Ski resort owner has big plans for Girdwood facility

Posted: Sunday, March 04, 2007

GIRDWOOD - After years of wandering lost on the edge of the wilderness as the Seibu group struggled with financial and legal problems back home in Japan, the Alyeska Resort has a new owner voicing a vision that appears to be in lockstep with Anchorage's new marketing theme.

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The words "Big Wild Life" were never uttered when John Byrne III and his management team appeared at a Girdwood 2020 fundraiser last week, but the big-wild pitch was definitely lurking in the background during the packed gathering at the Alyeska Prince Hotel.

Don McLean, Alyeska's new vice president and director of real estate, talked of marketing the resort 45 miles southeast of Anchorage as a "base camp for Alaska."

Out, said McLean, is a resort-linked golf course favored by Seibu. In, said Byrne later in the evening, is a system of world-class Nordic ski trails that would link resort facilities.

A talk by Byrne and a PowerPoint presentation by ski-resort planner Bruce Erickson from Alberta-based Stantec Inc. contained more generalities than specifics, but Byrne promised to have a detailed plan ready by summer.

The document, he added, will provide the groundwork for "a better, more skier-friendly project" designed to expand skiing into the Winner Creek area east of the existing resort.

Access to Winner Creek's intermediate-friendly terrain there has long been a dream of Girdwood promoters as well as the municipality, which owns the land.

"In June," Byrne said, "we expect to deliver the master plan."

By the end of the summer, he added, Alyeska hopes to have an agreement with the city on a ski-area master plan as well as a development plan.

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