Alaska winters are well known for dogsled teams, northern lights, and majestic mountain ranges that sweep across a frozen landscape. The state’s children are fortunate to grow up in an environment of outdoor bliss, tossing snowballs, skating, snowshoeing, and of course, skiing. From November to April, Alaska is usually snowbound in a most delightful way, allowing residents and visitors to experience skiing and snowboarding on some of the most northern slopes in the United States.
It’s not even that difficult to get here, thanks to direct flights from cities like Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver (British Columbia). Flights are generally more affordable during the winter months, too, making a vacation to Alaska’s snowy slopes more affordable than you might think.
So for anyone eager to experience Alaska’s best skiing and the other activities for which the state is famous, take note: The dogsled tours, aurora borealis and scenic mountains are all within striking distance of the state’s four main ski areas. Are they authentic? You won’t find anything more real than mushing a dog team across a frozen lake while the northern lights dance in the distant heavens.
Try these options for Alaska’s best skiing and wintery family fun in the Last Frontier, the way we locals do.
Alyeska Resort, Girdwood
Located 45 minutes from Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, Alyeska features the steepest ski slopes in the state and is Alaska’s only full-service resort, with the luxurious Hotel Alyeska positioned for ski-in and -out access. Try the tram ride to the top for stunning views and the four-star Seven Glaciers restaurant before swooping downhill toward the expansive day lodge, home to the rental shop and Mountain Learning Center. Specials abound during the winter months, with ski/ride/stay packages specially tuned to family needs. Transportation to and from Anchorage may be available.
Stats: 1,610 skiable acres; 7 total lifts; 1 tram; 2 magic carpets for beginners; 52% intermediate terrain; 11% beginner.
Hilltop Ski Area, Anchorage
Local families love Hilltop for its simple terrain that offers plenty of action for new skiers or riders. It also provides a training hill for young racing teams that need to get a few runs in before homework at night. Affordable and accessible (located right in a neighborhood called The Anchorage Hillside), Hilltop is a great place for a quick ski or ride if you have only a day in Anchorage, or are with family members new to the sport. Rental shop on site..
Stats: 30 skiable acres; 80% beginner terrain; 3 lifts.
Eaglecrest Ski Area, Juneau
This small ski area is Southeast Alaska’s only facility, and it thrives in the capital city. Small enough to let the kids enjoy skiing on their own, but steep enough for teens and adults to test their mettle, Eaglecrest is one of our favorite ski vacation destinations for its family-friendliness and commitment to kids. The Snowsports school and rental shop are expansive, and child-care is available in the new Porcupine Day Lodge.
Stats: 640 skiable acres; 36 runs; 40% intermediate; 40% expert; 20% beginner.
Ski Land, Fairbanks
Under new ownership in 2016, Ski Land is fired up to welcome visitors to an Interior Alaska season of alpine skiing and riding, thanks to a new beginner slope and the addition of high-quality equipment to the rental shop. Ski Land is also targeting families with weekend and school holiday hours. As a point of note, the area has the farthest-north ski lift in North America. Also, the area opens for aurora borealis viewing every night at 9 p.m., with hot drinks available in the day lodge.
Stats: 100 skiable acres; 40 trails; 1 lift; 40% intermediate; 40% expert.
Tips for Alaska Skiing
- Dress kids in gear that includes mittens for added warmth, a face mask, goggles, and helmet. Most Alaska snow is dry with temperatures regularly below zero, so wicking inner layers, and coats and pants rated for such cold is all but required for happy skiers or riders. Consider purchasing chemical hand and foot warmers for cozy fingers and toes. Check with the respective ski area for suggestions on frigid-weather gear.
- With short daylight hours between November and February, ski areas usually operate between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., although there are select evenings available for night skiing. Check ahead for hours and conditions.
- All areas offer rental equipment for alpine skiing and snowboarding. Alyeska and Eaglecrest offer Nordic (cross country) gear for those wanting to explore nearby trails. Alyeska also rents snowshoes.
Travel, Lodging, Dining and Winter-Themed Activities
Erin Kirkland is author of Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th State with Children, and publisher of AKontheGO.com, Alaska’s only family travel resource. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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