Mountain Riders Alliance (or MRA) is moving forward on its plan to reopen Manitoba Mountain, a ski area on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula that closed down in 1960. MRA, according to its website, wants to make a “positive change in the ski industry.”
Their plan? To develop rider-owned-and-operated ski areas with minimal carbon footprints. Their website outlines how the business model will work: they will offer memberships to riders, utilize local and regional grants, and create energy and sell it back to the grid, all while keeping the infrastructure costs down. MRA has some pretty interesting goals, including everything from ensuring there’s a clock at every lift station along with free parking and a state-of-the-art website to making the world a better place.
Their first project? Manitoba. With three surface rope tows and 10,000 acres of terrain, this ski area could have the lowest infrastructure to acreage ratio of any ski area around. They will also create energy with small hydro projects as well as potentially develop wind and solar.
The terrain accessed from the rope tows will cater to beginners and intermediates. Beyond that, thousands of backcountry acres will be available via an access gate. Riders will be required to carry avalanche equipment and take responsibility for themselves. The details about access haven’t been spelled out specifically, so this remains a little to be seen. However, since MRA will soon be offering memberships (once they receive final approval for the project), this gives local owners a chance to set the ground rules for the ski community of Manitoba.
The model MRA is setting for Manitoba as well as other ski areas might not work for everyone. The base facilities will be minimal, and the really worthy terrain will first require up to a two-hour hike. But for a growing percentage of the ski population, this is exactly what they are looking for.
Skiers arriving from Anchorage will drive first by Girdwood, and its patrons, Alyeska Resort and Chugach Powder Guides, before continuing another hour to Manitoba, where few overnight accommodations exist. However, that’s just what might make Manitoba so special. It’s about the skiing. Not real estate, not a big lodge and a roaring fireplace. Maybe not even bored lifties and ski instructors working for tips and a few free runs in between classes. It’s simply about what happens when the lifts are actually turning, the backcountry access gates are open and the customers (or maybe members in this case) are carving, floating and hiking through deep snow.
- Base elevation: 1,106 feet
- Top of highest surface lift and backcountry access gate: 3,702 feet
- Lift served vertical drop 2,596 feet
- 3 Surface Lifts
- Inbounds terrain: Approximately 1,000 acres
- Backcountry and hike to terrain: Approximately 10,000 acres within a 2 hour hike
- Estimated average annual snowfall: 350 – 550 inches
For more information, check out their website at www.skimanitobamountain.com.