Alyeska Resort
Alyeska Resort is a ski resort
Ski resort
A ski resort is a resort developed for skiing and other winter sports. In Europe a ski resort is a town or village in a ski area - a mountainous area, where there are ski trails and supporting services such as hotels and other accommodation, restaurants, equipment rental and a ski lift system...

 that is located in Girdwood, Alaska
Girdwood, Alaska
Girdwood is an unincorporated year-round ski resort community within the Municipality of Anchorage in the U.S. state of Alaska. It lies in a valley in the Chugach Mountains near the end of the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, 36 miles southeast of Anchorage proper.It is surrounded by seven permanent...

, approximately 27 miles (44 km) from the city of Anchorage
Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage is a unified home rule municipality in the southcentral part of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is the northernmost major city in the United States...

. Mount Alyeska is part of the Chugach
Chugach Mountains
The Chugach Mountains of southern Alaska are the northernmost of the several mountain ranges that make up the Pacific Coast Ranges of the western edge of North America. The range is about 500 km long, running generally east-west. Its highest point is Mount Marcus Baker, at , but most of its...

 mountain range. It is the biggest ski mountain in the state of Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

Baron Francois de Gunzburg, (a Frenchman and a member of the Rothschild Banking family) and Gary King, Sr., were the first local men to hike to the upper slopes of Mt. Alyeska and ski down the mountain.

Most of the Girdwood community turned out on April 9, 1956, when the Girdwood Community Club organized the Alyeska Ski Corporation with 11 families pledging $250 each to purchase 160 acres of land at an auction. As the fledgling ski area struggled to survive financially, Baron de Gunzburg stepped forward as a major investor. In 1960, the first chair lift and a day lodge was built. Baron de Gunzburg, having managed to secure a used Poma chair lift from France, had it dismantled, shipped to Alaska and rebuilt at Alyeska. This Poma-lift became known as Chair 1, a 5,700-foot double chairlift that rose 2,000 vertical feet. The Roundhouse ski lodge and ski patrol station at the top of the mountain began construction in 1960, and is still standing today. It currently houses a museum.

By the late 1960s, de Gunzburg had tired of the financial drain of the resort and was focused on his European business interests. He also held a seat on the Alaska Airlines board and accepted when the airline offered him a stock swap for the resort. As a result, the airline became Alyeska’s owner in 1967 and hired Chris von Imhof, then the Director of Tourism for the State of Alaska, to run the resort. The Nugget Inn, the original hotel, was built and a second chair lift was constructed on the upper mountain.

While Alaska Airlines promised major improvements at Alyeska, the struggling airline didn’t have the money to pay for them and was limited by federal regulations on the types of non-airline businesses it could invest in. However, von Imhof was able to arrange financing for construction of the first hotel and condominium complex and three new chairlifts, as well as the first lights for night skiing and snowmaking equipment.

By 1980, Alyeska’s expansion plans were beyond what Alaska Airlines could afford and Seibu Corporation, a major Japanese resort operator, was approached about buying the resort. During Seibu’s 26 years as Alyeska’s owner, the resort had undergone it’s most significant expansion with the completion of the Alyeska Prince Hotel in 1994. A 60-passenger high-speed tram, two new quad chairlifts and a new daylodge were also added bringing Seibu’s total investment in Alyeska to approximately $200 million. “Alaska and Girdwood were lucky to find Seibu in 1980 to make the investment and buy the resort,” said von Imhof. “They stayed the course and made the investment, and they pretty much gave us a free hand to move forward with it.” The company, he added, didn’t shy away from their investment even when market conditions unexpectedly changed.

When Seibu first laid plans for resort expansion Anchorage was the air crossroads of the world with extensive international air passenger service, particularly to Japan. It was also bidding for the Winter Olympics. Newer, longer range jets and newly-opened Russian airspace nixed the air service, making travel from Japan more difficult, and Anchorage lost its Olympic bid.

Currently, Alyeska has six (6) chair lifts, one (1) high-speed tram
A tram is a passenger rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets and also sometimes on separate rights of way. It may also run between cities and/or towns , and/or partially grade separated even in the cities...

, and two Magic Carpets. Of the 6 chairlifts, one is co-owned by Alyeska and the Tanaka Foundation (Chair 5). Chair 6 is a high-speed detachable quad, while Chairs 4, 7 and 3 are normal quads. Chair 1 is the oldest chair lift on the mountain, and leads up to the Roundhouse and Upper Tram Terminal. It also houses a "midway" loading station in the center of the lift.

Chair 4 ends halfway up the mountain. Chair 1 and the tram end three-quarters of the way up the mountain. The interconnected buildings contain the Roundhouse (patrol quarters), and a much newer facility housing the upper tram terminal, a quick-service cafeteria, and the Seven Glaciers 4-star restaurant and bar. At the base of the tram is the modern 300-room Hotel Alyeska.

Chair 6 goes to the highest lift served point on the mountain at 2800 feet. Several areas above Chair 6 are occasionally opened, but require hiking to access. Plans to build a new chair lift higher up the mountain have been announced.

Mount Alyeska is a fairly challenging mountain, and has a much higher percentage of advanced and expert runs, as compared to most other mountains in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. It has a small section for the novice, but the rest of the mountain is almost entirely for the intermediate and the advanced skiers.

Alyeska hosted World Cup
Alpine skiing World Cup
The FIS Alpine Ski World Cup is the top international circuit of alpine skiing competitions, launched in 1966 by a group of ski racing friends and experts which included French journalist Serge Lang and the alpine ski team directors from France and the USA...

 ski races in 1973
1973 Alpine Skiing World Cup
The 7th World Cup season began in December 1972 in France and concluded in March 1973 in the United States. Gustav Thöni of Italy won his third consecutive overall title and Annemarie Pröll of Austria won the women's overall title, her third of five consecutive....

; men's and women's giant slalom
Giant Slalom skiing
Giant slalom is an alpine skiing discipline. It involves skiing between sets of poles spaced at a greater distance to each other than in slalom but less than in super G....

. Olympic
Alpine skiing at the 1994 Winter Olympics
Alpine skiing at the 1994 Winter Olympics consisted of ten events held near Lillehammer, Norway. The speed events were held at Kvitfjell and the technical events at Hafjell, from February 13-27, 1994.-Downhill:February 13, 1994-Super G:February 17, 1994...

 gold medalist Tommy Moe
Tommy Moe
Tommy Moe is a former alpine ski racer. He is now retired from international competition and lives in Wilson, Wyoming...

 sharpened his racing skills at Alyeska as a teenager in the 1980s.

Alyeska was bought in the December of 2006 by John Byrne III, who says he plans to make many new improvements to the resort, concentrating on people who come to ski for the day. Some of the improvements were, installing rfid gates at all of the lifts, taking the bubbles off of chair 6, because they were vandalized, repainting the tram, and building the only superpipe in Alaska.

External links

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