The Skeetawk ski area is a prime place for sledding, but by Christmas next year it will be a downhill slope you won't have to walk up.

Amy O'Connor is the executive director of the nonprofit group Hatcher Alpine Xperience (HAX) that's working to build the Valley's first downhill resort in the Mat-Su.

"It's a 1,200-foot triple chairlift," she said. "It's going to have a 300-plus-foot of elevation change on it."

Through community partnerships with groups like the Rasmuson Foundation and Mat-Su Health Foundation, as well as private donations, HAX has the $1.2 million it needs to purchase its first ski lift which will be put in next summer.  The group still needs about $750,000 to cover installation costs.

This map shows the three phases planned for Skeetawk. The first lift will be installed summer 2019.

"Building a ski resort from scratch is a ton of money, but it's something we figured out is very doable," O'Connor said. "Our goal is to make this a community ski area so having support from small businesses, being able to have your kids ski, sit on a chair with a plaque on the back that says this chair was sponsored by, and getting families and businesses that they know and love involved is really the feeling we're going for."

Skeetawk is also getting a big boost from the Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA). The company is donating the fiber needed for internet connectivity and funding the ski patrol for three years.

Communications director Jackie Kenshalo said that's a total donation of about $300,000.

"We believe it's a wise investment in our community and a wise investment in economic development and the health and wellness of our area," Kenshalo said.

HAX members want to make skiing in the Valley affordable and accessible. Right now, people have to drive to Anchorage or Girdwood or hit the back country. Skeetawk is a short drive from Palmer and Wasilla and will have easier runs for little ones.

"The backcountry skiing in Hatcher Pass is not the most kid-friendly," O'Connor said. "Just the access is pretty tough, even starting kids out at the Mile 16 run is pretty challenging for first-time skiers."

She said the long-term plan is to have a 6,000-foot high-speed quad lift; that's the second phase of the project about five years away.

The 20-year goal is a lift that goes all the way to Peak 4068 in the Government Peak area.

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