Photo © Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com
Photo © Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com

You can’t blame Marne and Robert Sheldon for over-engineering the new, luxurious Sheldon Chalet.

After all, what other lodging facility lays claim to a higher elevation and latitude? What other wilderness destination is built within a scant 10 miles of majestic Denali (20,310 feet) on a titanium and granite glacial island accessible only by a one-hour helicopter ride?

Welcome to the Sheldon Chalet, a masterpiece of hospitality concept, engineering brilliance, and grand comfort in one of the most secluded, breathtaking spots on the planet. The five-bedroom sanctuary is already hailed by The New York Times travel editors as “among the most promising debuts of 2018.” To say there is nothing like it is an understatement.

50 Years in the Making

The Sheldons are the chalet owners and operators. Robert’s late father was legendary Alaska bush pilot Don Sheldon. Don claimed the unique glacial island, called a nunatak, in the mid-1950s under the Homestead Act. The property was grandfathered into Denali National Park when it was expanded in the 1980s. The five-acre site remains the only private property within the U.S. National Park System.

Photo © Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com
Photo © Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com

“This project is the culmination of three generations over 50 years,” Robert says. “We believe my father and mother started building a chalet around 1968. We discovered floor joists and insulated floor panels from that time during the hot summer of 2015, the year we started our foundation work.”

Extreme Structure

The chalet is a six-sided, hub-and-spoke circular design. The deep-anchored steel structure is engineered to withstand a week of 200-mph winds. The project contractor, BEK of Alaska, took two years to embed the foundation into the titanium iron oxide outcrop. The titanium composition may explain why the nunatak stubbornly resists the titanic leveling forces of the surrounding 3,800-foot-deep Ruth Glacier.

Photo © Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com
Photo © Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com

Nearly everything about the structure is extreme. “We built with steel. Steel can be a difficult material to square-up. Girders are often minutely bent, which can propagate itself throughout the entire assembly. Amazingly, the entire building is completely square. For example, we didn’t have to cut down a single porcelain flooring plank,” Robert says. The porcelain floor acts as a heat sink for the central masonry heater and resists thermal contraction and expansion.

Amazing Resilience

One building product stood out for its simplicity and strength: the windows. The spectacular 360-degree views are presented by standard two-ply windows with low-E 2 glass with 10.3125-inch jambs and 3-inch aluminum flat casing on all sides. To help equalize interior and exterior air pressure, small capillary tubes were added. Otherwise, nothing was custom.

“The selection of the windows was extraordinarily well-considered,” says Marne. “In the end, we chose Marvin Windows and Doors from the dealer in Anchorage. The Marvin dealer knew what we were facing. They knew the conditions. Our general contractor was satisfied. He knew Marvin would do a great job.”

Enduring Trust

Greg Markson, sales manager at Summit Windows and Door, the Marvin dealer, bets his reputation on the Sheldons’ decision. “When it comes to extreme weather, that’s the go-to product,” Markson says.

Marne and Robert Sheldon couldn’t be happier. Since the February 2018 opening, the chalet has shrugged-off two 100-plus-mph wind storms and one 4.5-Richter-scale earthquake without an issue. It’s a chalet as tough and beautiful as the icy world it overlooks. Learn more here.

Photo © Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com
Photo © Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com