Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Hatcher Pass ski project creates jobs, propel

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Friday, April 14, 2006

PALMER—The proposed $41 million Hatcher Pass Ski Area would create new long-term jobs, up to 490, making it among the top employers in the Borough. About $18 million would be generated in overall business sales each year, according to an updated economic impact assessment by Northern Economics Inc. The ski project differs from proposals of the past because it combines four elements: Alpine and Nordic ski trails, along with the development of residential housing and a commercial center. The long-envisioned ski area in the Talkeetna Mountains only becomes bankable, says developer JL Properties, Inc., when linked to the surrounding projects. The ski area includes separate downhill and cross-country ski areas with 700 acres devoted to the Alpine slopes and 1,400 acres planned for mixed use, including the Nordic trails. A high-speed quad lift would be just one of the lifts that carry skiers up Government Peak. A day lodge and visitor center would be part of the facilities that would be capable of serving 2,300 skiers a day. The nearly 16 miles of trails in the Nordic ski trail system are designed by a former Olympic skier. A stadium would provide a start-finish line for competitive events. From a natural amphitheater, a visitor would be able to see a split view; in one direction would be the trails that meet international/Olympic competitive standards, in the other direction would be the recreational trails. The trails also would be designed for year-round use, including separate trails for snow mobile drivers, horse riders and hikers. The 450 lots for residential housing would be located on the south side of the foothills of Government Peak. Some lots would hold sweeping views of the Matanuska Valley. The lots would range in size from one acre to five acres. Trails would be interwoven through neighborhoods so a homeowner could strap on skis at the front door and glide off to a workout. A commercial village would grow to include restaurants and a convention center among an environment that welcomes people who like to walk. JL Properties recently agreed to relocate the village near the Nordic center lodge, away from the Little Susitna River. Along with the estimated 185 to 490 long-term jobs created during the operations phase of the ski area, Northern Economics projects a burst of short-term jobs that will begin during the construction of the resort and continue over the 25 years of housing construction. Some 360 short-term jobs would be created during the construction of the ski area, including 260 direct construction jobs, 40 support jobs, and 60 jobs induced by the spending of the construction workers. Some $16.3 million in wages would ultimately be generated by construction of the lifts, day lodge, trails, infrastructure, and commercial center, the study says. As the Southside Residential Community is built over 25 years, up to 1,350 jobs would be created with 900 of those being direct construction jobs. Local spending on materials, equipment and labor is expected to reach $102 million. Northern Economics is the largest professional economics consulting firm in Alaska. The firm, in part, compared employment data and operating statistics with ski resorts in Alaska and Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, and California.