Alaskan fog shrouded the mountains in the morning. Martin Mel's helicopter transport accelerated to the most remote of hotels in North America.
“You are surrounded by peaks of 20,000 feet — you do not expect to find refuge there,” says the executive director of the drink in New York. "I thought," Where the hell is this guy gonna land? "And suddenly, out of the mist, this rocky neckline appears."
Sitting on top of this outcrop, like the hood ornament, Sheldon Chalet, a five-room luxury cottage on the Ruth glacier, 10 miles from the 20,310-foot Denali peak. The ring of mountain peaks, called the Amphitheater of Don Sheldon, surrounds the chalet, like the stone crown of a giant king buried in his head in the snow. Taking it for the first time, Mel thought about Galen Rowell’s book about wildlife in 1977, In the Throne Room of the mountain gods“The name,” says Mel, “perfectly describes the Sheldon Chalet.
“Second thought: what will we eat here?
Serving guests to a remote glacier would be a problem under any circumstances. Feeding them at a rate appropriate to the size of the room for bookmarks in the chalet, starting at $ 2,300 per person based on double occupancy, is a whole different game. The stock is only available by helicopter or plane, so everything must be delivered from table linen and firewood to champagne and bagels. For Dave Thorn, the chef in Anchorage, whose job it is to make sure that the dining room reflects the five-star atmosphere, every trip to the glacier requires the packaging of food and drinks on weekends for the most luxurious hiking trip in the world.
His list of products ranges from the most delicate forage berries and Alaskan shrimp to 50-gallon drums with fuel in the case of Denali Brewing beer. He loads what he can into a seaplane Beaver or Otter in a small airport in Tallinn – the starting point for most guests.
That which cannot fit in a plane follows a helicopter, complete with a cargo net that swings from below.
“I’m there, on the heliport, the helicopter hovering above me dropped 500 pounds,” Thorne says.
It sounds like a scene in an action movie, a rescue operation, bringing desperately needed items for abandoned tourists. One strong wind, one wrong move, and Thorn could be flattened with a box with short crab legs and faux-fur skins, which does not bother him at all.
“It's so happy,” says Thorn. "I like it."
The property, which opened last February, is the brainchild of Marne Sheldon, her husband, Robert Sheldon and his sister, Kate Sheldon. The family has a special connection with the place: The Sheldon Amphitheater is named after the father of brothers and sisters, Don, the famous aviator and mountaineer, who first began the technique of landing glaciers. In 1966, Don built a small cabin, the home of Mount Sheldon, as a climbing station on the way to the highest peak in North America, with his dream to make this part of Alaska mandatory for serious adventurers. The Sheldon Chalet, a two minute walk from the hotel, is the offer of the next generation to continue the legacy of his father. Glacial trips, skiing and helicopter tours at the end of the day with a fireplace, a cedar sauna and unique Alaskan cuisine, courtesy of Thorn, are offered to guests.
Thorne grew up in Anchorage, the son of a transplanted native of Detroit, who spent as much time outdoors as possible. “When I was young, he told me about a tiny cabin near the top of Denali, and there was the glow of a swamp,” says Thorn. But the ultra-class chalet is far from the village hut that Thorn's father noted. The two-story structure is hexagonal; wrapped in windows to maximize otherworldly views of the mountains during the day, and from September to April – the northern lights at night; and furnished with soft beds and spa bathrooms. Downstairs, Thorn directs food from the open gourmet cuisine, serving dishes such as local bisaola bison and fried Alaskan scallops with local broccoli and clover flower.
The Continental Sprint welcomes guests in the morning when Thorn beats pancakes, omelets and everything else you might want to order. Lunch goes out to the glacier: hot soup and crab cakes at the table, carved out of snow. At dinner, Thorn struggles to use the multi-mode menu of ancient Alaskan ingredients: wild salmon and halibut, moose, bison, and surprisingly tasty vegetables. The 49th state has a longer growing season and a more developed indie-farming industry than you might think. Prior to joining the chalet, Sheldon Thorn managed his own distribution company, connecting chefs and farmers; he now uses these compounds to bring the best products to the chalet.
He grins and says: “It's almost like I am cheating.”
Thorn says that all the food and drinks in the chalet are included in the nightly rate – massive, but worth it.
“It takes a little money to stay here,” he admits. “But the most magical thing in this place? He closes a millionaire, the billionaire ego is really fast. Glacier humanizes all.