Winter Wonderland

Cozy Hatcher Pass Lodge offers beauty, hospitality

[by Debbie Cutler]

If you are looking for something fun to do this winter, take a trip up to cozy Hatcher Pass Lodge and the surrounding area to visit an old mine, hike, sled, ski or snowboard.

This place is like no other. At 3,000 feet in elevation, you will see sweeping mountain vistas, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner (Friday, Saturdays and Sundays only during the winter, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, when it is open week-long), stay in one of nine A-frame cabins, relax in a sauna, or just enjoy the splendor all around.

“We have the best views in the Valley,” said Beverly Nash, who has worked at Hatcher Pass Lodge for nine years and whose title is “everything.”

She found her job after seeing a newspaper ad. “I like cooking,” she said. “I came up here and just because of the view I have from my kitchen window, I stayed.”

The restaurant, open winters from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends, depending on demand, serves a variety of fresh food—everything from omelets to breakfast burritos and fruit salad, to smoked halibut on a bagel, to a smoked salmon tomato feta fettuccini, to fondue and pies.

The lodge’s cabins don’t have running water, but do have electricity, a bathroom with a chemical toilet, jugs of water for hand washing and drinking and queensize beds. They are priced at $150 per night, which is sometimes negotiable. One of the cabins can accommodate two to eight people, six other cabins can accommodate two to four people and two other cabins sleep two. A shower is available in the lodge.

As far as activities, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. There are groomed ski trails, a groomed sledding hill and on-your-own snow sports. “There is a lot of backcountry skiing done up here, as well as snowboarding,” she said, “but there are no lifts up here, so people have to spend the energy to get up the mountains.”

The only staffer who lives up there year-round is owner Karl “Hap” Wurlitzer. The remaining four to 15 employees generally commute up the winding mountain road. “It’s usually a pretty laid-back place to work,” Nash said.

The area attracts high school ski teams, as well as those from Alaska Pacific University and University of Alaska Anchorage. “The teams start training in late October or early November because we are always the first place to get enough snow to ski on,” she said.

Hikers love the place, as you can walk along nearby ridges, visit Independence Mine, or take a short and easy 30-minute hike up to Gold Cord Lake. “I’ve known 3-year-old children who have run up it,” she said of that trail.

The lodge is 19 miles from the Palmer-Wasilla area and about 65 from Anchorage. Visitors may see moose, ground squirrels, marmots or, occasionally, a bear.

“With the changing seasons there is ice buildup in the river, just changing the scenery every day,” Nash said. “It’s just an incredible, amazing, magical place.”