Fairbanks, Alaska is home to three nearby ski resorts as well as heli-skiing and backcountry Nordic options. Visitors will find this quaint town carefully perched on the Tanana River within a stone’s throw of plenty of skiing and snowboarding.
Known as the land of the midnight sun and home to the Northern Lights, Fairbanks is located 350 miles into interior Alaska, just north of the Denali National Park. Just a 5-hour drive south of the Arctic Circle, it’s easy to imagine the kind of winter wonderland Fairbanks becomes during the winter months.
The town of around 100,000 is bursting with history, from the Alaska gold miners to the homesteaders of the last frontier, there’s a ton of Alaskan history to be absorbed. There are plenty of hot springs in Alaska too, especially around Fairbanks.
Following the pattern of its other Alaskan counterparts, Fairbanks is no resort town. It’s not surrounded by resorts with full-service lodges and communities built entirely around the tourist skiing industry. Instead, it has given rise to a handful of ski areas near the town that are fantastic ski areas with community structure.
And, like the rest of Alaska, Fairbanks has its fair share (no pun intended) of adventure skiing ranging from heli-skiing to backcountry country cross ski options.
the 3 closest
Moose Mountain Ski Resort – 14 miles | 25 minutes
Okay so, skiing in Fairbanks doesn’t generally include huge elevation changes, massive drop-offs, or incredibly challenging terrain. But, skiing in Fairbanks does offer an opportunity to experience mountain life with a different twist.
Just a quick drive north of Fairbanks, away from the Tanana River, Moose Mountain Ski Resort has a relatively short peak with respect to alpine settings in the vast majority of Alaska. In fact, most might categorize it as a hill rather than a mountain, but with a max elevation of about 1,990 feet and accessibility for skiers to reach that very summit, Moose Mountain packs a punch for being such a little “hill”.
Despite its identity as a grassroots type of mountain resort, the 750 skiable acres at Moose Mountain have been divvied up into 40 runs ranging from beginner terrain to black diamonds. And since Fairbanks doesn’t exactly have airline tickets flying off the shelves, so-to-speak, the resort usually supports a weekend and holiday schedule during the operating months.
It’s a full day’s worth of solid skiing, but don’t expect world-class venues or chairlifts. Despite the resort’s size, it has just one chairlift and a series of buses that carry skiers from the bottom to the top. Either way, it’s a day of skiing well worth the commitment.
3450 Moose Mountain Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709 (Map) | (907) 459-8132
Ski Land Ski Resort – 20 miles | 30 minutes
Ski Land Ski Resort holds one of the coolest records in North America with the most Northen chairlift in the entire continent. A bit further out from Fairbanks than Moose Mountain, visitors will find a bigger peak and more runs packed into a smaller area.
The resort has about 530 acres of skiable terrain with 46 runs serviced by a full-service chairlift and a magic carpet. While a peak elevation of 2,435 feet is still considered small in west coast skiing lore, Ski Land is another quick jaunt from Fairbanks that can provide a solid day’s worth of action. And unlike Moose Mountain, Ski Land does have a year-round terrain park.
Additionally, Ski Land has a special promotion for the students at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks in which those enrolled can get free lift passes.
One important thing to consider with Ski Land Ski Resort is that its geographic location causes it to generally be much warmer, even in winter, than the surrounding areas, which can impact snowfall and quality. Either way, Ski Land has more than enough going for it to be considered a must-do when in Fairbanks.
2315 Skiland Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99712 (Map) | (907) 389-2314
Birch Hill Ski – 5 miles | 12 minutes
Extra small and built for a quick and dirty day on the slopes, Birch Hill isn’t even in the same conversation as Moose Mountain or Ski Land, but, it’s closer to Fairbanks, cheaper, and easier to manage. It’s the kind of place you could fit in a quick 1.5-hour lunch break instead of planning a day around visiting. That being said, it’s not worth giving up a day at Moose or Ski Land to experience.
Birch Hill offers snowboard rentals, lessons, tubing, a bunny hill, and a terrain park. Additionally, being that it’s located on a US Army base, access can be restricted during the season. Furthermore, the site is undergoing renovations to add a better lodge and update the chairlift.
Old Birch Hill Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99712 (Map) | (907) 353-1998
While Fairbanks probably won’t be competing for an Olympic training ground anytime soon, it does have some solid skiing options that are really close to town. For those looking for cheap, quality ski runs within a 30-minute drive of the city, Fairbanks is worth the journey into interior Alaska.