Hatcher Pass Lodge

Palmer, Alaska | C.1963

Photo Credit: Genevieve Stokes

Sixty miles north of Anchorage, Alaska above the treeline in the Talkeetna Mountains, a tall adventurer named Karl “Hap” Wurlitzer built a cozy lodge, where he offered food and shelter to fellow aficionados of the great outdoors.

To Wurlitzer, an avid hiker, skier and snowmobile buff, Hatcher Pass Lodge is the culmination of a dream that began when he first set his eyes on the property during a ski trip in 1963. He surmised it would be a fine site for an alpine ski resort. Someone suggested that he could stake out the ground, so he went to the Department of the Interior office in Anchorage to find out how to do so.

After thorough negotiations, extensive paperwork and a great deal of help from Sen. Ted Stevens, Wurlitzer staked his claim on 10 acres of land for 10 dollars, granting him five years to build on the property. He went on to construct a 28-foot-by-48-foot A-frame lodge.

In the years that followed, Wurlitzer expanded the lodge and built several private guest cabins, attracting visitors from all 50 states and beyond. In 1998, a film crew rented the lodge to film the movie “Avalanche”.

Today the staff includes John Phillips – an Anchorage contractor who started working for Wurlitzer more than a decade ago – his wife, Irene, and their grown children, John and Sarah. Phillips said his wife drove up Hatcher Pass in a Volkswagen van in 1992, got stuck in the snow, walked two miles to the lodge and got a job cleaning cabins. Phillips said he now puts in about 92,000 miles a year on one company vehicle, making supply runs back and forth from Anchorage.

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