Retired business executive Jeffery Scott Fraser and his wife now run the rebuilt Tsaina Lodge in Thompson Pass near Valdez, Alaska, on the site of the original building. Nestled in an avalanche-secure zone of the northern part of the pass, Tsaina Lodge offers access to the wealth of extreme winter sporting opportunities in the Chugach Mountains. In this rugged region, Jeffery Fraser’s dream of owning an Alaskan lodge has come true along one of the country’s historic travel routes, the Valdez Trail.
The area around the Valdez Trail served as home for generations of Alaska’s native peoples, including the Ahtna, the Tlingit, the Chugach, and others. Each of the native groups established its own transportation webs for local and regional trade, with the Ahtna frequently serving as go-betweens in handling inter-tribal trading. Scholars believe the Ahtna hosted regular trade fairs within the area of Thompson Pass.
Russian traders arrived in the 1780s, when Leontii Nagaev became the first non-native to identify the mouth of the Copper River. Within a decade, a Russian company had founded a trading post in the area. Over succeeding generations, other Russian explorers increased their knowledge of the river systems, as well as their trade with native peoples, who remained in control of the region.
The United States acquired Alaska from Russia in 1867. In 1899, Captain William Abercrombie and Army soldiers used hand tools to construct the Valdez Trail to lead prospectors north to the Klondike Valley gold fields.