Visiting the best ski towns in Alaska isn’t going to be quick or convenient due to the state’s massive size, however, it could be an unforgettable experience. With fewer than a million people spread across more than 660,000 square miles, you’re sure to have space on the slopes and beautiful terrain all to yourself.
Unless you happen to live in Alaska, a ski trip to one of these locations is going to require some advance planning. Options for things like lodging and transportation tend to be more limited, so plan as far ahead as possible. As a reward for your logistical efforts, you’ll be treated to breathtaking Alaskan views, the undisturbed snow, friendly people, and memories to last a lifetime.
Here are the top ski towns in Alaska to live and visit, in no particular order:
Stretching the definition of “town” a little bit, Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and home to, as of 2021, roughly 288,000 people. An easier area to visit, the city is served by a large airport and has plenty of lodging, dining, and transportation options for visitors. If you do choose Anchorage as your destination, you’ll be pleased to find a couple of ski areas within an easy drive of the city.
Close to Anchorage, Artic Valley is convenient for those staying in the city. Served by two chairs, a T-bar, and a rope tow, the highest of the chairs offers a 1,200-foot vertical drop back down to the base. Stunning views are certainly not uncommon in Alaska, and that theme is on full display when you visit.
Hilltop Ski Area, on the other hand, is best left to beginners or to those who just want to get out on their skis for a warmup before heading to a larger ski area. While less than 300 vertical feet are offered here, there are ten trails that are entirely covered by snowmaking machines. The biggest selling point? Hilltop Ski Area is within Anchorage, making it easy to reach.
Getting There: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport will likely be the starting point for your Alaska adventure when you choose this region for your ski trip. Flights are available to Anchorage from plenty of cities throughout the U.S., either as a direct trip or with some stops along the way.
Only a short drive south of Anchorage, Girdwood feels like it’s a world away. Where Anchorage provides you with the closest thing Alaska has to a “big city” feel, Girdwood is a classic small town with fewer than 2,000 permanent residents as of 2019. The reason you’ll want to have Girdwood on your radar is the presence of the Alyeska Resort.
A beautiful mountain resort, Alyeska delivers plenty of amenities along with outstanding runs, Anchorage residents love to use Girdwood as a weekend getaway. You’ll find a 2,500-foot vertical drop here with a very modest summit elevation of just 2,750 feet. Averaging more than 500’’ of snow per year, there are more than 1,600 skiable acres at the resort.
Beyond the outstanding skiing, Girdwood offers plenty of options for great meals and comfortable lodging. While you may choose to book one of the resort’s rooms, there are many other choices available including rental properties and bed & breakfasts. A very popular destination during the height of ski season, you should book early to avoid last-minute complications.
Getting There: Taking the incredibly scenic Seward Highway south from Anchorage is the best way to get to Girdwood and the Alyeska Resort. In good conditions, this drive should take around 45 minutes. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, there are also shuttle and train options to consider.
While Anchorage is the biggest city in Alaska, Juneau is the capital and the nearest to the lower 48 states. A popular cruise destination in the summer, Juneau is tucked along the Gastineau Channel and is not accessible from the outside by roads. In addition to the opportunity to ski in the winter, this is a great Alaskan town to spend time with family or friends.
As far as the skiing is concerned, Eaglecrest Ski Area is the only game in town. That’s just fine, however, as a nice day at Eaglecrest can be unlike anything you’ve experienced before. What will you find when you make the trip to Juneau and then the drive out to this ski area?
- More than 1,600 vertical feet of skiing spread out over 640 acres
- A nice spread of terrain difficulty to make sure everyone has a great time
- 36 marked trails to explore during your visit
- More than 300’’ of annual snow on average
- Some of the best views you will ever find while skiing
Getting There: Juneau International Airport serves the area, and the airport is visited by a couple of large commercial airlines in addition to plenty of regional carriers. Daily flights are offered from Seattle, so going through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is probably your best bet when coming from anywhere else in the U.S.
The city of Fairbanks is as far north as we are going to go on our list, as this is about the last stop in the state for ski areas. After all, the city is less than 200 miles south of the arctic circle, so there will be very little to find once you stray beyond the north shore of the Tanana River. There are two notable ski areas around Fairbanks: Ski Land and Moose Mountain.
Claiming to have the furthest-north chairlift in North America, Ski Land has a blend of runs ranging from simple, gradual beginner trails all the way up to double diamond paths through the trees. There are convenient lodging options within just a few minutes of this ski area, and there’s a restaurant on-site to help you cap off a memorable day.
Moose Mountain is another ski resort that has a standout feature. Instead of taking a chairlift, skiers or boarders will pile into a bus that makes a few stops on the way to the summit. It should be noted that the runs are Moose Mountain are not particularly suited for beginners, so this stop should be reserved for those with at least moderate skills.
Getting There: There are plenty of flights in and out of Fairbanks International Airport each day, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a ticket. You could land in Anchorage and then catch another flight north to Fairbanks, or you may be able to find a direct option from Seattle.
Our last ski town is certainly the most difficult to reach, as there are no roads that connect the city to the rest of Alaska. Two state-owned airports are the primary path into the city. It’s also possible to take a ferry to access Cordova, but availability can be limited so make sure to plan your transportation well in advance.
Speaking of limited availability, the options for lodging in Cordova are few. Securing a place to stay for the dates you plan on being in this tiny fishing town should be a top priority. So, why would you go through so much trouble to get to this remote place?
It’s all about having a unique ski experience at Mt. Eyak Ski Hill. This ski area is run by a local non-profit organization, and it’s only open on weekends and holidays (in addition to select “powder days”) throughout the season. While there’s a rental shop and some food service, don’t be expecting a posh resort when you arrive.
But that’s kind of the point. This is a throwback ski area, with one of the oldest chairlifts still in operation and a vertical drop of nearly 1,000 feet. You’ll find more than 100 acres to explore on your skis, and there is also a tow rope that provides access to a gentle slope for beginning skiers.
Getting There: As mentioned above, you’ll probably want to fly into Cordova when making your trip. Flights happen regularly from Anchorage, so making arrangements to get there will be the first step in the process.
The experience of skiing in Alaska is unlike anything you’ll get throughout the rest of the country – and perhaps around the rest of the world. When you make the voyage here, it’s not about finding the best amenities or the fastest lifts. Rather, you are committing to a wild, rugged, outdoor experience that is far from a standard ski trip.
If you’re looking for a new ski adventure to test your limits and push you out of your comfort zone, Alaska is ready and waiting to impress! It also boasts plenty of natural hot springs to soothe away your aches and pains.