The 1st Mountain Top Ski Pilot in Chugach
Chuck McMahon, of Gakona AK, had Donovan Granger(an old classmate of Michael Cozad) who was homesteading in Salana Alaska hang fliers in Valdez to take skiers in the Thompson Pass area. The fliers encourage Skiers to hire Chuck’s Supercub airplane for skiing. The true birth of skiing in the Chugach can be directly attributed to Chuck. Chuck is still Alaska’s top bush pilot in our mind. These are recent pictures of Chuck and his plane. We recommend calling Chuck if you really want the Alaska original ski experience or just a ride anywhere in the Chugach, Wrangles or Alaska range. Just ask around, you will find the family..
We believe it was Steve Jordan, a Valdez resident and Alyeska Pipeline employee that called Chuck the first time in March of 1985. Steve got about 6 regular skiers from the Thompson Pass group. I was fortunately was one of them. Chuck was hired for the first time.
The Tsaina Lodge was operational that year and would be Chester’s last winter at the lodge.
The skiers would meet Chuck at the airstrip a few miles down the road from the Lodge. The Tsaina Lodge did not did not come into play regarding skiing during these early pioneering days with Chuck. The thompass pass Airstrip is where we would meet and fly from.
Two skiers would pile in with Chuck in the Supercub and the snow skis were tied to the wing like caribou meat after a hunt. Chuck charged about $15.00 for a ride. 100s of first descents in the Chugach Mountains were done in these early days and years. All ski runs with Chuck were first descents with the exception of old skin runs like Jack’s Happy Valley, Worthington, and Odyssey directly off the Richardson Highway. We had been skinning those slopes for several years. Any mountain’s top, 20 miles from the airstrip, in any direction, was a target. When Chuck would load two skiers his climbing rate would be impacted. It would take 15 minutes to get the 5000 vertical feet we were after. We would cover the time by just flying farther from base. It was truly an incredible experience and now we know monumental for Alaska Skiing. Chuck has never been recognized for his part in bringing skiing to Alaska.