The Alaska Rendezvous Lodge and Alaska Rendezvous Guides began as an idea in the back of Theo Meiners’ mind in the late 1990s.
While living on Thompson Pass and working as a guide and Logistics Manager for Doug and Emily Coombs, Theo often flew over a parcel of property, located at the confluence of three rivers and in the shadow of Mount Billy Mitchell, which sported the old abandoned lodge known as Serendipity and its outbuildings, and not much else. But Theo, ever the pioneer, saw that the rundown buildings had the potential to become a fully functioning and independent lodge, with easy access to some of the best skiing in the area. On November 21, 2000 Theo showed up at the house of Annette Smith, the owner of the property, with four thousand dollars in his pocket and a dream larger than the Chugach. He knocked on the door and asked to buy the old homestead. Smith accepted the offer, heading straight to Valdez to finance the land, and parceled Theo the 27 acres at mile marker 45 on the Richardson Highway. The Alaska Rendezvous was born.
Along with the land, Theo inherited a jungle of broken down 1950s and 1960s cars, complete with plants and trees growing from dashboards and windows, and three dilapidated buildings. But most importantly, he became the proud new caretaker of the “Blue Hole” of the Chugach, an area known for its unique weather systems, marked by the northern clearing of storm systems, creating breaks in the weather that allow for more skiable days than any of the areas in the southern part of the Pass.
In March of 2001, Theo, Greg “G” Giedt, and a handful of others holed up in the only sturdy structure standing on the land. Although that first season was short and the operation was in its first set of growing pains, the Rendezvous garnered enough interest to plan for a repeat season in 2002. With his business slowly growing, Theo made a permanent move to Alaska and set up residence at the site of his new company.
Theo’s first task was creating the lodge. Taking one of the collapsed buildings, he replaced the shattered windows and broken doors, and gutted the entire inside of the structure. He enlisted the help of Alaskan local Derek Galbraith and others, and from that empty shell they recreated the interior –building a bar, seating area, and kitchen. Using logs cleared from the surrounding land, hand stripped, shaped and finished, they built the furnishings and bar top with their bare hands. Designed to be large enough to fit an entire heli-ski week’s worth of skiers and weary wanderers, it was also small enough for one person to cook, serve food, bartend, and entertain the occasional summer stragglers passing through, as well as the workers from the Alyeska Pipeline crews.
During those early years, guests were shuttled from other hotels and lodges, anywhere from 10 to 45 miles away, to reach the Rendezvous and its helicopters and start their ski day. From the beginning, Theo envisioned creating on-site lodging for his guests, where they could have a true Alaskan wilderness and backcountry experience. In the summer of 2003, Theo and his crew broke ground for a new building. Located a short walk away from both the restaurant and helipad, they built a spacious eight room hotel which boasted private guest bathrooms, telephones (no small feat in that remote area), and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The hotel saw its first guests during the 2004 season.
Through the summer months Theo had company from Greg “G” Giedt, his son Aidan, and later his nephew Mike. They did the repairs necessary after the damage sustained during the harsh winter seasons and made any improvements on the property that time and manpower would allow. The lodge was constantly evolving, growing each year to meet the needs of the expanding Rendezvous family and guests. Each fall, the lodge would be closed and winterized, the buildings locked and windows covered, and left waiting for the next round of ski enthusiasts and adventurers to arrive for the spring season.
In 2008, both Aidan and Theo’s daughter Alexandra became involved with the business. Aidan was able to draw on his experience gained in the summer seasons and apply the knowledge towards the winter operations. He soon became an apprentice guide, learning from his father and the other seasoned guides working for the company. Alexandra, meanwhile, started in the main office, learning how the business as a whole operated, and would soon work closely with her father year round in planning for the future of the Rendezvous.
As the Rendezvous matured, Theo’s dream of the land and the business transpired. In the fall of 2012 he began an expansion on the lodge, creating a space that brought in the warm alpenglow light from our home peaks of Happiness, Mount Billy Mitchell, Three Pigs and Mount Tiekel. Just like many things, this expansion started as an idea written on a piece of paper shared with the grocery list; one would never guess this ink sketch would turn into a beautiful hand-crafted room. The addition was the last improvement Theo started at the Rendezvous; he never saw it finished. After years of work in an often brutal climate, the dealings with aircraft and myriads of other elements, Theo’s visions have become truly serendipitous, and have laid the groundwork for many good things to come.