The Mountain’s of Alyeska
Though small in area, riding at Alyeska is a blast. The mountain is littered with gullies and natural hits, and much of the lift-accessed inbounds terrain is ungroomed. Freeskiers & riders will find steeps aplenty, with untracked chutes stretched out along the summit ridge. Bizarrely for those used to the altitudes of the Alps, the base of the mountain is practically at sea level, bordered by ocean inlets. Yet despite the altitude, it dumps here, more than twice the average in Colorado. Bleak in midwinter, by February temperatures are warming up. Come mid-March and the sun is still high when the lifts close at 1730. March is also prime viewing time for the Northern Lights.
Alyeska has 760 km or 475 of slopes
1 Funicular Train, No Cable cars & 6 gondolas
No Chair & 2 Drag Lifts
1 Park & 1 Pipe
Night Opening & summer skiing/boarding
Complete never-evers should head for the day lodge; others head via Chairlift 4 to the upper mountain cruisers: avoid achingly slow Chairlift 1. The lodge itself is often closed midweek out of peak season, making it necessary to rent beginner gear elsewhere. Stop at Boarderline in Anchorage.
3 Easy Runs
After a ride on the Speedy Tram, drop down to Chairlift 6 and start lapping, taking full advantage of the rolling terrain and numerous cat tracks en route. Leave the small, rail-heavy terrain park until a little later in the day, when the sun hits Prince Run and the ride back up the cable car is a welcome break.
14 Intermediate Runs
This super-fun little mountain in the back of beyond is the ideal warm-up for heliskiers & boarders en route to the interior, and a great alternative to most American resorts.
If the snow’s fresh and the sky clear, stumble onto the first tram at 1030. Drop straight off the backside onto the ungroomed North Face for a few powder laps. If it gets chopped, take Chairlift 6 and start hiking: the spines and chutes off the summit of Mount Alyeska are worth the trek. After a few shots at Glacier Bowl and Headwall, test your calf muscles on the long traverse to the steeps and shrubs of Max’s Mountain.
10 Expert Black Runs
|Top Lift||1200 m|
|Vertical Drop||960 m|
|Bottom Lift||76 m|
|Opening||Mid November (24 November 2016)|
|1 Day Pass||US $ 80, Midweek US $ 60|
|7 Day Pass||US $ N/A|
|Season Pass||US $ 999|
Anchorage (ANC) Airport is the resorts nearest at 65 Km or 41 miles away.
Originally a mining settlement, Girdweed, as the locals call it, is a sleepy, Bohemian hamlet, only really coming to life at the weekends, when Anchorage folk head down to their cabins in the spruce. Midweek in winter, it’s a quiet, quiet place. If you’d like something to do at night other than watching the Northern Lights consider basing yourself an hour up the road in Anchorage.
Apres Ski & Nightlife
|Great for pre-heli trip acclimatization.||Hours from anywhere else.|
|Consistently amazing snow.||Less a resort than a country village.|
Blasted with ridiculous amounts of snow and refreshingly different from the average resort.
Stock up on groceries in Anchorage at the New Sagaya City Markets.
Health & Wellbeing
Holistic chiro and massage at Girdwood Chiropractic Clinic.
The Magic Bus is the on-demand service. Far cheaper is the ski shuttle which runs from Anchorage.
Most of the programs here are geared towards Anchorage kids, but basic two-hour lift, lesson, and rental packages are available on a daily basis for US$55-60. Child day ticket rates are US$34 for 14 to 17-year-olds and US$26 for 8 to 13-year-olds. Under-eights are free when skiing with a paying adult (US$10 if not).
Bad Weather Days
Whale-watching and iceberg cruises depart daily from Seward, two hours south of Girdwood. Check out alaskatours.com/girdwood
Taking the tram around the lunchtime peak, when the queue is swelled with sightseers just up for the view.
An Interesting Little Fact
Stumble into any restaurant for a sudden immersion into a scene straight from cult mid-nineties TV show Northern Exposure.
Chugach Powder Guides is the local heliboarding & skiing outfit, running snowcat trips close to the resort and heli trips further inland in the Chugach Range.
|Ski/Ride the park jibs late in the day.||Eat at any of the Prince Hotel restaurants, including those on the mountain.|
|Return to Anchorage at night.||Head up early, cold temperatures mean it’s bulletproof until midday.|
|Go for a post-ride pizza at Chairlifts.||Stay in Girdwood, unless they have a weekend cabin.|