Alaska, the largest state in the U.S., is often considered the last American frontier due to its expansive wilderness and over 665,000 square miles of land. With so much acreage to explore, it’s no wonder that Anchorage is near one of the most sought-after ski resorts in the world.
Bob Ross, everyone’s favorite TV painting instructor, once said that God must have been having a good day when he created Alaska. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard to argue with that logic. Alaska’s beauty is unparalleled anywhere in the world and Anchorage, the state’s biggest city, is no exception. Plus Alaska has hot springs too!
While Anchorage doesn’t exactly glow as a mountain town due to the fact that it sits near sea level, it gets almost 80 inches of snow per year. And it’s easy to imagine how much snow the surrounding hills and peaks might get. In fact, one of the resorts listed below is known for having one of the largest yearly snowfalls of any major ski area in the U.S.!
For those of us that begin salivating as winter nears and ski season sets in, Anchorage, Alaska is a dark horse ski city, surrounded by a series of community-focused ski areas and one large-scale ski resort. Sitting peacefully on the Cook Inlet, those living or spending time in Anchorage can find themselves at 4 different ski resort areas within an hour’s drive.
the 4 closest
Hilltop Ski Area – Anchorage: 10 miles | 22 minutes
The closest ski area to Anchorage is Hilltop Ski Area, but as its name describes, it is simply a hill. While it’s not exactly a ski resort that one plans a whole day of action on, it will supply visitors with a few hours of fun, especially if you’re bringing kids.
Hilltop Ski Area is comprised of 30 acres of skiable terrain with a triple Riblet chairlift, handle tow, and platter lift servicing 10 trails mostly designed for beginners. The runs allow newbie riders to learn the ways of the mountain, take ski and snowboarding lessons, and provide recreational opportunities for Anchorage’s youth. Additionally, the ski rea is closely intertwined with the Anchorage School District, offering camps and events on in-service days.
For those looking for a bit more adventure, Hilltop has a few difficult runs as well as the Karl Eid Ski Jump Complex and the Hillside and Bicentennial Park, which offer Nordic skiing.
While Hilltop Ski Area won’t have you packing your bags for the Winter Olympics, it will have you enjoying the freedom of the mountain in an easily accessible and smooth sailing kind of way.
7015 Abbott Rd, Anchorage, AK 99507 ( Map) | (907) 346-1446
Arctic Valley – Eagle River: 15 miles | 30 minutes
With 320 acres of skiable terrain just under 15 miles from Anchorage, Arctic Valley is home to 24 runs and three chairlifts – half of which are black diamonds. Although little, and only open on the weekends, this resort packs a serious punch.
While the resort’s base elevation of 2500 ft and a peak elevation of 4000ft is impressive, what makes Arctic Valley truly unique is that it runs mostly on volunteer contributions from employees. Arctic Valley is a local family joint, making it a special product by and for the community of Anchorage.
And if hitting the slopes isn’t your thing, don’t worry, Arctic Valley not only boasts fantastic runs but also a tube park and backcountry trials.
Arctic Valley Rd, Eagle River, AK 99577 (Map) | (907) 428-1208
Alyeska Resort – Girdwood: 42 miles | 55 minutes
Considered the pride and joy of Anchorage and one of North America’s best resorts, Alyeska Resort reigns supreme in Alaska.
The Alyeska Resort has an average annual snowfall of around 700 inches per year and is the go-to resort for Anchorage and its surrounding communities. With 1,400 acres of skiable terrain and 73 runs, Alyeska is known for being a relatively challenging mountain with almost 90% of the runs designed for experienced riders.
While Alyeska’s base elevation is just 250ft, its max elevation is about 2800ft, so there is a considerable vertical gain as you move up the mountain. The resort has a tram, 5 lifts, and two magic carpets that can service 10,350 skiers/snowboarders per hour. The resort also has very popular night skiing sessions available during the weekend (Thursday-Sunday).
Alyeska Resort is the only resort around Anchorage that has a full-service lodge equipped for luxurious overnight stays, high-quality dining, and full-day spa treatments. While the skiing is stellar here, it’s about the collective experience of enjoying a ski resort just 50 minutes from downtown Anchorage.
1000 Arlberg Ave, Girdwood, AK 99587 (Map) | (800) 880-3880
Skeetawk Hatcher Pass – Plamer: 52 miles | 1 hour
Skeetawk is a brand new ski area, something that is rare on these lists, opening for the first time this year. It is a tiny yet magical little resort about an hour north of Anchorage.
At Skeetawk, there’s nothing that will test your might or challenge any records on the slopes. In fact, Skeetawk has just 30 acres of skiable terrain and only has a single chair lift. Skeetawk may still be finding its identity within the Anchorage ski scene but is sure to have a consistent user base soon enough.
In years to come, Skeetawk has plans to increase the skiable area, introduce another chairlift and add night skiing to its list of services. For now, visitors can enjoy a small and controlled experience while helping a new resort in the Anchorage area grow. And, in fashion with the rest of the Anchorage area skiing, it’s experience is grassroots and void of unnecessary fluff.
13500 N. Skeetawk Circle, Palmer, AK 99645 (Map) | (907) 746-7277
For those looking to test the limits of what’s possible, Alaska has a ton of heli-skiing options. Keep in mind, an experience like this won’t just test your level of adventure but it will also challenge your wallet – i.e. it ain’t cheap. Regardless, if you have the ability to do it, even just once, it’s an unbelievable experience to tell the grandkids about one day.
There are a number of tour operators that provide heli-skiing options in Alaska. The Chugach Powder Guides offer anything from day skiing to 4 or 5-day packages, all of which include a guaranteed 16,000 vertical feet of terrain.
Another good operation is Majestic Heli-Skiing, which offers all-inclusive multi-day packages that include some wellness events thrown in. I don’t know about you, but a solid yoga session before a day of hopping out the side of a helicopter to cruise down backcountry terrain sounds pretty good.
Finally, if you’re able to leverage a few of your days in Anchorage and head further out into that great frontier, Black Ops Valdez Heli-Skiing is about a 4.5-hour drive from Anchorage. This service offers some of the world’s most pristine and remote full service guided heli-skiing on the Southeast side of the Chugach Mountains.
Skiing in Alaska Beyond Anchorage
Aside from Anchorage, Alaska has a handful of other skiing options that are noteworthy. Both Juneau and Fairbanks have their own set of top-notch ski resorts and are worth considering when skiing in Alaska.
The thing is, it can be incredibly hard to reach these sites, especially in the winter. In fact, Juneau is inaccessible by road and must be entered via boat or plane. So, planning a ski trip in those areas should be done with the understanding that it will be a multi-day diversion from Anchorage.
Two ski resorts in Fairbanks and Juneau to consider are:
Another ski area worth mentioning is Cordova’s Mt. Eyak Ski Resort, which requires a quick 55-minute flight from Anchorage to Cordova (run by Alaska Airlines). This is another multi-day diversion from Anchorage but, it’s quite a unique place and if time and money allow, it’s worth it not just for the skiing but for the one-of-a-kind experience.
All that said, Anchorage has enough skiing that it’s a worthwhile destination to consider when looking for a home base that supports at least a few days of solid skiing/snowboarding options.