HATCHER PASS, GOVERNMENT PEAK RECREATION AREA— This winter you may be able to ride a Sno-Cat up a mountain in Hatcher Pass and ski down the east side of Government Peak on slopes that have long been planned as a future alpine ski area.
The Sno-Cat skiing will be a way to raise money and to prove the concept of the long elusive, lift-access for downhill skiing in the Talkeetna Mountains near Hatcher Pass.
Alpine skiers at Hatcher already make ski runs most heavily at two spots along Hatcher Pass Road called “16 Mile” by hitchhiking to the start after every run. But this new project for an old, old idea on Borough land would add a T-bar ski lift, warming building, temporary bathrooms, and a graded parking lot by as early as 2018-19.
Louisa Branchflower is the Board Chair of the non-profit Hatcher Alpine Xperience or HAX. “We will be growing only as fast as the public support allows us, as we are depending on the time, money, and investment of local volunteers,” Branchflower said.
See the video by Public Affairs here.
Last rainy Saturday, five guys showed up with coffees in hand to help pour the concrete foundation for a new 40X60 storage building for snow grooming equipment. The volunteer concrete workers are supporters of the growing grassroots group, which has 500 likes on their facebook page and 100 on their email list. Weekend volunteer and Borough employee Warren Templin was also busy bolting together the steel pieces of the coming Sno-Cat building. By Sunday, more than a dozen volunteers had arrived to do work in just one of the many work parties.
EAST SIDE DEVELOPMENT INTO PHASE 2
Development is well established on the south side of Government Peak Recreation Area where 3.5 miles of Nordic trails have new lights turning on this winter for night-time skiing, some two miles off Edgerton Parks Road. Drive around the corner to mile 10.6 of Palmer-Fishhook Road to this east side of Government Peak and you will see how alpine skiing is now scratching out an existence after years of plans for this specific site, dating back to the upscale resort proposed by the Japanese company, Mitsui, in 1989 and most recently to the regional ski attraction proposed by Anchorage’s JL Properties in 2004. This time, it’s one grant at a time by a non-profit for a local ski hill.
SIGNED MANAGEMENT AGREEMENT
Borough Community Development Director Eric Phillips recently had the idea of getting a simple lift going to get traction for the flailing ski project. He had seen the same type of project get off the ground seven years ago in Valdez, where he had worked. Some two years ago in Mat-Su, Phillips began to reach out to the local alpine ski community, who started their own momentum. “Without HAX, this project wouldn’t be going anywhere,” he said.
“They’re working several hours each day on it this week. They’re getting something done,” Phillips said. “The building is designed by an engineer and has been reviewed by Borough engineering staff. They’ve got insurance. It’s them doing the work on our land and making it the ski area it was intended to be,” Phillips said.
On Sept. 20, HAX signed a 34-page management agreement with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to develop, build, maintain, and operate an alpine ski area in the northern sub-unit of the Government Peak Recreation Area. The Government Peak unit is 8,045 acres, with ownership split between the State (4,773 more mountainous acres) and the Borough (3,272 acres) as part of the Hatcher Pass Management Plan.
GRANT BY GRANT, DOING IT
Grant by grant, this is how the non-profit HAX is starting up a lift-access downhill ski area at Government Peak east side.
• The Fishhook Community Council gave HAX $20,000 for the storage building foundation.
• Dav/Dor Enterprises gave HAX $18,000 in materials for the metal structure for the Sno-Cat storage building
• All Points North, a civil engineering and land surveying company in Palmer donated hundreds of hours to the project via Max Schillinger
• HAX is seeking funding from private donations, from the Mat-Su Trails Foundation ($10,000), and the State recreation trails grant for eight miles of trail clearing beginning this fall, to be completed in fall 2017
• HAX is seeking $100,000 from the Mat-Su Borough to use as seed money for grant funding for a T-bar lift. The money was originally appropriated for the marketing of Hatcher Pass in 2012 by former Borough Assembly Member Darcie Salmon. That marketing money was rescoped for the development of a local ski hill in 2015, which is why, HAX says, it formed. The new scope of work and plan for the ski project will go before the Assembly for approval this fall.
• HAX will raise the roof on the storage building in early October.
The group’s annual meeting is Oct. 17 at 6:30 pm in the MTA meeting room in Palmer. They are electing new board members. A fundraiser and silent auction gets underway on Nov. 12 at the Government Peak Chalet.
Max Schillinger in gray hat
Mike Campfield in blue down
Louie Calandri, black sweatshirt
Sam Carlson, blue coat
Frank Denton in brown shirt with McKinley Concrete
Photos and video by Patty Sullivan. Video production by Stefan Hinman, Mat-Su Borough Public Affairs.