If you haven't skied Alaska already, you want to. Decades of spectacular ski magazine covers and heli-skiing footage have made Alaska's vast snowy wilderness the Holy Grail for skiers and riders. Tucked between the water of Turnagain Arm and the base of the Chugach Mountains is the little town of Girdwood, AK and Alaska's biggest ski area: Alyeska Resort. Curbed Ski is here to tell you why this should be the year you go for your dreams and make the trip to Alyeska.
1. The snow. Alyeska Resort averages 650 inches of snow per year. That's more than Alta and Kirkwood and goes toe-to-toe with Mt. Baker for the snowiest resort in the world. While Alyeska got off to a slow start this year, it's already hit 200 inches (probably a bit more than your local hill so far), and the season is long here, with the number of daylight hours outpacing some resorts in the Lower 48 as spring goes on. Oh, and 1,610 skiable acres with 3,200 vertical feet doesn't hurt either.
2. It's not as remote as you might think. If a ski vacation means hopping on a plane no matter what resort you choose, Alyeska should be in the mix. Depending on where you're coming from, fares can be competitive with better-known resort destinations. It helps that Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is a full-fledged, year-round hub, compared to the smaller regional airports that service many ski towns. To top it off, from curbside at the airport to the base of the resort is only about an hour by rental car or shuttle.
3. There are plenty of options. Girdwood is an amazing launching point for getting into the Chugach Mountains. Well-known and established heli-ski outfit Chugach Powder Guides has a desk on the first floor of Hotel Alyeska, so you can roll right out of bed and jump in the van to the airstrip. If the helicopters can't fly that day or you're looking for a little more budget-friendly option, CPG also operates a cat skiing operation. A short drive from Girdwood, Turnagain Pass offers backcountry options for slednecks and human-powered touring. Alyeska has inbounds hiking options, as well.
4. The Double Musky. The Double Musky is by far the most well known restaurant in Girdwood and probably the state. The reason is clear: the French pepper steak. While The Double Musky is ostensibly a Cajun restaurant, we really can't comment on anything else but that steak. Every guidebook and travel section in the nation has eaten here and raved about it. If you're not craving steak, not a problem: Girdwood has plenty of other must-try dining options. Jack Sprat serves vegan and traditional offerings under the motto "fat and lean world cuisine." The Alyeska experience isn't complete without stopping at The Bake Shop for breakfast, and Coast Pizza at the turn-off from Seward Highway is a great place to grab a slice on the way back home.
5. Turnagain Arm. A lot of ski resorts boast killer views, but there's something special about Turnagain Arm. The narrow branch of the Cook Inlet provides some spectacular scenery along the drive from Anchorage on the Seward Highway. The peaks of the Chugach look like they burst right out of the sea. Take the tram ride up to Seven Glaciers Restaurant at 2,300 feet above sea level for a better view of Turnagain Arm and the glaciers that surround Girdwood (Hint: There are seven of them).
6. It will be epic! Obviously, your top priorities for an Alaska ski trip are to hit as much untouched powder as possible, ski the biggest lines you can, and if you're really good, bag a first descent. That doesn't mean that sharing your GoPro edit with your buddies back home won't feel great, as well. Let's be honest: This could be a one-time, bucket-list type of trip. Take advantage of that by documenting your best stuff, just leave your yard sales on the cutting room floor.
7. The frontier nature of Alaska. For hosting the biggest ski resort in Alaska, Girdwood's charm is unassuming. A lot of the roads remain unpaved. The Hotel Alyeska is the only major lodging development in town. If your idea of shopping is limited to a quality boot fitting, Girdwood is your kind of town. This is about as far from Aspen as you can get, physically and figuratively. There's no pretension, the locals are welcoming (you'll probably find out where that night's party is after just a few chair rides) and the entire atmosphere is tuned toward getting out there enjoying the reason you made the trip: snow!
· Alyeska Resort [Official Site]
· The Snow Lover's Bucket List: 33 Things to Do Before You Die [Curbed Ski]
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