Just 75 days after purchasing the Alyeska
Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, new owner John Byrne III announced a
major expansion of the property. Situated in a glacier valley 40
miles south of Anchorage, in the Chugach Mountain Range, the ski
resort is Alaska's largest, with 1,400 skiable acres of terrain;
nine ski lifts, including a high-speed aerial tram; and 68 runs.
Alyeska Hotel, a chateau-style, 307-room property, has several bars
and restaurants and a spa.
Byrne heads Salt
Lake City-based Cirque Property, which acquired the resort in
December from Seibu Alaska. The deal included Alyeska Resort, all
its real estate holdings and the management contract for Anchorage
Golf Course. The transaction price was not disclosed.
Byrne said the
intended expansion would include an upgrade to the existing Alyeska
Resort plant and an expansion into nearby Winner Creek.
"This will help
transition Girdwood into the four-season resort we all envision it
to be," said Byrne.
Alyeska is rarely
mentioned among the top U.S. ski areas, but Byrne said he intended
to change that.
His strategy, in part, consists of bringing
in a management team from top ski destinations from the lower 48
states to work with the existing staff at Alyeska, most of whom
will stay on to help move the resort "into the 21st
the resort will emphasize its unique location.
"We want to put
the 'Alaska' back in 'Alyeska' and provide the guest with a genuine
Alaska experience," said Don McLean, vice president and director of
real estate for the resort. McLean comes to Alyeska with two
decades of real estate and construction experience in Telluride,
The resort plans
to create a village setting; expand the beginner and intermediate
ski slopes; upgrade chair lifts; create a downhill racing area;
expand a Nordic trail system; add family- and kid-friendly
programs; and add programs for the disabled.
Byrne also wants
to build lifts that will take skiers to the higher ridgelines, and
to increase the vertical rise at Alyeska from 2,500 to more than
The hotel is
getting what Alyeska officials call "much-needed upgrades" to guest
rooms, common areas, the fitness center, conference areas and the
The rooms will
have new pillow-top beds, native Alaska artwork, new lamps and new
Byrne said he
hoped to have a conceptual master plan about the expansion into
Winner Creek on the desk of the town's mayor, Mark Begich, no later
than early September. Expansion would provide skiers with access to
Winner Creek's backcountry terrain, which is adjacent to the
"Having lived and
skied for many years in Alta and Snowbird [in Utah], I am a firm
believer in an open backcountry policy," Byrne said. "We do intend
to open Alyeska's boundaries when conditions permit."
activities in Winner Creek, Byrne plans to pursue the development
of summer mountain biking, a summer music venue and summer ski
Byrne also said
that this would be done while maintaining "environmental values" of
sustainability and community responsibilities in
This year, during
a winter when many resorts reported their lowest snowfalls in
years, Alyeska said it was the first ski resort in the U.S. to get
500 inches of snow.
The amount of
snowfall prompted McLean to comment that after spending 33 years in
Colorado, he is "convinced that Alaska is the future of skiing in
information, visit www.alyeskaresort.com.
To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].