An expert's review of Alaska's only "Big Mountain" Ski resort - and it delivers on the big mountain runs!
Pros: North Face on a powder day, funky town of Girdwood, great people & attitude around the mountain, RFID lift tickets, no "crowds", WIDE OPEN, spring sun
Cons: not the most varied terrain/biggest in the world, can get wet/heavy snow, Alaska's dark winters, expensive season pass
Alyeska is Alaska's only real "resort", and it mostly delivers some great AK skiing experiences. Sorry for the bullet-point style review, and keep in mind that I'm mostly considering the black/double-black terrain here...
- The north face - continous wide open AK snow, with some gnarly lines, for 2000' vertical.
- Beautiful terrain nearby, and you ski down towards sea level, with views of Turnagain Arm (i.e. the water/ocean).
- Awesome traverse/hike-to terrain (when it's open).
- TONS of snow (500" isn't out of the question)
- Christmas Chute, New Years, etc offer pretty easily accessible chute skiing that opens into some great stuff.
- You can even find nice quiet tree skiing if you know where to look.
- Staff is generally friendly and helpful, both to AK residents or people from "outside".
- Chugach Powder Guides & cat skiing is available nearby, and can be a good deal if you do standby.
- Mountain isn't huge by "resort" standards, so you may end up lapping the same terrain if you stay a week (or a lifetime). However, if the snow's good you won't care so much.
- Trails in the "upper bowl" or off of High Traverse (Hi-T to the regulars) make you pick between untouched lines further out or bailing back early to make sure you get to Chair 4, and don't end up all the way back at the bottom.
- So much snow that terrain can end up closed for quite awhile, with unpredictable openings.
- Pacific martime type climate blesses the place with tons of snow, but it can be heavy and pretty wet at the bottom due to low elevation.
- Terrain under chair 4, which is where you could be restricted to due to wind/avalance control, is nothing to write home about.
- If the light is too flat, or its dumping too hard you can't see ANYTHING. It's like nowhere else in the Lower 48 b/c of sun angle. BRING CLEAR or High contrast/low tint lenses you you will be blind.