At mile 10.6 of Hatcher Pass Road, one can see the birth of Alaska’s newest ski area. For decades, groups have tried to bring a ski area to the Valley. Now, one team of volunteers is hoping to make it a reality.

“I have two little kids and I’m a big skier, and I would really love for our kids to learn how to ski close to home,” said Louisa Branchflower, the board chair of nonprofit group Hatcher Alpine Xperience, which is leading the construction effort. “A lot of people in the Valley bus their kids two hours to Girdwood. And Girdwood’s a great place, but it’s really far.”

On Sunday, Branchflower and a group of about a dozen volunteers worked on one of the first phases of the new ski area: a large shed to house a groomer.

“This winter we’re kind of focusing on getting the groomer covered and secure, and that will allow us to groom some trails up here,” Branchflower said.

She described the movement to start the ski area as “grass roots,” with construction being done exclusively by volunteers.

“We don’t have somebody coming in, ready to spend a bunch of money,” she said. “It takes a whole bunch of people giving a little bit of time and a little bit of money, and then we’ll see this happen.”

Hatcher Alpine Xperience gained its nonprofit status in July. They expect to receive $100,000 in funding from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and another $20,000 from the Fishhook Community Council.

A large motivation to build the ski area is to provide a family friendly place for people to ski in the Valley. Several of the volunteers Sunday were kids. Alex Schillinger, 10, said the more volunteers they have, the faster the project will be finished.

“If we get more people to come and join us [and] help work here, it’s going to be pretty cool,” he said.

Trail clearing will continue this winter, and a T-bar will later be installed for the first part of the project. Organizers hope to eventually build a high-speed chairlift.

You can learn about volunteering for the project or making a donation by clicking here.

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated the group had received money from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. This has been amended.

 

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