An Aviation Legacy
Tebay Lodge is founded on the rich history of aviation in Alaska. Established well before Wrangell-St. Elias National Park came into existence, this exclusive paradise is one of the few privately-owned properties within the park. The land on which the lodge is situated is the private in-holding of the Smith family. Throughout the 1950-60s, Tebay Lakes became a favorite getaway spot for the Smith family. In the later years it was utilized as a fantastic alpine rainbow trout fishing outpost.
Merle "Mudhole" Smith was the patriarch of the family and former president of Cordova Air Service, what we now know as Alaska Airlines. From barnstorming in the midwest to flying mail and cargo around Alaska, Merle became one of the pioneers of bush flying in Alaska. His impressive and inspiring aviation career spanned over 43 years and rightfully gained him legendary status.
photos belong to smith family archive
Just as the Smith family has deep roots in aviation, so does the does the Claus family who have been preserving the vanishing skill set of Alaskan bush flying for over three generations. The Claus family legacy stems from John Claus, who's pioneer spirit brought him from the Cascade Mountains of Washington to the last frontier of Alaska. Excited to start a life and family in the then Alaska Territory, John and his wife Eleanor made the journey from Bellingham, WA in the mid 1950s. A chemistry teacher by trade, John continued his teaching career and soon after added pilot, registered hunting guide and commercial fisherman to his resume. John passed his knowledge of the mountains and the air to his son Paul, who has perfected these skills to a near mastery. And learning from his father Paul, Jay is continuing to further these trades.
Growing up at another private inholding inside the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Jay and his family would often fly around the Tebay Valley and spend time fishing or picking blueberries there. Although always admiring the alluring mountains of Tebay, it would not be until 2012 while ski exploring with a couple of friends that Jay would realize the amazing potential for a world class ski operation. This adventure sparked a dream of restoring the original structures and building new ones alike, providing a perfectly situated base camp to access the unparalleled ski terrain that sits in every direction. Combining flying with a true love for alpinism, skiing and the outdoors, it is truly a splendid journey in the making.
We are proud to honor the legacy and deep love of Tebay originally cultivated by the Smith family. The core values we strive for are respect and a stewardship for this truly unique place!