The ski hill is no doubt a crowd favorite. The single seat chair lift at the Mt. Eyak Ski Area — one of three of its kind in the country — is in operation, weather permitting, of course.
“It’s game on now, we are going to get a lot of ski days, and run as many days as we can. We are a total fair-weather operation; we don’t push the weather. 20 knots is kind of the upper limit of the wind,” said Dave Branshaw, manager of Mt. Eyak Ski Area.
Branshaw shared the unique climate and geography of the hill. He calls it “marine snow.” With a base a mere few hundred feet above sea level, it’s a spectacular spot to ride fresh powder close to the coast.
“Our base is pretty low, about 330 feet, and southern facing. We got 16 inches at the top yesterday and 4 inches at the bottom, so its variable,” said Branshaw. The top of the lift is at roughly a 1200-foot elevation, with a vertical drop of about 800 feet.
There are many behind-the scenes efforts that go into getting everything to operate smoothly at Mt. Eyak Ski Hill. A new haul rope was installed last summer, for instance, along with keeping up with mechanical logistics.
“The haul rope was a big purchase for a small club. The city helped with that. The ski club bought the cable, and the city paid for the install. Mechanically, we are also working and upgrading our equipment. We put in new hydraulics for the auxiliary drive system, replaced all the hoses with tubing, got a new operator valve and a new pump, so basically a new hydraulics system (auxiliary side),” said Branshaw.
The rental shop has stepped up its game over the last few years too, with new editions including top brands like Solomon.
“We have gotten all new rental gear throughout the last couple years. Good, quality gear. We have some bindings, boots, helmets and a couple pairs of skis for sale in various sizes,” said Jack West, rental tech since 2012. He’s a big fan of snowboarding.
The Snack Shack at the hill is open with an array of delectable bites, and drinks like hot chocolate to warm people up on a cold blustery day.
“The food is really good, as you can see the place is full,” said Branshaw, chatting with the Cordova Times at the restaurant as he enjoyed an amazing looking deli sandwich.
Skiers and snowboarders alike share a deep connection to this mountain, an unmistakable yearn for action and adventure on this glorious multi-verse of shred-able terrain.
“This is my 35th year on Mt. Eyak. I’ve snowboarded in most of the Western and Rocky Mountain states, and Mt. Eyak continues to be the best hill that I have ever been to because of its geography and terrain, and how the hill is run. It is one of the crown jewels of Cordova. No other small town in Alaska has what we have, we are extremely lucky to have Mt. Eyak,” said Robert Masolini, who was born and raised in Cordova.
The community of Cordova has a long history of skiing and alpine sports. At the turn of the 20th century, the Scandinavians brought the sport here when they helped build the railroad, shared Branshaw. The love of the sport still exists on the ski hill and throughout Cordova.
“Mt. Eyak Ski Area is about including everybody, it’s a true community hill and a community experience. We are in the ski business, that is what we sell, but what we really do is we are in the mental health business and making people happy. This is Cordova’s backyard. Everybody loves the ski hill,” said Branshaw.
For the Mt. Eyak Ski Area fee schedule — which includes Sheridan Alpine Association annual membership cost, lift ticket and season pass prices, and rental information — visit the rental shop. Follow Mt. Eyak Ski Area on Facebook for the most up-to-date information on operating hours.