Alyeska

Alaska, USA

Providing the perfect place to warm up your ski legs before heading over to the Chugach Mountains, Alyeska Resort in Alaska is steep, deep and incredibly scenic. Remaining low key and without all the major frills of a big ski resort, Alyeska boasts a laid-back and super friendly vibe with a wide range of terrain to explore. The small town of Girdwood is also the main gateway to bucket-list worthy heli-ski.

Scout Loves

  • On a bluebird day you’ll see some spectacular scenery.
  • The only ski resort in the world where sleeping in is OK. Lifts open at 10.30am or 11am during spring.
  • Each year Alyeska gets an average of 650in/16m of snowfall.
  • The luxurious Hotel Alyeska is located right at the base.
  • The bar at Seven Glaciers Restaurant is a great place for a cocktail.
  • Sitzmark bar has a great après ski scene, as well as live music. 

Scout Tips

  • There is some beginner terrain, but not a lot of it.
  • Chugach Powder Guides offer bucket-list worthy heli and cat skiing.
  • Weather can be variable and the resort is often socked in.
  • The North Face is often shut due to avalanche danger or poor conditions.
  • Note: Due to the small number of facilities and activities on offer, Scout does not offer a Field Guide to Alyeska.

Scout Review

Anyone that travels to Alyeska Ski Resort is probably doing so as a side activity to a more major ski event – namely heli skiing, cat skiing or backcountry touring in the Chugach Mountains. It’s a long way for someone from the ‘lower 48’ to come just to ski this resort, but as Scout found out, Alyeska not only makes the perfect complement to those other activities – it can also hold its own as a pretty awesome ski resort.

Alyeska is situated in the Chugach Mountain Range at the town of Girdwood. It is about an hour’s drive from Anchorage along a particularly scenic coastal road.

The resort itself has some challenging terrain, spectacular scenery and (usually) plenty of powder. In fact with an average of 650in/16m per year (at the top) it has the second highest average in North America, after Mt Baker, WA (701in/17.8m). Due to its proximity to the coast, the powder tends to be of the heavier type, and sometimes the base areas can be pretty bare (where there is an average of only 208in/5m).

The 1610 skiable acres of terrain at Alyeska are varied, and advanced and expert skiers will definitely be able to find enough steep and challenging runs to get their hearts pumping. When conditions are right there are some great ‘hike to’ runs, while the North Face runs are long and steep. There are also plenty of perfect runs for intermediates, many of which are quite long – since they extend all the way to the base of the mountain.

Added to all of this are the great chairlifts, especially the Aerial Tram and the new Glacier Bowl Express. Meanwhile, the restaurants and bars are top notch, the Hotel Alyeska offers luxurious accommodation, and the whole place has a cool, relaxed vibe. You will probably end up wanting to stay longer than the few days on the side of a heli week.

Alyeska Skiing

Alyeska is a perfect warm-up resort for anyone heading out to hit the big mountain terrain. Compared to other resorts in the US, Alyeska can seem small, however, it terrain is everything but. Boasting amazing expert and extreme trails, the resort is not for the faint hearted, alas, it is perfect for those who love to get 'steep and deep'. 

The resort offers a few good spots for beginner skiers and snowboarders, including some mellow trails and easy to catch magic carpets and slow quad chair. With over 52% of the resort catering to intermediates, there are plenty of options to explore - from nice blue runs with a decent pitch, and long groomers that are sure to get the thighs burning. Alas, the resort has the longest continuous double black diamond ski run in all of North America!

Alyeska, however, is best known for its advanced and expert skiing, with runs ranging from black to extreme, with a good mix of lift-accessed and hike-to options. The most highly renowed lines take a little bit of a hike to get to - the summit of Alyeska Peak not only provides an unbelievable view, but some super steep decents back to the resort area. The North Face zone is also popular among local skiers. One thing to note is due to it's pitch and mammoth amount of snowfall, many parts of the resort are often closed due to avalanche risk or limited visability.

Crowds and lift lines are virtually non-existent, with plenty of fresh lines to go around during the week. Local skiers from nearby Anchorage head up on the weekend, so some lift lines are expected.

Alyeska For Families

Alyeska does provide all the necessary amenities and facilities for family ski vacation, however, is best suited to families with intermediate level skiers and snowboarders, and those who are self-sufficient. Saying that, the Alyeska Resort Mountain Learning Centre has a good range of private and group lessons, with a great Mini Mites and Rippers program for the smaller skiers, designed to help them get the most out of their on-hill experience. The day lodge at the ski resort offers a good range of rentals and services, whilst the hotel itself homes a good variety of restaurants, cafes, and facilities for the whole family.

The Alyeska Hotel is the easiest and most convenient option for families, located right at the base of the resort, and with all the amenities one would need for a ski vacation. The small town of Girdwood is also another good option for families who require more facilities including a larger range of restaurants and convenience store. The chairlift is walking distance from the main town, so hitting the slopes is super easy.

Alyeska Accommodation

There are some good lodge and motel options in Girdwood, however the best place to stay is undoubtedly the Hotel Alyeska, with convenient access to the Aerial Tram and great facilities. Both side of the resort, Alyeska Hotel and Girdwood, have chairlift access to the resort, so incredibly convenient no matter where you choose to stay. 

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Resort Activities

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One of the main reasons people visit Alyeska is to get some extreme heli or cat skiing action. Chugach Powder Guides operate right from the resort base and ski terrain in the nearby ranges.

Alternatively you can do something else Alaska is famous for and go dog sledding with an authentic Iditarod team. There’s also snowmobiling, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing on offer. And to unwind, the Hotel Alyeska has a great day spa and nice facilities.

Alyeska has several great restaurants, but the hero of the après scene is undoubtedly The Sitzmark which is often ranked in top lists of American après ski bars. It has live music and is a great place to spend a couple of hours, particularly late in the season when the sun is shining on the deck.

 

Note: Due to the small number of facilities and activities on offer, Scout does not offer a Field Guide to Alyeska.

Getting There and Around

Alyeska is situated in the town of Girdwood, an hour from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. It’s an easy drive along the scenic Seward Highway. There are plenty of rental car companies at Anchorage, and it’s definitely the easiest way to get to and around Alyeska. There is a public shuttle bus that connects the various base areas of the resort.

When To Go

Alyeska opens at the end of November and operates until around the end of April. Temperatures can be pretty cold in January and February, when the daylight hours also limit the amount of fun you can have (January has only 5:39 hrs of average daylight). At the tail end of the season however the days stretch on forever and the temperatures are warm (April’s average is 13:22 hrs of daylight and 43F/6c).

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 250ft / 76m Tram 1 Beginner 11%  
Summit Elevation 3939ft / 1200m Express Quads 2 Intermediates 52%  
Vertical Drop (hike to top) 3200ft / 975m Quad Chair 2 Advanced 37%  
Skiable Area 1610ac / 651ha Double Chairs 2      
Annual Snowfall (top) 650in / 16.5m Surface Lifts 2      
Operating Hours 10.30am –5.30pm Uphill Lift Capacity 12,196      
Night skiing (Thurs-Sat Jan 8 - Mar 28) 4.00pm-9.00pm          
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