Dawn Gerety making like Michelangelo. PHOTO: SIMON EVANS

Words: Brooke Edwards

Thou shalt ski. Thou shalt après ski. Thou shalt dance beneath the heavens adorned with blacklight glitter and disco balls. (Book of John 3.12). Alaska has become famous for powder and steeps of biblical proportions. Rising to the occasion of its spiritual mysticism, Alaskan skiing now finally has a masterpiece worthy of worship.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 at the commission of Pope Julius II. It's been described as the cornerstone of High Renaissance Art. Alyeska Resort's owner, John Byrne, began a new renaissance when he commissioned local artist Dawn Gerety to paint the ceiling of The Sitzmark Bar and Grill in Girdwood, Alaska. Chances are that Michelangelo didn’t scribble his design idea down for the pope and submit it for approval on a cocktail napkin. Eight ceiling panel sections, 18 gallons of paint, 1,500 feet of silver bead strands, 65 disco balls, and four weeks later, a dream that began over an order of curly fries and a couple of beers transformed an ordinary ski bar.

Michelangelo probably never recovered from the permanent crick in his neck, but because she didn't want to impair her ability to scout steep lines from the heli, Dawn opted to paint all the panels on the ground, adding just a few final dazzles via scaffold. Byrne wanted to breathe life into Girdwood's finest music venue, so Gerety painted bedazzled multi-layered designs on floating board. The ceiling moves with the music.

Michelangelo's famous masterpiece illuminates the story of creation. Dawn's ceiling captures the creation story of the Alaskan skier/rider. One panel is entirely devoted to the Northern Lights, complete with a wolf howling at a glowing moon. On another, over 100 locals scripted their names in black light paint, forever affixing themselves to Alyeska. "I painted each piece based on inspiration while I was working," says Gerety. "It was amazing to have that kind of freedom; to take the liberties that I did and know that the client was going to be pleased with the end result."

The crux panel is a skier neck deep in powder with one outstretched pole reaching into the next state of bliss. The skier bursts through glittering snowflakes, scattering amidst the dancing crowd below. The depiction above will certainly draw the Aprés crowd and inspire a pilgrimage of devotees from around the world; teeming in after last chair to worship at the altar of deep pow. Feeling touched by the Divine, they will imbibe in shotski communion under the heavenly art of the Sitz-stine Chapel. Thank you Dawn Gerety, for helping Alaskans get a little closer to heaven.