Monday, May 28, 2012

A Salute to The Ski Chalet

In observation of Memorial Day today, I wonder how many of our brave soldiers from years gone by may have been skiers, and whether any of them may have spent time in a ski house even during trying times of war.  And that led me to a surprising discovery - a military ski chalet.  The Ski House of the Day has a history that is tied to the US military in a big way!  On Kodiak Island, Alaska, The Ski Chalet was built by the US Army in 1941, then was operated by the American Red Cross, was transferred to the US Navy in 1944, and later was run by the US Coast Guard:

In 1941, the same year that the U.S. entered WWII, army soldiers stationed at Fort Greeley, Alaska started construction of the Anton Pass Ski Chalet :

...and they completed it in 1943, during the middle of the war.

They built a sprawling 11,900 sq. ft. ski chalet, complete with a large stone fireplace:

in a very large great room:
In addition to being a ski lodge, this spacious open lodge room served as the place for Saturday night movies and dances...
...and it looks like the snack-bar area was popular as well...(and check out those gigantic snow-shoes hanging on the wall):

The ski area that they created (with one rope tow) was called Anton Larsen Pass Ski Area, which they shared with the locals.   Later known as Pyramid Mountain, the ski area was closed down in the 1990's.

Wow - check out The Ski Chalet "snowed-in" the 40's:

According to, the original ski chalet went downhill (and not in a skiing sort of way) during the 50's, and eventually burned down.  Apparently a newer version was built;  but I think a newer version just can't offer the same kind significance as the original ski chalet.   

By the way......check out what skiing in the area of the Anton Larsen Pass --and snowboarding there--is like nowadays; and here's a look at the Coast Guard landing on skis there now. 

To me that original Ski Chalet, existing only in old photos and in the memories of a dwindling few, serves as a kind of memorial that we can ponder to honor the soldiers that served here during WWII (...who probably welcomed the small distraction that this project provided at a time when WWII was escalating...a distraction that they, and the rest of the world surely needed). 

So, today, on Memorial Day...I'll reflect on those US Army soldiers who built this ski house...I'll wonder how many, if any, of them ever returned to The Ski Chalet after the war was over.   And, as with the rest of our troops, I'll wonder how many of them never got the chance to return home from the war at all.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beyond Luxury at Whistler

How about a ski house in which a chairlift cable is wrapped around the heart of the house?  Here it is!  The Ski House of the Day is this luxury home in Whistler.  The house is high on the mountain, close to the ski slopes, and also just a few minutes to the village.  The 5,000+ sq.ft. home is a magnificent stone and log structure steeped in native and mystical folklore...and is absolutely breathtaking:

The gorgeous views can be seen from the numerous soaring windows as well as from the multiple balconies and terraces.  Throughout the house are massive, hand-picked, ancient cedar logs:

Check out this fantastic bathroom where you can gaze at the fireplace or out the window at the mountains:

The heart of the house is a centrally located massive 50-foot high ancient cedar pole around which the magnificent spiral wooden staircase is built:

But...take a closer look at that banister spiraling around the staircase -- it is actually made from one of Whistler's original chairlift cables:

...what an amazing piece of Whistler ski heritage built right into the heart of this ski house!

By the way, this house is on the market (originally listed for $14.9 million, it's been reduced to $9.75 million), and is also available as a rental.

As for apres-ski?  There's an incredible choice between wine cellar, pool and hot tub!
(I could find room for a few bottles of Castle Creek's Kid Red in here!):

The indoor pool is amazing...the totems (each representing a direction of the Salish Medicine Wheel) surrounding this unbelievable 30-ft. pool are all hand-carved by a local Native carver:

And this back-to-nature outdoor hot tub, built right into the heated stone terrace, is truly something special:

All this at a place where the ski season is so long (Whistler is still open...until May 28th).  How is there possibly enough time in the day for all skiing?

