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Life in Alaska

Additional attractions coming to Chena Hot Springs Resort

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Photo Courtesy Chena Hot Springs Resort
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Fairbanks, AK - The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly last week approved a land exchange with  Chena Hot Springs Resort.  That means owner Bernie Karl can now move ahead on two projects he says he’s had in the works for at least twelve years.

Apparently, all it takes to build a ski hill and lease a herd of reindeer is a decade’s worth of negotiations to buy 1460 acres from the Fairbanks North Star Borough.  At least that’s how things are working out for Chena Hot Springs resort owner Bernie Karl.  

“I like to talk about stuff," he says, "but if I tell you I’m gonna do something, unless I am dead, I’m gonna do it.”

For the past twelve years, Karl has been working on a plan to bring Alaskan wildlife and downhill skiers to the Resort.  He says a four-mile ski run is already in the works.

“We have the four snowmakers on site, we have the wells already drilled," he says, "we have all the piping, we have the grooming machine already purchased and already on site.  I think we could have some of the earliest and latest skiing in the interior for sure.”

He plans to have the run open next year. 

Initially, skiers will ride to the top on small service utility vehicles “…and that’s gonna have to be the way you go up there for the first season until I get an acrylic balloon and then you’ll ride the aurora to the top of the mountain," he explains. "It will be an acrylic balloon filled full of helium and then it will have 10-thosuand volts with a transformer that makes it glow blue.  And you’ll ride to the top of the mountain on a balloon that’s glowing like the aurora.”

Karl is currently building an eight foot fence for six reindeer he’s leasing from a native Alaskan family in Nenana.  He says skiers will glide right by them as they near the bottom of the run.  “The fences will be in the trees," he says wistfully.  "It will look nice and the trees will be lit with LED’s and so when you ski down at night time, you’ll see all this beautiful, beautiful glow on the snow and that’s what will light the slopes instead of these big ugly lights on light poles.”

The reindeer are due to arrive at the resort by September 20th.  Eventually, Karl says he’d also like to have woodland bison on the property.  He says he doesn’t have an opening date for the ski run yet, and he isn’t sure what a ticket for a ride on his “Aurora Balloon will cost, but he says pricing will be competitive with two other ski hills in the North Star Borough.