The Vail Connection Behind Alaska's Must-Visit Glacial Outpost

A Saturday morning TV villain’s unlikely journey from the Vail Valley to a luxury oasis on an Alaskan glacier.

By Katie Coakley February 11, 2019 Published in the Midwinter-Spring 2019 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

Perched on a rocky promontory atop Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park, Sheldon Chalet just might be the most remote luxury accommodation in the world. It’s certainly the buzziest. Since debuting in February 2018, Alaska’s latest boutique wilderness lodge has received feature-length raves in Conde Nast Traveler (“Sheldon Chalet is the Most Luxe Way to Experience Denali National Park”), Travel + Leisure (“This Stunning New Lodge in Alaska is One of the Best Places to See the Northern Lights”), Bloomberg (“Sheldon Chalet is Alaska’s Most Luxurious Highland Hotel”), Food & Wine (“One of the Best Chefs in Alaska is Cooking on a Glacier 50 Miles from Civilization”), and Vogue (“At Alaska’s Sheldon Chalet, I Learned the Magic of Disconnecting”); Time included Sheldon Chalet (along with the Louvre and Abu Dhabi) in its 2018 list of the World’s Greatest Places.

All that press (300 articles and counting), yet somehow nobody noticed that Sheldon Chalet also happens to be the lair of a bona fide Saturday morning TV villain.

Sheldon (in pink) directing a photo shoot at the Denali luxury lodge she built with her brother

Image: Monica Whitt

“We’re all really surprised and humbled,” says Kate Sheldon, a 50-year-old Eagle resident and former actress who built and owns Sheldon Chalet with her brother, Robert, an Anchorage-based international financier. “It’s hard to even describe.”

As is the circuitous story of how this all came to pass, and how she came to be Nadira, the pink-haired anti-heroine of Power Rangers Time Force.

Kate Sheldon on the Power Rangers set in Hollywood

Kate Sheldon, daughter of Don Sheldon, a pioneering Alaskan glacier pilot, grew up in Talkeetna (population 867) and first visited Vail in 1986 after her freshman year at Western State College in Gunnison. Enjoying the mountain town lifestyle, she returned each summer during college, and, as one does in Vail, worked multiple jobs (including knitting hats and headbands alongside pro skier Chris Anthony at World Cup ski racer Mike Brown’s short-lived Vail Woolens start-up). After graduating with a journalism and public relations degree in 1990, Kate moved to San Diego, then to Los Angeles, where she landed a job as a personal assistant to television producer Glen Larson (creator of hit ’80s shows like Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Knight Rider, and Magnum P.I.), which led to bit roles in commercials and, ultimately, her breakout as Nadira, a pink-wigged villainess on the campy live-action Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series that aired in the 1990s and early 2000s.

In March 2002, after filming 44 episodes of Power Rangers, she’d had enough. About to board a return flight to LA at Eagle County Regional Airport, she found herself crying on a payphone, saying, “I just don’t want to leave. I love it here. I just want to move back.” Two months later, she was here to stay.

Over the next decade, Sheldon hosted Good Morning Vail on TV8, ran Hollywood 101 (a statewide summer acting camp for kids), and starred in the occasional commercial. After her mother died in 2014, Kate and her brother returned to the family home in Talkeetna; sorting through their parents’ effects, they came across original blueprints their father (who died of cancer in 1975) had drafted for a never-built wilderness lodge on acreage in Denali National Park, land acquired under the Homestead Act in the 1950s, which his children had inherited.

“I had no idea they existed, and not only did we find those blueprints but we also found building materials that he had flown up there before he died,” Kate recalls. “The place was already almost under construction. He had the footprint staked out with tarps, and it turned out to be the exact same part of the five acres that my brother and I had determined would probably be the best.”

Together, the Sheldon siblings hired an architect, assembled a construction crew, and over three years and under the harshest conditions (between night and day, temperatures fluctuated by 100 degrees; materials were flown in by bush plane and helicopter), they realized their father’s dream: Sheldon Chalet, a 2,000-square-foot, two-story, hexagonal retreat with five bedrooms staffed by a private chef (Delicious Dave, who has cooked for President Obama, Justin Timberlake, Neil Young, Keith Urban, and Kings of Leon), wilderness guides, and a concierge who greets newly arrived guests on the helipad/observation deck (overlooking Denali) with flutes of Taittinger champagne. There’s no cell service or Wi-Fi or satellite TV, only the skyshow of the northern lights dancing on the horizon in midwinter’s perpetual twilight.

“It’s just a magical place,” says Vail socialite and philanthropist Doe Browning, one of Kate’s “adventure buddies” who was invited to be among the first guests (along with lucky valley locals and longtime friends Marty Baumgart, Bill Gardiner, and Jack Hunn; Beaver Creek yodeler Helmut Fricker also has visited) when the Chalet opened in February. “There’s nothing that compares. At night, when you’re tucking yourself in, even if the aurora doesn’t show up, there’s the play of light if the moon is out. You just feel like a speck.”

Same goes for Kate Sheldon, whenever she measures her fleeting celebrity as a Saturday morning TV star against the never-ending responsibility of being a parent. At Power Morphicon (a Power Rangers fan convention in Los Angeles) in August, when an interviewer asked Kate (reprising Nadira in full costume) if she was working on any new films or other projects, she said no, she was far too busy adulting (“That’s so amazing, I’m happy that you get to do that as a full-time mom!” gushed the millennial interviewer. “By the way, you’re still rocking that pink hair and everything!”). And for the critical acclaim bestowed upon Sheldon Chalet? Credit Kate Sheldon with a supporting role.

“The famous character … is my dad, Don Sheldon, who had the vision back in the ’60s before Alaska had anything luxury at all,” she insists. “I can just see my dad high-fiving my brother saying, ‘Wow, we did it—awesome!’”

Or as Nadira would exclaim, “Quantum Power!”


Sheldon Chalet

From $2,300 per person per night, three-night minimum, includes full board and private helicopter transfer from
Talkeetna. 907-854-7007;

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