Frontiers 131: Sheldon Chalet: One family’s Denali dream
This week’s show is truly a family affair -- how it took three generations to get a wilderness lodge up and running.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Inside Sheldon Chalet: KTVA’s Lauren Maxwell and photojournalist John Thain gives you a tour of a luxury mountain lodge, accessible only by airplane and helicopter.
- Conversation with Marne and Robert Sheldon: The dream began with Don Sheldon, a legendary Alaskan pilot, who passed it on to his son Robert. The backstory on how a dream, that once seemed impossible, became possible.
- The Grandchildren’s Perspective: We talk with Ryan and Cameron Sheldon about their grandparent’s vision for Sheldon Chalet.
Alaskans, as a group, are infatuated with big dreams. And the Sheldon family’s Denali dream is literally mountain-sized.
It all began when Don Sheldon, a pioneer Alaskan pilot, filed a homestead claim in the 1950s on the Nunatak formation -- a mountain outcrop above Ruth Glacier, about 10 miles from the summit of Denali.
Sheldon and his wife Roberta later built a rustic lodge on Nunatak, which they called their Mountain House. Not everyone was welcome -- only those with backcountry experience were allowed to stay. Today, the Mountain House is still in use and attracts adventure tourists from all over the world. It’s also booked about a year in advance.
Don and Roberta had big plans for a luxury lodge on their mountain-top, but the dream appeared to die with Don in 1975 -- until their children, Robert and Kate, decided to tackle the project, which they recently finished. The Sheldon Chalet, despite being wedged in the wilderness, has all the amenities of modern life -- not to mention spectacular views, gourmet food, fur blankets and a helicopter-landing pad.
Our guests this week are Robert and his wife Marne, and two of their children -- Ryan and Cameron. They explain why it took three generations to make the Sheldon Chalet a reality, truly a logistical tour de force -- especially when you consider every piece of this lodge had to be flown to Ruth Glacier, which was used as a staging area. A lot of the building materials were then hoisted into place with a helicopter. This is something you have to see to believe -- and we have some amazing footage to show you.
My favorite part of this week’s program, though, is my conversation with Ryan and Cameron, who as young men, are filled with a remarkable “can do” spirit. Just a heads up: Ryan sings a little opera for us on Frontiers. I must say, where else can you find a show that combines history, adventure, economic development and OPERA!
There is a lot of joy to experience in this week’s show. As I travel around Alaska, I truly do believe our families are our greatest resources.
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