Ski Land renaissance

The country’s farthest north alpine ski area is getting a facelift. Ski Land, operated since 1962 on Mt. Aurora, 20 miles north of Fairbanks, is undergoing major changes. The area was sold last year and the new owners have been busy in the off season.

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After more than fifty years of operation, Ski Land was starting to go downhill. The area’s infrastructure was aging and when its longtime operators called it quits, the owners decided to sell. Fairbanks doctors Andrew and Jacqueline Cox bought Ski Land, and hired DJ Larsen to manage the area and oversee numerous renovations.

”Just a whole host of things to bring Ski Land into its next phase of existence and ensure it has a nice long future,” Larsen said.

Larsen lists several off season modernization projects, including overhaul of Skiland’s chairlift.

”Redoing the load and unload ramps which let us spin the lift a little faster,” Larsen said. “Revamp both watches. A lot of groundwork around including building a brand new learning area so ther’es somewhere safe to start out if you’ve never skied before.”

Larsen added that the area’s rental fleet has been expanded, and a terrain park is being constructed with rails, boxes and other park infrastructure from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Mark Oldmixon is UAF Director of Recreation, Adventure, and Wellness.

“They wanted a train park,” Oldmixon said. “We had one.”

Oldmixon said private funding was running out for the campus terrain park and the university agreed to transfer its park equipment, including a snow cat grooming machine, to Ski Land.

“And then, in exchange, students will get a season pass,” Oldmixon said.

Oldmixon said the UAF terrain park’s short walk up run was great for tricks and jumps, but Skiland, provides a full service facility for all levels of skiers and boarders.  Ski Land is home to a local alpine skiing tradition, Jeff Fay has been a part of it since it began in the 1960’s.

“At this point, I’m still the voice of Ski Land,” Fay said. “I’m the guy who does the ski report in the morning.”

Fay was a board member of the company that formerly owned Ski Land, and said he feels good about what’s been happening since they sold the area.

“So far it has been just a wonderful thing,” Fay said. “There’s lots of really positive change and energy. And the community that Ski Land has been for years is continuing.”

Fay credits DJ Larsen’s energetic management with the ongoing transformation of Ski Land. One other change being implemented this season is an increase in daily lift ticket prices, and a drop in season pass rates.