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A Brief Intro to Alaska’s Top Winter Sports

Alyeska skier, photo by Eric Teela

Alyeska skier, photo by Eric Teela

Watch out, winter is coming to Alaska!  The season may be not filled with midnight sunshine or epic fishing, but it’s definitely just as fun as summertime.

We’ve put together a short list of top activities to keep you busy on a cold winter day (or night), with one caveat: snow needs to be on the ground!

Snowboarding / Skiing

snowboard_in_Alaska

Skiing and snowboarding in Alaska falls into two categories: ski resorts or backcountry. There are only a handful of ski resorts in the Anchorage area, but select parts of AK (such as Juneau and Valdez) offer world-class backcountry skiing.

For resorts, there are 3 locations near Anchorage to snowboard or ski: Hilltop Ski Area, Alpenglow at Arctic Valley & Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, about 26 miles south of town.

All three ski areas offer a lot of fun whether you’re a beginner or a pro. Alyeska is the definite high end of the bunch — it’s a sprawling magical alpine resort nestled at base of majestic Mt. Alyeska. Hilltop is your best bet if you want to stay in Anchorage.

Snowshoeing

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Many summer hikers become winter snowshoers in Alaska. Many of the trails are still accessible, sometimes even more so with snow cover rather than rocks and bramble.

The best place to snowshoe near Anchorage is at the Eagle River Nature Center, where you can rent a pair of snowshoes and take off into the quiet, snowy woods.

Snowmobiling

snowmobiling_alaska

Snowmobiling (or snow machining) is for, shall we say, Type-A adventurous folks who really want to explore the Alaskan winter wilderness. Snow machines can get you off the beaten path by powering over bulky snowbanks which would be otherwise inaccessible by foot.

Hatcher’s Pass to the north is a popular 300,000 acre nature preserve to snowmobile, cross-country ski and snowshoe. Girdwood to the south also has a great areas, as well as a tour outfit called Glacier City Snowmobile Tours.

Cross Country Skiing

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Nordic skiing (aka cross-country) might be the most popular snow sport among Anchorage residents simply because it’s so accessible throughout the city. Many of the running/biking trails that weave through Anchorage in the summer become ski trails in the winter.

The hotspot for cross country skiing is Kincaid Park on the far west end of the city. Here’s you’ll find many 1,400 acres of open park and miles of trails, not to mention breathtaking natural scenery and even wildlife.

As with any snow sport, always be aware of avalanche danger.

Photo credits: Eric Teela, j-hosh, umnak, sonnysideup, acvbpr