Alexandra, Blane and Julie from the JG Black Book team all had the privilege of visiting the awe-inspiring Sheldon Chalet this year. And they all came back with the same feeling: that Alaska is a life-changing destination and the Sheldon Chalet offers one of the most luxurious, off-the-beaten-path experiences they’ve ever had. Read what our team had to say about their journey with Sheldon Chalet in this “she said, he said” edition of our On The Road series!
What’s the word on Alaska as a destination?
Alex said: “It’s not just about visiting in summer anymore. With the new Sheldon Chalet, which is open year round, travelers can venture to Denali via helicopter and have the Aurora Borealis all to themselves. Most of Alaska does close after September, but we’re seeing the start of a longer season thanks to properties like Sheldon Chalet offering something unique for the winter months.”
Blane said: “Alaska is the real ‘off-the-beaten-track.’ The scenery is unreal. From mountains to the wildlife, it is one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited.”
Julie said: “Alaska is a place that offers a lot of different experiences from skiing to heliskiing, white water rafting to cruising and hiking to aurora viewing. This makes it a really diverse experience which you can customize based on your adventure level, age and interests. As more luxury properties like Sheldon Chalet come on the market it will entice a certain traveler that wants to experience these great offerings in a more luxurious way via private helicopters and luxury lodges.”
What was it like arriving to Sheldon Chalet?
Alex said: “I was warned that I would need a whole hour to decompress from the shock. They weren’t exactly right – it was more like two hours. Of all my travels, the first thing I tend to do upon arrival is check out my room and drop my bags. In this instance, who knew where I threw my bags! It was 8 hours later before I even cared to see what my room looked like. I was so fascinated by the views, the food and the wine that I would have happily slept on the couch with a direct view of the summit of Denali.”
Blane said: “Transferring from Talkeetna to Sheldon Chalet is like starring in your own James Bond movie. The helicopter flight over the landscape of glaciers and snow-capped mountains really puts the expanse of Alaska into perspective. And when you first arrive to the property, the sense of remoteness really puts you into a bit of shock. Sheldon Chalet is the only hotel on Denali and the only structure visible for miles.”
Julie said: “This was one of the best parts of the entire experience. It was amazing to be flying over the mountains in this huge and remote destination only to arrive and see a tiny hotel sitting alone on the nunatak in one of the most beautiful and quiet places I have ever visited.”
Share some of your insider tips and advice with future guests.
Alex said: “You should do at least 3 nights. I would suggest 4 nights for a real opportunity to just have nothing to do but read a book, take in the views and nap. I would also suggest taking the short hike to the original Mountain House, read through their guestbook and peruse their photo albums. There is so much history to take in, which only helps you appreciate where you are so much more.”
Blane said: “I would urge guests to take advantage of the destination. Do as many activities as you can. You won’t have many opportunities to hang out on a glacier in your lifetime. Be adventurous and take lots of photos!”
Julie said: “This is a life-changing destination. I have never been to a place where you can experience so much beauty and solitude. It is perfect if you are adventurous and want to try glacier trekking and snowshoeing, or if you want to see the Aurora from the comfort of your own bed. Returning from glacier life makes you realize how nice it is to disconnect and have no WiFi for a few days. It is truly a phenomenal place.”
What were some of the stand-out amenities and services?
Alex said: “It would have to be the food. When you have to helicopter every single thing in, and when you have to produce your own water, cooking at 6,000 feet is a challenge, but as a guest, you would never know it.”
Blane said: “Between the views and the food, you don’t need much more. Both are pretty awesome! The staff was also great, we had such a good time hanging out learning about Alaska.”
Julie said: “The guides are amazing and extremely experienced. They really help to show you the glacier in a way you could never do on your own. They took their time explaining our surroundings and brought along food for a picnic and carried it the whole time we were trekking. They were patient and knowledgeable.”
Good to know! Give us the scoop on the food…
Alex said: “Delicious Dave, the Chalet’s chef, delivered something different at each sitting. He was always trying to find a way to surprise, peeking from the kitchen looking giddy, waiting for our faces to light up after our first bites. It was always a homerun.”
Blane said: “The food at the Chalet was rockin’! Hats off to Delicious Dave. Dave put together one of the greatest displays of cooking and hosting that I have ever experienced. We sat around for hours watching him prepare some amazing meals.”
Julie said: “Returning at the end of a day of activities to have Delicious Dave’s cooking was unbeatable. He really goes over the top creating unique dishes, like salmon served on a hot rock resembling the nunatak or a chocolate chalet with windows made of pistachios. The seafood extravaganza of Alaskan king crab legs, an assortment of oysters and fresh shellfish was a fantastic way to start the trip! The charcuterie board with artisan cheeses and locally-grown fiddlehead ferns was a great treat too.”
What was the highlight activity during your stay?
Alex said: “I loved the glacier hike. As someone who isn’t a mountaineer or trekker for that matter, I wondered if I could do the day’s activity. The guides helped me quickly change my mind with a thorough orientation, which made me feel 100% safe. Being on the glacier where your depth perception seems broken, you get a true feeling of remoteness. There was a level of silence and a moment for myself that I haven’t found anywhere else in the world. After a 5-mile hike, you feel invincible and leave appreciating the true mountaineers who trek for weeks. Luckily, our guides brought a cast iron skillet with them to cook fresh crab cakes for us – a luxury I don’t think they always had.”
Blane said: “Trekking on the glacier tops the list! We took a 6-hour stroll on the glacier and stopped at an igloo to enjoy a snack that our guides had carried with them. From this vantage point, the views were insane. It really opened up the sights of the Ruth Glacier.”
Julie said: “Sledding! Who would have known it could be so much fun carving your own trails on a glacier. I went SO FAR!”