The Sheldon Chalet designer and founder: “I’ve visited the summits of the world, none of them compare to this”

    560 371 Adam Bloodworth
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    Built dramatically onto the fringes of the tallest land-based mountain on Earth, Sheldon Chalet offers incredible “luxury on a glacier”. The chalet is built on the designs of famous explorer Don Sheldon and his wife Roberta, who first dreamt of creating accommodation in these supposedly uninhabitable mountains in the Sixties. You can see the Northern Lights, hike Denali’s ridges, fly in a chopper around knife-edge peaks, go sledding, or sit in and eat privately-cooked seasonal, locally foraged food and watch geophysics change the colours of the sky, with nightly light shows from floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

    Robert Sheldon, son of the famous explorer Don, who explored these parts, told Hotel Designs about the chalet. His message is: “I’ve visited six of the seven summits of the world, and none of them compare to the Sheldon Chalet.”

    “Sheldon Chalet allows access to a remote environment in a way previously only available to mountaineers willing to risk their lives. Our helicopter tour takes guests around knife-edged, near vertical peaks”

    The wondrous expanse of the 35 square mile Don Sheldon Amphitheater (the immediate mountain area around the chalet) has to be explored to be believed. Helicopter tours fly through incredible 10-mile-long gorges as deep as the Grand Canyon, and around prominent knife edged and near vertical granite peaks.

    At one peak, our helicopter manoeuvres through a summit slot to help guests understand perspective. The slot appears tiny but has hundreds of feet of clearance on either side when flown through. From this high point the tour descends to a massive crevassed ice field with truest bluest blue ice. Our pilot also performs a fly-by of the south face of massive Denali, and the spiral-shaped Mount Huntington before descending again to land at the tiny Sheldon Nunatak (the technical term for an obtruding slab of rock covered in snow). The helicopter landing feels like something out of a James Bond movie.

    “The vastness of this place is spellbinding when sizes and distances are understood”

    Endless geophysical events such as cascading avalanches and living glacier sounds morph every experience. A blanket of cotton candy like fog sometimes obscures the glacier from view. It’s ever-changing.

    “I’ve visited six of the seven summits of the world, none of them compare to the Sheldon Chalet”

    Having traveled to nearly 50 countries and also visiting six of the “seven summits” of the world, I haven’t seen anything remotely comparable. Especially when the aurora dances with shooting stars across the night sky, and guests are cozied up on the sofa.

    “Geophysical weather displays offer guests a buffet of avalanches, Northern Lights and shooting stars”

    Shooting stars and the illuminated milky way are easily visible due to our zero light pollution, high latitude & altitude, and the resulting thin atmosphere. The Aurora radiates across the sky with a fantastic display of green, purple and even some blue.

    “Don and Roberta Sheldon had a goal to share this property with as many people as possible”

    So that guests could experience this soul-stirring place on their own terms. With that in mind Kate, Marne and I have worked hard to ensure that each guest truly has an experience in a way that is unique to them and true to the wishes of Don and Roberta.

    “Inside the chalet, luxury rules. Snuggle in goose down blankets and watch the rich pastille skies from floor-to-ceiling glass windows”

    The 20,310 feet Denali summit is viewable from the Chalet’s window. Then, breakfast treats, which range from traditional baked goods to myriad fruits and cheeses, are served before our private chef prepares the morning’s hot dishes, to be enjoyed with French pressed coffee to the tune of the sunrise.

    The chef prepares Alaskan sablefish on 400 Fahrenheit river rocks from the valley for supper. He serves it with a simple, thoughtfully dressed salad with a medley of seasoned vegetables. Around 8.30pm in the evening the geophysics begin, with an early and brilliant display of purple and green Aurora interspersed with several glowing shooting stars, if you’re lucky. You don’t need to go out to the observation deck to view this. Instead, turn off the lights inside and snuggle down.

    “My mum and dad, Don and Roberta Sheldon, are responsible for the look of the chalet from the outside”

    Don and Roberta Sheldon are responsible for much of the design. They wrote their thoughts into plans dated 1968. The plans were the result of experimentation, as they constructed the historic Mountain House (also in the area), built in 1966. We adopted many of the general structural design, look, and feel for the interior of the chalet from these plans. The thoughtful planning and execution by Cynthia Johnson of Cynthia Johnson Designs in Seattle Washington helped us along.

    This combined effort of past and present accentuates and compliments the natural surroundings. As Roberta Sheldon would have said, “simple elegance” is important. So we have a look consisting of clean lines and tasteful decor, which feels warm and comfortable. It took nearly 50 years to complete the project because Don Sheldon passed away in 1975, and Roberta lost her desire to continue the effort.

    “The Sheldon Chalet is designed to integrate with, and resist, the harsh environment of the Alaskan mountain Range”

    The chalet is renewable energy focused, made from optimized steel, wood and glass. Materials were carefully chosen to ensure durability, sustainability and efficiency. Fabrics, furniture and utensils are carefully matched to compliment and accent the myriad aspect of the surrounding Nature. In this way our family’s vision for guests to more intimately, luxuriously, and exclusively experience the grandeur of Denali can be realized without any concern that it is at expense to the environment itself. We worked with as many local Alaskan businesses as possible for the Chalet decor, fixtures and fittings.

    The Sheldon Chalet is available to book now, for groups of up to 14, and mixed groups are taken as well as private takeovers of the whole chalet 

    Adam Bloodworth / 15.02.2018


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