Fresh powder is a very personal experience for everyone. You could make a powder day mellow by hanging out with friends, making snow angels, and drinking hot cocoa. While at Alyeska Resort, you most likely wouldn’t want to do that. Anyone who really savors the fresh would most likely heed the reality of the aphorism, “No friends on a Powder day” but the escapade of personal pow time at Alyeska usually ends when you have to show your buddy’s the big, deep, sexy lines you have been shredding.
The butterflies, the surge, the blitz for the fresh on a pow day here at Alaska’s premier ski resort can be exhilarating but sometimes the excitement and anticipation can feel bit like a scramble. At Alyeska the supply of pow-pow yum-yum’s can be all time, if you do it right and plan accordingly.
Some questions that run through my mind on a pow-day; What do I ski first? Where am I going to ski? What lifts are going to get me to the goods the fastest? Where is the best powder? The sum of all these questions is basically, how can I maximize my jollification in the fresh snow at Alyeska on a powder day?
Here are some tips to help smooth out your day and maximize your time and turns in the epic skiing and riding Mecca that is Alyeska Resort.
1.) Get up early (though it doesn’t have to be that early).
The lifts at Alyeska start spinning at 10:30 AM for the public, so that gives one plenty of time to get up, get your life together, grab a cup of coffee and shake off the remnants of the prior evening’s aprés delights. That being said, 9 AM seems to be the hot time for laying your skis in line for the first chair on Ted’s Express-high speed quad, located right outside of the day lodge. Ted’s is a quick way to access the upper mountain. The lift is lookers right of day lodge and a few paces away from the Java House located just inside the doors, so an extra cup of Joe or a breakfast sandwich can help sooth the wait. If you are staying at the hotel on the other side of the mountain, then the Alyeska Tramway is your cup of tea. It can carry 60 people in one quick trip to the top, so it shouldn’t be a problem hopping on the first ride of the day if you get there fairly early. It can also be a great way to preview the North Face on your way to the top on the tram.
2.) Head to the Glacier Bowl Express for the high altitude powder!
The GBX is the lift that takes you to the upper reaches of Alyeska. Accessing it via the tram or Ted’s Express is your call. (Ted’s Express will take you just above the base of the Glacier Bowl Express). Getting first chair on the Glacier Bowl Express is a game of chance, even for an experienced local but not to worry, if you hit the 50th chair you are still guaranteed a fresh line. If you are staying at the hotel or your just tram savvy, the goods come quick after you exit the tram terminal. As soon as you’re locked and loaded you have plenty of options to shred the fresh on the way down to catch a ride on the Glacier Bowl Express. The tram unloads about 600 ft higher than the base of the Glacier Bowl Express AND the top of Ted’s Express, giving you plenty of steep on the way to more amazing powder runs.
3.) Upper mountain vs. lower mountain.
With snow from the top of peaks all the way down to picturesque Turnagain Arm, Alyeska Resort offers terrain and pow for all. The lower mountain serves up a smorgasbord of terrain for all types and levels of skiers and riders and avoiding the crowds up high till there legs wear out can bring a tranquil feel to the day. Ted’s Express on a powder day can be glorious. It can feel like you are one of few people on the mountain with a quick wait to access the lift. Taking a ride (or 10) on the Alyeska Tramway will take you to the upper mountain and quickly serve up a spectacular world class experience on the North Face. The North Face continues to hold the title of the longest continuous double black diamond descent in North America contained in a ski area. I have many times asked myself, “Am I really at a ski resort right now?!”
4.) Location, location, location.
If you do choose to ski the North Face there is a cat track called “Spoon Line” off of the North Face’s West Line, skiers left, just past the tram tower. It will take you back to the Glacier Bowl Express for more laps on the upper section of the mountain, if you want them. Sometimes it’s a 3 to 1 win over the people heading all the way to the bottom to catch the tram. It’s a great way to take full advantage of the wide-open deep powder the upper North Face can serve up. Spoon Line also has some fabulous gates to access the deep cliff riddled tree runs with which that part of the mountain delivers.
5.) Always check the snow report in the morning for the possibilities of “outer areas” that may open.
A powder day in the sleepy town of Girdwood, usually starts with a extensive gun mission before opening, to mitigate the potential for avalanches in this extreme terrain. Hearing shots and charges as I wake for a Alyeska powder day makes me sometimes want to skip breakfast and just head straight to the mountain. All outer areas are opened as soon as they are deemed safe by patrol. Alyeska’s top notch ski patrol takes great pride in being able to offer the best of the best, and have successfully done so for many years, so keeping a close eye on the sign board’s and checking the ski report is a must.
Hopefully some of these tips ease your day when you hit the fresh powdered slopes at Alyeska.
No friends on a powder day, until you’re on the chair sitting side by side or hiking to the top of the headwall together sharing the glory; once your line is in sight it’s nice knowing ya, till maybe the next lap.
Peace Love and Powder, everything else just falls into place.
Bonus tip – Grab a drink or lunch at new Bore Tide Bar and Grill in the upper tram terminal. Staying at the top of the mountain can save a ton of time in your precious powder life.