Rugged and remote, this fly-in adventure in Denali National Park comes with a civilized touch.

In the late 1960s, America’s wildest ski scene wasn’t in Sun Valley or Aspen. The real party was happening at a humble mountain hut in Alaska, set 10 miles from the summit of Denali (Mt McKinley), North America’s highest peak. 

Every spring, a trailblazing Alaskan bush pilot known for pioneering glacier landings, Don Sheldon, would host the Mt McKinley Ski Party. Posters for the annual event advertised wolverine burgers, polka music, and professional ski demonstrations. Cocktails were served from snow bars, and costumed guests viewed the festivities from atop the wings of the Cessna 180s that had flown them to the remote revelry. 

Back then, Sheldon’s 212-square-foot mountain house had more than a month-long waitlist for overnight reservations. Today, the simple basecamp still attracts a hardcore crowd who don’t mind sleeping pads, the outhouse, and preparing meals on a camp stove. But the ultimate après scene has moved about a football field’s distance south to Sheldon Chalet, the two-story, 2,000-square foot guesthouse that caters to more discerning and moneyed adventurers. The five-bedroom, exclusive-use property creates a private ski party for just 10 guests, or fewer. 

During a three-night stay last spring, post-ski celebrations ranged from sledding down to an ice bar decorated with pink lawn flamingos for peppermint schnapps-spiked hot cocoa, to glacier-ice chilled martinis prepared in a massive igloo cum night club with strobe lights and techno beats. But you don’t make the effort to get to Sheldon Chalet for the party. You come for the rare opportunity to backcountry ski in unrivaled comfort in one of Alaska’s most isolated corners. 

When the chalet opened in 2018, first guests were impressed simply by the arrival. The 30-minute helicopter transfer from the little frontier town of Talkeetna whisks guests above frozen taiga and glistening cobalt blue glacier pools before the heli is engulfed by the looming snow-plastered granite walls of the Great Gorge. The heli emerges through sheer rock faces to the hexagonal-shaped chalet, which seems to float in the clouds from a 6,000-foot-perch at the head of the nearly 35-mile-long Ruth Glacier. 

The combination of raw, natural beauty and lack of cell service or Wi-Fi forces even the most Type As to unplug. They can soak in views of a snow-dusted Denali from the picture window of the chalet’s cedar sauna or swaddle in blankets on deckchairs and view the aurora borealis.

The chalet’s location amid the glacier cirque and towering peaks has a special appeal to addict skiers like me. As Don Sheldon knew (Sheldon died in 1975), this is a dream playground for ski touring. His children and grandchildren built the chalet and guided ski tours were introduced in 2022, providing guests the opportunity to explore untouched terrain and nab first descents. Due to Sheldon Chalet’s high demand and its short ski season (March through June), only a lucky handful get the chance to ski tour beneath the majestic summit of Denali. Not to mention be spoiled in one of the world’s most remote and indulgent lodges.

Interiors channel the glitzy chalets of the Alps rather than the taxidermy-filled lodges typical of Alaska. Books chronicling Don’s aerial heroics and years mapping the Alaska range with celebrated cartographer Bradford Washburn line living room shelves and an open kitchen is stocked with nibbles of Alaskan salmon jerky, pickled dandelion buds, and devil’s club sourced by the chalet’s forager in Talkeetna. In five bedrooms, king-sized beds are dressed with shimmery gold pillows and vintage photos reflect Don’s glory days, but it’s the views of snow-capped peaks through panoramic windows that steal the spotlight. The chalet partners with Talkeetna outfitter Glacier View Gear Rental so you don’t have to travel with skis or splitboard, nor worry about forgotten gloves or an extra layer. On arrival, a large duffel filled with every imaginable type of outdoor apparel—ski bibs, puffy jackets, thermals, a shell—was waiting in my room. 

A handful of runs, including Home Run and Cameron’s Couloir, a half-mile steep, powder-filled gully, are a short skin from the chalet. You can also go farther afield to pocket ski around the Ruth Gorge and skin up virgin ridgelines. Over the next two days we’d ski tour three to four hours in search of fresh lines. I returned to the chalet each afternoon exhausted from the physical effort and famished for meals prepared by chef Dave Thorne. Known as Delicious Dave, Thorne spent years cooking on tour for rock stars such as Neil Young and Dave Matthews. His dishes are insanely flavorful yet light enough to be able to enjoy a lunch of organic corn chowder and smoked Kodiak scallops and head out for more turns without battling food coma. 

On our final evening, Thorne prepared a seafood feast of Alaskan king crab legs, Simpson Bay oysters, and spot shrimp from Prince William Sound. After dinner, we wrapped ourselves in faux-fur blankets and sipped wasabi martinis on the heli-pad while soft rumblings of distant avalanches echoed round the cirque. Backcountry Alaskan adventures have never felt more refined.

A handful of runs, including Home Run and Cameron’s Couloir, a half-mile steep, powder-filled gully, are a short skin from the chalet. You can also go farther afield to pocket ski around the Ruth Gorge and skin up virgin ridgelines. Over the next two days we’d ski tour three to four hours in search of fresh lines. I returned to the chalet each afternoon exhausted from the physical effort and famished for meals prepared by chef Dave Thorne. Known as Delicious Dave, Thorne spent years cooking on tour for rock stars such as Neil Young and Dave Matthews. His dishes are insanely flavorful yet light enough to be able to enjoy a lunch of organic corn chowder and smoked Kodiak scallops and head out for more turns without battling food coma. 

On our final evening, Thorne prepared a seafood feast of Alaskan king crab legs, Simpson Bay oysters, and spot shrimp from Prince William Sound. After dinner, we wrapped ourselves in faux-fur blankets and sipped wasabi martinis on the heli-pad while soft rumblings of distant avalanches echoed round the cirque. Backcountry Alaskan adventures have never felt more refined.