Grand opening of Hatcher Pass' first ski lift pushed to 2020

Published: Oct. 19, 2019 at 3:05 PM AKDT
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The long anticipated grand opening of the first ski lift at Hatcher Pass will be delayed a couple of months, according to the non-profit Hatcher Alpine Xperience.

Executive Director of Hatcher Alpine Xperience and the mastermind behind the lift at Skeetawk Amy O'Connor says they hoped to open in early Dec. However, due to complications with shipments of the lift parts, she is now estimating the lift will be up and running by mid-Feb.

"We are disappointed about the setback," O'Connor said. "But spring time is the best skiing up here anyways, so it's all going to work out. We just need a little more time."

The project development began in 2015 with a hefty $100,000 contribution from the Mat-Su Borough, according to O'Connor. She says it has since become a community endeavor, with volunteers like Valley resident Mike Scheel donating time to make the dream a reality.

"It's great when people come together to build this," Scheel said. "I think it will be a valuable asset to the Valley. People will come to ski here rather than drive 45 minutes down south."

Scheel has lived and recreated in the Mat-Su Valley since 1973, and says he's excited to get the lift running. On Saturday, he was one of several volunteers making a last push to clean up trails and prepare the area for winter activities.

Skeetawk is a recreational hub for back-country enthusiasts in the Mat-Su Valley, but O'Connor says a dedicated alpine skiing facility should be a valuable asset for the Valley, which is currently the fastest-growing area in the state.

"Our goal is to provide a ski area that is both affordable and accessible, so really making sure that families have access and can participate in a new activity," O'Connor said. "If we can give people access to something else to do in the winter, then that's what this project is all about."

Though the lift will not be open until 2020, O'Connor says Skeetawk will still be open to the public starting in Dec. They will have groomed beginner trails, sledding hills, and a newly constructed yurt that will sport a coffee shop and cafe.

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