There are a handful of ski areas in Alaska, but Alyeska Resort (and the neighboring municipality of Girdwood) is the crown jewel. Any skier who loves adventure, appreciates luxury, and covets spectacular views should put this place high on their to-do list.
Nestled at the base of a glacier-carved valley, Alyeska is one of the only North American ski resorts where you can look between your tips and see the ocean. The powder here is legendary; the summit (at 3,939 feet) boasts an average of 669 inches annually. The in-bounds terrain, with 76 named runs, skis substantially larger than the quoted 1,610 acres, but that’s because you’re surrounded by more than 70,000 acres of the Chugach Mountains, a backcountry playground. Beyond expansive ski terrain, this place offers up a wealth of down-day activities, with all the comforts of home just a schuss away at Alyeska Resort and Girdwood—an old mining town that doesn't suffer from an ostentatious vibe—or tourist-town prices. In short: Alyeska is the kind of place that sticks in your psyche long after a visit, prompting dreams and relocation schemes with thoughts like “If I quit my job” or “I can work from anywhere.”
The Alyeska Checklist
Dine at Seven Glaciers
The food at Alyeska's AAA Four Diamond mountaintop restaurant is delicious enough to rip your attention away from the world-class views of the iceberg-strewn waters below and the hanging glaciers on the surrounding peaks. We recommend the Scallop Bisque and King Crab, both sourced locally, of course.
View Mother Nature's Light Show
Northern Lights frequently illuminate the skies above Girdwood—think snow-covered peaks with a kaleidoscope sky. The Hotel Alyeska offers Aurora Borealis-alert wake-up calls. Bundle up—the best time to see the lights is around midnight on cold, moonless nights. You can see the lights from anywhere in the Girdwood area as there's little light pollution, but try skiing or walking the 3/4 miles to Moose Meadow for the local’s perspective.
Float Through Pow with Church Powder Guides
The choppers leave from the resort and access more than two million acres of deep powder runs, steep couloirs, and old-growth forests, with remarkable views of the jagged peaks in the Talkeetna Range. A full day with Chugach Powder Guides includes 16,000-18,000 vertical feet of heli-skiing (16,000 vert guaranteed) along with lunch in the field, safety training, and safety equipment.
Drop Into Christmas Chute
All the gullies on the North Face of Alyeska Resort are worthy of a Warren Miller film, but Christmas Chute, North America’s longest continuous double black diamond run, earns the most bragging rights. The classic drop is 50 degrees of twists and turns, the most challenging section being the bony "choke."
Boogie at the Sitzmark Bar and Grill
This is the hangout for aprés ski toddies, but also an intimate world-class venue for local and national talent. When you're not on the dance floor, step out on the wrap-around deck when the Northern Lights are popping.
Fat Bike the Winner Creek Trail
You can cover miles of snowy trail on a mountain bike with wide, studded tires in a fraction of the time it would take to hike. A favorite local loop: Winner Creek Trail. Roughly an eight-mile loop that you can access from anywhere in Girdwood, this ride includes some dirt road and single track riding. Best things about winter biking: no crowds and no bugs.
Make Alyeska Happen
You can fly to Alyeska through nearby Ted Stevens International Airport, located five miles southwest of downtown Anchorage. Alyeska Resort offers an Alaska Airlines Fly and Ski Free program: just show your boarding pass to get a free lift ticket (good Monday through Friday).
Rent a car at the airport (we recommend four-wheel drive) and head to Fred Meyer to stock up on groceries and beer. Plan on an hour to drive the 46 miles to Girdwood and Alyeska Resort.
Originally published in the January/February 2019 print edition of SKI Magazine. For more great travel tips and dreamy location beta delivered to your door, SUBSCRIBE NOW.