Alaska

Alaska, an experienced skiers paradise

By Claudine Hébert, Special Contributor and Journalist

Most of the Canadians who make their way to Alaska do so aboard a cruise liner or caravan-style. There are really only a handful of diehards who dare visit the Last Frontier in the middle of winter with skis in tow.

One thing’s for sure, Alaska isn’t exactly around the corner. To boot, it’s far from being the most impressive of ski destinations. You can forget all about those quaint pedestrian villages, shops and all the rest. And yet, it’s one of those places that skiers dream about. Before, during… and even after they visit. Panoramas that will forever remain etched in your memory are those you will experience at the Alyeska ski resort, located less than 45 minutes from Anchorage, along the shores of Turnagain Arm. Even with the faintest rays of the winter sun, the sparkling reflection of the crystal waters (with the second highest tides in North America) dominates this landscape of snow and ice.

You should note, however, that these spectacular views are reserved for experienced skiers only. At Alyeska, 90% of the 1,400 acres of terrain is intended for intermediate and expert skiers. In fact, when snowfall is abundant—it was once 16 metres in a single season!—this mountain becomes sheer paradise for backcountry enthusiasts. And here, there’s no reason to exert yourself reaching those perfect spots. Most of the backcountry sectors are available using the various lifts. They are also all located under 1,200 metres in altitude. So, even if some effort is needed to enjoy that untouched slope, you won’t be affected by altitude sickness.

It goes without saying that a trip to Alaska would not be complete without a heliskiing or cat-skiing excursion with the guides from Chugach Powders. This team of professionals will not only pick you up at the hotel door, they will also take the time to explain everything you need to know about this incredible experience you’ve so often seen gracing the covers of ski magazines. These guides will make you feel like a star for a day, capturing you on camera and in pictures.

To finish off, if you are looking to celebrate these memorable days into the night at popular spots like the Girdwood or Double Musky restaurant, don’t worry about getting to bed too late! Skiing near the Arctic Circle has its advantages—the lifts don’t open until 10:30 in the morning. Cheers to sleeping in, and fabulous skiing!



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PARCS NATIONAUX

SPECTACLES

Text from 2015-2016 ski magazine

way north

By Caroline Samson, Special Contributor

For many, Alaska brings to mind images of cruises, oil rigs and crab fishing. But, true carving enthusiasts know that Alaska is also synonymous with the most majestic mountains in the world, superb tracks, and snow of the finest quality. I’m not ashamed to say that the first time I skied Girdwood in the Chugach Mountains, I was so blown away by the place, it took me six months to recover!

First of all, it is truly a feast for the eyes. The scenery is absolutely awe-inspiring: endless high snowy peaks, glaciers at every turn, the nearby ocean, the Aurora Borealis, gigantic coniferous trees… before I even hit the slopes, I had already fallen head over heels for Alaska.

Of course, the skier in me was also completely spellbound by the place. Alyeska, Alaska’s main ski resort, located in Girdwood, has some pretty intense terrain, including some fantastic steep and deep runs. Snow accumulation is generally abundant here too. The North Face, for example, gets very little sun exposure—which translates into some crazy big snow! This sector is a long and continuous run that takes you back to the Alyeska Hotel. You can make your way down on a smooth cruiser like the Autobahn or take a double black diamond run like the Christmas Chute or the New Year’s Chute.

The descent is pretty wild and, in good conditions, it’s the type of run that makes you feel like you’re dragging all the snow down with you. Pure skiing enjoyment! My second ultimate thrill was cat-skiing with Chugach Powder Guides (CPG). The immense terrain here is tremendously varied, offering a mix of more wooded sectors, wide open fields and some highly challenging areas… all just steps away from your hotel. In fact, Hotel Alyeska provides ski-in/ski-out as well as cat ski-in/ski-out accommodations. When a glorious winter storm leaves two or three feet of fresh, new snow on the Chugach Mountains (which, I might add, is not a rare occurrence), cat-skiing here is a sheer delight. With its breathtaking beauty and amazing skiing, how could I help but fall in love with Alyeska? What’s more, the village of Girdwood and its people are absolutely charming. They made me feel right at home, from the moment I arrived on that very first trip. And, they have welcomed me with open arms every time since. The staff at the resort and the hotel, the town’s restaurant owners and all of their fellow Alaskans always make you feel like a long-lost friend they have been eagerly waiting to see again.

In short, Girdwood offers all the advantages of an authentic village resort—welcoming, not too crowded and, no over-the-top bling! At the same time, you’ll also find luxury accommodations and excellent restaurants with well-stocked wine cellars. The best part is, everything is just steps away from a great resort with challenging terrain as well as cat-skiing and heliskiing options. For some intense skiing in a spectacular setting (and some luxurious indulgences too), there is no place like Girdwood.

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Ski stations Accommodations Snow Conditions
TEMPERATURE (CELSIUS)
Month Min. Max.
January -12 -5
February -10 -2
March -7 1
April -1 6
May 4 12
June 8 16
July 11 18
August 10 17
September 5 13
October -1 5
November -8 -2
December -11 -4

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