I think this house is really spectacular...beautiful and luxurious.  But the fact that this house also has a tangible connection to skiing, and also has a tangible as well as spiritual connection to nature-- give this house a soul -- and that takes it beyond luxury to make it a truly special ski house!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Birthplace of Skiing

Since today is Norway Day, the Ski House of the Day celebrates Norway, of course; and also celebrates skiing's Norwegian history.

This isn't just any ski house...this is the birthplace of skiing.  Really!  At the time that Sondre Norheim (1825-1897) was born, skiing was the primary mode of transportation in the mountains of Norway...the free-heeled version that they used was strictly utilitarian, allowing them to travel the mountains to collect firewood, and get around the mountains for their other daily needs.  But after pushing the limits of his utilitarian skis, Sondre discovered that with some design changes he was able to make skiing much more fun.   Among the changes were his invention of a heel binding which he made out of twisted willow from birch-roots:

...and his invention of a shorter ski that was shaped to be narrower in the middle.  These innovations allowed for more control and enabled Sondre to be the first to demonstrate parallel turns as well as Telemark turns and big jumps to a mesmerized audience.  He introduced the joy and fun of downhill skiing, ski-jumping, and ski-racing to the world, and in doing so changed the nature of skiing from transportation to sport.

The Ski House of the Day is the birthplace of Sondre Norheim, and so is also the birthplace of skiing as we know it.  It's a tiny cabin called Overbo, in the village of Morgedal, in Telemark County in southern Norway:

Overbo actually consists of three structures:  Sondre's birthplace cabin (rebuilt on the original stone foundation), his adult cabin (relocated to this site ), plus a cow-shed, and is now owned and operated by the Morgedal Sports Club which allows visitors to tour Sondre's adult cabin, and rent Sondre's birthplace cabin!  (It amazes me that you can actually stay in an historic place like this and ski right out onto the slopes where the "Father of Skiing" did!).

The primitive cabin sleeps 4-5 people, and although it does have power, it has no indoor plumbing (there's an outdoor well for water), so it's more historically accurate than it is luxurious.

You can see numerous items that Sondre made himself, including, of course, various skis and bindings:

There's an interesting fireplace...and not just interesting because of the way it looks...the fireplace here at Overbo has been a source of the Olympic flame three times!

Here's the Olympic Torch leaving this ski house (on skis) in 1960 en route to Squaw Valley:

...and here's the Olympic Torch leaving this ski house in 1952:

"Playful and charismatic and always out skiing--there developed around him (Sondre) a ski culture here in Morgedal in the 1860's which grew into a thing of legend."

And a thing of legend, too, is this unique, historic Norwegian Ski House of the Day where skiing was born!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ski-Legend's Log Cabin

Utah claims to have the "greatest snow on earth"...which attracts many skiers there every winter to try their technique on the famous Utah powder.  But one person was first...first to actually develop the technique of powder skiing which he perfected at Alta...and that person was Alf Engen, the Norwegian-American ski-legend.  Alf Engen (born on this date in 1909)  had an incredibly extensive ski career with both personal achievements and extensive contributions to the development of the sport of skiing... including having been a champion ski jumper in the 1930's (winning numerous titles), US Olympic team ski member and coach in the 1940's, technical adviser to the National Forest Service, design-adviser of many ski areas (including Alta, Sun Valley, and Jackson Hole), having appeared in 8 full-length movies, having established and directed several ski schools (Alta's among them), having been named to the US Skiing Hall of Fame, having a museum named for him (Alf Engen Ski Museum at the Utah Olympic Park), and having been named Utah's Athlete of the Century!  Wow!  Check out Alf Engen in action in the powder of Utah.

So, The Ski House of the Day is one that is unusually rich in ski history...because it was built by Alf Engen:

The house is a charming, historic log cabin located at the base of the Cottonwood Canyon foothills.  (Amazingly, it is available for rent - in case you want to walk in his footsteps...maybe after taking a lesson at the Alf Engen Ski School at Alta!).  As would be expected the house is perfectly situated to get to that powder at Alta and the other ski areas in the Wasatch Mountains just outside of Salt Lake City!

