Remote refinement at Denali lodge

The Sheldon Chalet is located on a 5,800-foot peak bordered by Denali National Park and Preserve.
The Sheldon Chalet is located on a 5,800-foot peak bordered by Denali National Park and Preserve. Photo Credit: Jeff Schultz

Alaska's luxury lodging options will reach new heights in February, when the Sheldon Chalet opens on a 5,800-foot peak bordered by Denali National Park and Preserve.

The property is anchored on a nunatak, or rocky outcrop, in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater on Denali's Ruth Glacier. Open living, dining and kitchen facilities are clustered around a central soapstone fireplace on the retreat's main level. Upstairs, five guestrooms can be configured with one king or two twin beds.

Despite its remote location, the modern chalet is outfitted with full utilities and chic furnishings, including Eames lounge chairs, cruelty-free fur pillows and a custom-crafted birch dining table. A chef prepares dishes built around seasonal ingredients.

Nightly, all-inclusive room rates include accommodations and the Alaska-focused food and beverage menu plus a flightseeing tour during transit to and from Talkeetna, sauna use and house concierge services.

"Alaska doesn't have many of these crown-jewel experiences," said Marne Sheldon, who operates the resort with her husband, Robert, and her sister-in-law Kate. "We hope to fill that niche."

The Sheldon family's ties to the property predate Alaska statehood. Robert and Kate Sheldon's father, Don, was an Alaska bush pilot and aviation pioneer. In the 1950s, he flew mountaineer Bradford Washburn and a surveying team to glaciers and peaks as they mapped the Alaska Range.

Sheldon registered his claim for a 4.9-acre parcel before Alaska became the 49th state in 1959. When the borders of Denali National Park were expanded in 1980, the new outline encompassed the Sheldons' nunatak.

Because the land was claimed under the Homestead Act that extended to Alaska in 1898, the family retains rights that differ from other areas of the park. The small, hexagonal mountain house that Don and his wife, Roberta, built before his death in 1975 sits on a ridge near the new Sheldon Chalet. An observation deck attached to the chalet doubles as a private helipad.

The two Sheldon children behind the chalet (their sister, Holly Sheldon Lee, co-owns and operates Sheldon Air Service in Talkeetna) uncovered 1968 blueprints as they were planning the new building. They were surprised to learn that Don and Roberta once envisioned a getaway similar to today's six-sided chalet.

"It was almost providential, how things started coming together," said Marne Sheldon.

After checking in at the resort, Sheldon Chalet guests can experience the natural setting through guided adventures that vary by season. Well situated for skiing, sledding and trekking on the Ruth Glacier, the property is also ideally positioned for stargazing and aurora viewing. Staff members can schedule summer heli-hiking excursions and heli-fishing tours or outline a visit to nearby hot springs.

Since the resort lacks cellphone coverage and internet service, Marne Sheldon said she expects many guests to simply settle in and unwind.

"You can just sit and gaze out the window and be inspired by that awesome view," she said. "It changes almost every minute."

Double-occupancy rooms are $2,300 per person, per night.

The resort launched its Sheldon Mountain House Heli Picnic ($695 per person) this winter. The outing includes approximately one hour of flightseeing and a landing at the mountain house. There, participants tour the property and share a picnic while learning about local history and geology.



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