Wanting to capitalize on an epic season that brought 200″ of snow in the first 20 days of February (and almost 700″ season-to-date on Feb 20th), I took an impromptu trip to Alaska to go skiing over President’s Day weekend.
Alyeska Resort, in Girdwood AK, is the only major ski area in a state that’s known more for heli-skiing than in-bounds resort skiing. It’s about 45 minutes’ drive from Anchorage along a highway that skirts a dramatic saltwater inlet named Turnagain Arm. It’s the place with the largest tides in the US…something like 30 feet. Every six hours, the Arm pulsates from a pristine, glassy waterway to a broad mudflat covered with giant chunks of dirty ice. Surrounded as it is by the impressive Chugach Mountains, it’s an awesome place.
Being only about half the size of my “home” mountain near Seattle, Alyeska is a bit on the small side… in fact, it’s statistically one of the smallest of the “major” ski resorts. To me, it skied larger than the statistics say, though, and I think there are several factors behind it.
First, there’s an abundance of serious expert terrain…long, steep, satisfying runs. Secondly, the place wasn’t even close to crowded, even on a holiday weekend. The freshly fallen snow stayed amazingly untracked our entire first day, which made for some of the best runs I’ve had all season. Lastly, there’s there’s the sheer volume (and frequent replenishment) of snow – more than any resort on the continent so far this year.
The weather was stormy, which on a ski trip makes for bad pictures and good everything else. High wind & low visibility meant all those famous Alaskan heli-ski outfits were grounded, but we wouldn’t have needed them anyway. Alyeska was enough to keep me smiling all weekend.