While the resort ski and ride season may be drawing to a close at many locations across North America, Alyeska in Alaska is still going strong! Here’s the inside scoop from ski mom and author, Jen Aist.
Alyeska Resort! Actually, we really don’t have any other big resorts to pick from. But even if we did, we would go with Alyeska.
Alyeska is close to home, family friendly, offers great cross-country trails, and heli/cat skiing in addition to world-class runs on the mountain.
But the real reason I love this place is the feel on the mountain. It isn’t about fashion or shopping or fine dining (actually we do have some fine dining), it is about skiing. You see folks from all walks of life everyday out enjoying the snow. This isn’t a rich man’s ski resort, it is a resort for anyone who loves to ski.
What makes Alyeska good for family skiing?
There are enough beginner runs and two Magic Carpet rides for brand new skiers. The ski school does a great job keeping kids engaged and excited about skiing.
However, when I asked my kids what amenities they liked, they had a totally different answer. They said the best part was the Glacier Express. This a restaurant at the top of the mountain with phenomenal views of the seven glaciers that grace the valley. But the kids are less interested in the view as they are in the chicken fingers and hot cocoa. (My daughter wanted me to add that the hot cocoa is even better when a healthy portion of half and half is stirred in!)
What would make Alyeska even better for family skiing?
My kids think the day lodge is great. I think it looks and feels way too much like a middle school cafeteria. Word is that they plan on developing the lodge and adding a second story. Personally, I think it will take more than that, but again, my kids think it is great as it is. I suppose if it was too comfortable, no one would want to leave it!
Any advice for families coming to Alyeska?
Hmmm. I would tell them to plan on staying for a few days to really get absorbed into the mountain. My kids advise studying the trail map, but you should probably do that anywhere you go.
Aside from delicious cocoa at the Glacier Express, where do you like to eat?
Girdwood is a funky little town that proudly has no fast food restaurants. I love that. They do have some great little eateries including Chair 5 which serves some yummy pizza and burgers. Casa del Sol is a tiny little place serving up some great Mexican food way north of the border. The Bake Shop has fabulous breakfast foods which they serve until 1:00 p.m.
As for more formal dining, there is the Seven Glaciers restaurant at the top of the tram by the hotel Alyeska. Expensive, certainly not fun for kids, but a great choice for the anniversary dinner. And finally, there is the Double Musky–an iconic Girdwood establishment serving Cajun food gone Alaska.
How about lodging?
There is only hotel in Girdwood–The Alyeska Resort. It is a beautiful hotel originally built by the Japanese and later sold to some ski buff in Colorado. We love it there. Pool, fitness room, ski out the door, room service, free valet parking…
But if you aren’t the hotel type, rent a condo–there are lots of them.
What makes Alyeska unique?
Alyeska is unique in the same ways that Alaska is. Hard to articulate, you have to experience it to understand it. The Chugach mountains, which host the hordes of skiers and boarders every winter, are an amazing range of awesomeness. We all have “I love the Chugach” bumper stickers to prove our affection.
Glaciers are everywhere, you get incredible views of Turnagain Arm on the Cook Inlet from the top. Right on the water, you’ll be skiing at sea level. And, did I mention Girdwood is located in smack dab in the middle of a rain forest? Take that Utah!
What is your favorite memory of Alyeska?
My favorite memories all involve teaching our kids to ski. At ages 10, 10, 14, and 16, they are all now ‘all mountain’ proficient. Seems like yesterday we were slugging along on the Magic Carpet! Time flies.
My kid’s favorite memories all revolve around deep powder days and first tracks.
Do you have any family skiing tips to share?
Get kids going on skis young! Don’t wait till they are 10 to start lessons. Keep them warm–dress for success. Organize gear and make your kids in charge of it as young as possible. And finally, don’t force it. Take breaks, have fun and enjoy the mountain.
And here’s a really practical tip: spray paint kid helmets bright obnoxious colors to make it really easy to spot them on the mountain.
What is your favorite thing about family skiing?
It is a great sport that everyone can enjoy and never grow out of.
The Brave Ski Mom Adds…
Alyeska sounds enticing: beautiful and wholly unique with amazing skiing.
In addition to being in the middle of a rain forest and at sea level, Alyeska is the only ski resort I’ve seen with a Tide Report, a Fishing Report and a Northern Lights Forecast on its website. And, they’ve had well over 55 feet of snow this season!
Ready to go? Alyeska plans to be open until May 26th.
Jen Aist is the author of Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping and Boating with Babies and Young Children. You can find out more about her and read her blog at Wilderness For Kids.
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