The Snow Report
Alaska’s best ski resort is Alyeska, a smallish outpost—only nine lifts—in the greater Anchorage area with more powder days (33 percent per season) than any other place on this list. One of its two terrain parks is the 400-foot Alyeska Superpipeline (not to be confused with the state’s similarly named oil pipe), a 55-foot-wide freestyler’s in-ground heaven with 18-foot walls.
Beginners need not be intimidated by the tricksters, though: Alyeska’s tree-lined groomed runs go easy on first-timers. The ski’s school director, Garth McPhie, is Level 4 certified, while a separate academy, called Discover, offers a strong kids’ program. However, bring little ones only if you’re willing to leave them in a lesson or have them by your side, since this is one of North America’s only ski resorts to offer no daycare whatsoever.
Winter in Alaska can feel like a total-evening experience, but Alyeska turns that potential disadvantage into a unique experience, offering discounted under-the-stars skiing on most days from 4 to 9 p.m.
After you’ve slid down as much of Alyeska’s 3,200 vertical feet as possible, settle in at the well-reviewed, recently renovated Hotel Alyeska, a ski-in/ski-out affair with a full-service spa, a rental shop that offers belt-waxing, a courtyard pond that’s also an ice-skating rink, and Seven Glaciers, an AAA 4-Diamond restaurant that makes you take a tram to reach its mountaintop spot. Even if you’re not sampling chef Jason Porter’s locally inspired cuisine, don’t neglect to take a ride on the 60-passenger aerial tram, which’ll whisk you high above bears and moose to for magnificent views of glaciers and the Chugach Mountains from Mt. Alyeska’s summit.
Off and around the mountain, you can take tours via dog sled or snowmobile, ice-climbing clinics, “flightseeing” expeditions, and if you’re here from April 19 to 21, partake in the zaniness that is the annual Spring Carnival: it involves a costume ball, an “idiot” swim, a “downhill dummy” race, and tug-of-war across the pond.
Alas, Alyeska has no real conservation program in place, except for having installed two micro-turbines to produce electricity and hot water. A good start, but a few more green efforts and the pride of Alaskan skiers would have placed higher on this list.
CONTACT: (907) 754-2111; alyeskaresort.com
SEASON: Mid-November to late April
TICKETS: General: $60, students, military personnel and ages 60 to 69: $45, children: $25, ages 70 and older: $10, ages 5 and younger: free