Why Alaska Has the Best Skiing on Earth

Jesse Cassidy |

[sponsored by Alyeska Resort]

Alyeska Alaska
Center Ridge at Alyeska, AK Photo: Ralph Kristopher

When skiers and snowboarders think of Alaska, world class skiing and riding often comes to mind. Alaska is like the Holy Grail to skiers and riders across the globe, a Mecca if you will. And is often considered to be home to the best skiing and riding on Earth, and arguably so.

It is on every skiers bucket list to visit Alaska, whether it be skiing Alyeska Resort, Snowcat skiing in the Chugach, or Heli Skiing around Thompson Pass. Between the massive amounts of snow, the outrageous terrain, and the breathtaking views, It’s easy to say, Alaska has the best skiing and snowboarding on Earth.

Absolutely NUKING in AK. Image: Alaska Department of Transportation

Snow, in both the amount and the quality is a key factor in determining Alaska’s success as a World Class ski destination. Alaska’s mountains see a ton of snow, from the Tordrillos, to the Chugach, to the Wrangell St. Elias mountains, huge wet storms spin off the Pacific and drop massive amounts of snow on Alaska.

Alyeska Resort in Girdwood sees on average 650” of snow per season, second only to Mt. Baker. And while Alyeska sees 650”, the surrounding mountains further inland on the higher peaks see even more. Apart from the massive amount of snow that falls on Alaska’s mountains, it is the quality of snow that falls that also puts Alaska in a category of its own.

The snow usually comes in wet, as most of the mountain ranges are on the coast, and this wet snow sticks to everything, even the steepest of mountain faces. As a result these huge steep mountains get plastered with snow, allowing steep angle skiing. But the snow doesn’t stay wet after it has fallen, as the storms move out and are replaced by high pressure systems, cold dry air sucks the moisture out of the snow, leaving amazing powder on these steep mountain lines.

Tordrillo Mountains Alaska
Tordrillo Mountains, AK Photo: Scott Sports

While it is possible to find massive quantities of snow elsewhere in the world, it is the combination of snow and terrain that truly makes Alaska stand out. Alaska is home to some of the largest mountains on Earth outside of the Himalayas and the Andes, and has 5 peaks above 15,000’, topping out with Denali at 20,320’. The mountains of Alaska are wild and rugged, most of which rise up from just a little above sea level.

These steep gnarly faces get plastered by wet snow, creating lines that other mountain ranges simply cannot produce. With the help of helis or sleds, these mountains become your playground, taking you to peaks that most can only dream of. While most of us cannot afford to go heli-skiing, even the most modest of touring setups can access heli-skiing terrain for those committed enough.

The North Face of Alyeska, AK. image: alyeska/ralph kristopher

Massive amounts of snow, and amazing terrain make for incredible riding, that combined with the breathtaking views is what makes skiing in Alaska a unique experience. Whether it’s views of Turnagain Arm at Alyeska, or the vast Prince William Sound outside of Valdez, the ocean views make skiing in Alaska different.

Ocean views, massive mountains, and vast unspoiled wilderness create a different skiing experience than the resort off the Interstate. Oh, and did we mention the Northern Lights? That makes most peoples bucket list regardless if they are a skier or not. There are many beautiful places to ski in the world, but Alaska is definitely up there on the list.

Hotel Alyeska under the Northern Lights

The skiing and riding in Alaska is World Class, there is no denying that. Possibly the best skiing and riding in the world most would agree. With an insane amount of wet coastal snow every winter that plasters steep mountain faces, and scenery that people wait their whole lives to experience, Alaska is truly a special place. And while most of us will never be able to afford a week long heli-skiing trip, there are affordable options.

Alyeska Resort in Girdwood offers amazing lift serviced skiing, and guaranteed powder days almost every month of the winter. Outside of the resort there is backcountry skiing everywhere, Turnagain Pass, Hatcher Pass, and the legendary Thompson Pass. Snow, terrain, scenery, and accessibility, all contributing factors in why Alaska has the best skiing and snowboarding on Earth.

The Tram at Alyeska, AK. image: alyeska

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