The local Catholic parish, a ski resort, the city of Girdwood Community Center and the Latter-Day Saints came together to bring Our Lady of the Snows chapel, to life. (see video)

Project Challenge

Two different church organizations, the Catholic parish and the Latter-Day Saints in Girdwood, Alaska, wanted to share a building in which their congregations could gather for worship—at separate times and in separate worship services. Diverse as the two groups may be, they have similar needs for a physical space that is conducive to both quiet contemplation and group gatherings.

It takes something special to make a building fit Alaska’s spectacular mountain-and-forest grandeur. In addition to accommodating the two groups and a community center under one roof, log construction and glazed trusses pose construction challenges. Exterior log trusses in scissor formation with glazing between the logs provide the focal point of the structure. Inside the chapel, a glazed interior truss installation divides the narthex, or vestibule, and nave, or sanctuary.

Architectural Solution

Small and self-reliant, Girdwood has a tradition of shared facilities. In an unusual collaboration, the local Catholic parish, a ski resort, the city of Girdwood Community Center and the Latter-Day Saints came together to bring a chateau-inspired log chapel, Our Lady of the Snows, to life.

Echoing the pinnacle shape of Mt. Alyeska is the steep pitch of the chapel roof. Unique hand-peeled log beams make the high ceiling even more cathedral-like, and the log structure itself suits the rugged outdoors.

Windows played a big role in the design of the chapel, both for natural illumination and for superior views of the natural surroundings. Windows were situated within the web of log trusses. Logs, unlike timbers, aren’t regular. Every window in the trusses is different yet the builder wanted a uniform look.

JELD-WEN’s manufacturing facility in Bend made full-size paper templates from the field measurements taken at the construction site in Alaska. Those templates were rolled up and shipped in tubes to the jobsite. They were then fitted into the webs of the trusses to determine proper fit. Adjustments in angles and corrections in field measurements were made until a final set of templates assured an exact fit. JELD-WEN then built exactly the right windows in Oregon.

JELD-WEN provided Custom Wood awning, casement and fixed windows. Custom Wood direct set windows had to be individually templated to the existing beam configuration. The Custom Wood windows glaze the two exterior and one interior log trusses. Last, but not least JELD-WEN’s proprietary AuraLast® Wood provides a 20-year guarantee against rot—an important consideration for building in any climate.

Product Details

Project Team

  • Dealer: Spenard Building Supply
  • Builder: Hickel Construction and Engineering