Although parts of the interior (like this beautiful new kitchen) have been updated...

...the exterior is still the same original quaint log cabin that ski-legend Alf Engen built.
Also original is the cozy stone fireplace that has been "warming skiers for generations":

Outside there's a hot tub, and just inside is a large mud-room/snow-room with plenty of hooks to hang wet ski clothing to dry.   The house has four bedrooms and four bathrooms....I'm wondering whether any of these intriguing furnishings might be original:

And, complementing the rich ski history of this house is the pair of vintage wooden skis on the wall behind the dining table:

"Skiing is a great sport, and Utah has one of the finest natural playgrounds in the world." -Alf Engen

Friday, May 11, 2012

Girdwood Log Lodge

National Geographic has proclaimed Girdwood, Alaska one of the top 25 ski towns in the world.  They describe it as a place for "off-the-beaten-path powder-hounds with an aversion to glamour,"  and they point out that Girdwood's frontier-style ambiance remains intact.  So, the Ski House of the Day is this beautiful custom log lodge in Girdwood with some frontier-style ambiance of its own:

This ski house is within walking distance to Mt. Alyeska, which has a relatively low tree-line so the upper "trails" are wide open white spaces, and has a 60-person tram to the top of the north face where you can see all the way to the ocean!   The house, too, has wide open spaces in its huge 4300 fact the entire living area looks like one big continuous open space;  and it also has 25-ft. vaulted ceilings that make it feel even larger than it is.  Its massive log and stone fireplace, centrally positioned in the living room, looks really inviting for apres-ski...

...but wait...I had to do a double-take to figure out that this is actually a two-sided fireplace:

Upstairs, the master bedroom has its own fireplace...

...and the hot tub is under cover out on the deck...

But here's the frontier-style surprise...
...there's a  BEAR in the house!

Is it just me, or does this bear look like he's in the perfect stance to be doing a snow-plow and gripping a pair of ski-poles?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cabin in the Woods

Here's a ski house that offers simplicity and solitude, plus a good dose of Canadian cedar forest.  The Ski House of the Day is this small cedar cabin tucked into the trees near Deka Lake in the 100-Mile House area of British Columbia:
The house is a very simple cabin just 21 X 28 in size, with a kitchen, living room, bedroom, and loft.  Amenities in this ski house?  There's a nice woodstove; the rest is up to the imagination.  (The house is on the market for $129,000).  Right at the end of the road is a network of trails...perfect for cross-country skiing and year-round recreation.    And the alpine skiing...that's at family-friendly Mt. Timothy in South Cariboo, or backcountry skiing in the Cariboo Mountains.  Also nearby is Big Timothy Mountain and beautiful Timothy Lake.  Nice area, especially if your name happens to be Timothy... or if you happen to be celebrating someone named Timothy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Trophy Mountain Chalet

The Ski House of the Day is the Trophy Mountain Chalet...a back-country hut in British Columbia:

The chalet is located deep inside the 1.4 million acre Wells Gray Park in the Canadian Rockies, and belongs to Wells Gray Adventures which offers (guided and self-guided) back-country skiing and other adventures into remote areas of the park.  As a back-country hut, skinning is the way to get there...or you can get a sno-cat ride part of the way in, or a helicopter all the way. The Trophy Hut is environmentally friendly by design, with no running water,  no septic system, etc. The hut sleeps 10-12 people, and its luxury feature is its propane powered sauna (with direct access inside or out to the snow).  Solar energy powers the lights (notice the solar panel across the railing on the upper deck, above).  Typical of a back-country hut, the interior is intentionally pretty basic...and here's what the owners say about that:  

"In the wilderness, the space that was occupied by phones, televisions, vehicles, and computers is filled with the spiritual energy that wild places have."

So...'less is more' at this ski house...for everything except the snow, that is!  It looks like the chalet gets plenty of Cariboo mountain powder:

The setting is absolutely stunning:

And the skiing is:
...awesome, eh?