the length of the Village triple could work or use the drive and return from the Novice triple with leftover parts from Snowdance. Would need a more powerful drive though.

        I think Ragged is keeping the Spear Mountain Triple for use in the Pinnacle Peak expansion.

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  3. Peter Landsman November 22, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    Confirmed the Hatcher Pass lift will not be a complete used lift but rather a new one with some remanufactured components.

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    • Max Hart November 22, 2017 / 1:13 pm

      In that case it is very likely that the used components are from at least one of Ascutney’s triples. It may be worth noting that all three of Ascutney’s triples turned clockwise, so the chairs would not have to have their hanger arms switched around. All the sheaves and towers are also the same (CTEC from 1984 to 1986), I would imagine that a return terminal could be reused. The new components could be to replace the drive terminal, as Ascutney’s triples all had counterweight tensioning.

      My best guess would be that towers, crossarms, line gear, chairs, hanger arms, grips, and a return terminal could be reused, and a new SkyTrac Monarch drive terminal or one of Ascutney’s CTEC Enterprise drive terminals (refitted with modern hydraulic tensioning).

      Like

    • Collin November 22, 2017 / 2:21 pm

      The Pats Peak lift uses Skytrac crossarms and line gear and the rest is all reused. Might have a new drive motor but I really can’t tell.

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  4. Andrew Weber November 27, 2017 / 3:52 pm

    Based on what I’ve seen from Afton Alps instagram is that chair 8 isn’t fully removed. It seems many towers are still standing, presumably for the lighting system for night skiing. I’ve skied at Afton many times and I think I only ever rode it once last season, so it makes sense for them to get rid of it, however it makes more sense for them to remove the whole thing and put up other posts for the lights.

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