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25 Top Spots: #9 Alyeska, AK

25 Top Spots: #9 Alyeska, AK

Travel
By Steve Casimiro
posted: 10/22/2002

SCORECARD
Overall Rank: #9
Snow: #1
Steeps: #6
Nightlife: #34

Known as the local's hill for Anchorage's dedicated rippers and off-season fishermen, Alyeska was rarely visited by Lower 48ers before the Chugach heli scene went off. Now this resort is a favorite option for "outsiders," as we're all referred to up there, looking to ski instead of enduring heli downtime in a dirtbag hotel. Alyeska is skunk-proof: When week-long storms roll in and shut down the Chugach backcountry, you'll get more turns than your quads can stand at the resort. With wetter snow and the occasional fog shroud that can make it feel like you're skiing in a milk bottle, it's not quite Valdez, but it is a manageable sampling of the wild summits that dominate the southeast portion of the state. It's also a haul-about a five-hour flight from Salt Lake-but the bowls, faces, consistent snow, and stunning views of the mountain-lined Turnagain Arm, make the slog worth it. Visit late in the season: December and January are characterized by such short days, locals get excited when they see their own shadows.

The Vitals

Top elevation: 2,750
Vertical Drop: 2,500 feet
snowfall: 526 inches (1,400')
Skiable acres: 1,000
Bars: 10
Eateries: 14
Phone: 800-880-3880
Web: alyeskaresort.com

Adrenaline
When they open the North Face gates, follow the hoards of skiers and riders diving in and screaming like Mongols on horseback. Then make the 20-minute traverse out to Max's for 40-degree powder untouched by snowboards-for them, it would take an hour of post-holing to get to.

Accumulation
Alyeska's base elevation is 250 feet, and the ocean is only a couple miles away, so it doesn't take a meteorologist to figure out that much of its 526 inches of snow is wet. Alaskan storms are wild, though, and that maritime snowpack can hold surprises. Expect anything: In the 2000-01 season, the summit saw 939 inches.

Apres
You can go uptown at the Prince Hotel, or act like a real Alaskan and pull up a stool next to the bongo-playing grizzly at the Sitzmark, at the base of Chair 3.

Local's Take
"The North Face is my favorite place, and now they do avalanche control so it's a lot safer. The best hike-tos on the mountain are two chutes up top called Christmas and New Year's-about 2,500 feet of vert."

reviews of 25 Top Spots: #9 Alyeska, AK
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