As the year gradually came to a close, much attention had been brought to the flagrant lack of snow on the ground. Arctic Valley, Anchorage’s ski resort getaway, has felt the most detriment from the dry ground and mild weather that this slow winter has brought. While the mountain that hosts Arctic Valley flourishes with activity during hot summers and snow-covered winters, the middling months that see colder weather and a lack of powder bring Arctic Valley’s business to a screeching halt.
Danielle Simoni has worked at Arctic Valley’s lodge for two years. “It’s not uncommon for us to stay closed until after New Year’s,” she states. Last year Arctic Valley remained closed to the general public until February and faced some intermittent closures as the snow melted prematurely during the spring. “Once the powder comes in though, things can get a little crazy in the lodge.” Although Arctic Valley is only open on Saturdays and Sundays for a short portion of the year, the well-maintained lifts and unrestricted mountain space bring in skiers and snowboarders from all around Alaska. “We get a lot of families since we are less crowded and more affordable than Alyeska,” explains Simoni.
Arctic Valley is run by the Anchorage Ski Club, a non-profit organization that was founded in 1937. The club is currently run by President John Koltun and Vice President John Robinson-Wilson. John Robinson-Wilson also works as the general manager of the lodge, and organizes the volunteers, lift technicians and kitchen workers in the lodge. “What makes Arctic Valley unique is how we let customers pay their lift ticket with volunteer work,” says Robinson-Wilson. Volunteers are a central part of Arctic Valley, as the Ski Club is composed of volunteers who keep the resort in operation for other volunteers to use. Aside from that, Arctic Valley hires individuals who don’t mind spending their weekend keeping the mountain and lodge in working order.
Brett Krenzelok, a UAA student, is one of the lift technicians at Arctic Valley, but he prefers his title as ‘liftee’. “Working the slopes at Arctic Valley is easily my favorite part-time job,” says Krenzelok. While keeping an eye on the chairlifts and making sure skiers enter and exit the lifts safely, Krenzelok stays diligent to his duties and also takes time to appreciate the sweeping vista of the Chugach mountain range. “Every year gets me excited to come back, so I’m really waiting for the snow to fall.”
While Arctic Valley has much to offer for winter sports enthusiasts, the lodge is also available for rental in the summertime and hosts weddings and parties. “The mountain is beautiful in the summer, so we get a lot of hikers who come to pick berries,” explains Simoni. “We’ve had plenty of weddings up here too, and the view is absolutely gorgeous.”
By the end of 2014 there has only been around 11 inches of snowfall since it began to snow in Oct. In years past the average snowfall in Anchorage by the end of the year has been about 38 inches. While the ridge of the Arctic Valley ski area saw all temperatures below freezing (according to the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center) since the beginning of Dec. the temperatures along the ridge began to rise to above freezing. Temperatures peaked Jan. 8 and have since fallen back to around freezing. The opening of Arctic Valley still remains to be seen, however.