First, check out Alyeska Resort and the impressive lobby of the enormous Hotel Alyeska. Next, fork over $18 to catch a ride 2,300 feet up Mt. Alyeska on the aerial tramway (907/754-2275). On top are two restaurants. The two 60-passenger tram cars are entirely wheelchair accessible.
Follow the well-marked trail to the alpine overlook onto cute Alyeska Glacier. If you have reservations to dine at Seven Glaciers restaurant, the tram ride is free. A tram-and-lunch special to Glacier Express Café costs $28; the tram office has details.
A paved path parallels the road to the Hotel Alyeska, and Crow Creek Road provides an easy dirt road for mountain bikers. Rent bikes from Girdwood Ski & Cyclery (907/783-2453, www.girdwood-ski-and-cyclery.com).
Guides from The Ascending Path (907/783-0505 or 877/783-0505, www.theascendingpath.com) lead glacier hikes ($139 for 3 hours), ice climbing classes ($220 for 5 hours), and a variety of forest hikes in the Girdwood area.
Alaska Paragliding (907/301-1215, www.alaskaparagliding.com) takes novices on exciting tandem paragliding rides from the top of the tram (tandem lesson $195).
Alpine Air (907/783-2360, www.alpineairalaska.com) has helicopter flightseeing, tours of Prince William Sound, and a very popular two-hour dog mushing adventure ($459 pp) that includes a glacier landing and the chance to drive a team of sled dogs.
Alaska’s primary center for downhill skiing and boarding, Alyeska Resort (907/754-1111 or 800/880-3880, www.alyeskaresort.com) encompasses the ski and snowboard area, a large hotel, and several restaurants. The resort covers 500 skiable acres and has 60 trails, a 60-passenger tram, eight chairlifts, two pony lifts, and a tubing park. Most of the ski runs are at the intermediate or advanced level. In addition to abundant natural snowfall (depths generally exceed 10 feet), there is snowmaking capability on the lower slopes.
Alyeska Resort generally opens for skiing and snowboarding around Thanksgiving and closes at the end of April. Hours are daily 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., with night skiing Thursday–Saturday until 9:30 p.m., and reduced hours early and late in the season. A shuttle bus connects the main ski area with the Hotel Alyeska (where the tram departs). If you’re coming from Anchorage, the resort also has a wintertime ski/snowboard bus on weekends and school holidays for $16–20 round-trip. It’s a good way to let someone else do the driving on this notoriously dangerous road.
Adult lift tickets cost $60 full day, $50 half-day; Thursday–Saturday there’s night skiing for $10 extra. A half-day ticket plus night skiing will run you $60. There are discounts for children, students, families, and multiday passes. Skis, snowshoes, snowboards, and ice skates (for use on the skating pond) can be rented in the day lodge, where you can also get expensive cafeteria food. More cafeteria fare, along with an elaborate restaurant and lounge, is on top of the mountain. Ski and snowboarding classes at all levels are available. Traffic between Anchorage and Girdwood can back up on winter weekends, so head out early if you’re driving. Call 907/754-7669 or visit www.alyeskaresort.com for the latest snow conditions.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition