[sponsored by Alyeska]
The humble, wide-spread (and much lamented) outset to North America’s ski season 2017/’18 is building pleasant momentum at snow-destination Girdwood, Alaska.
Iconic Alyeska Resort, Girdwood’s snow epicenter and largest commercial ski operation along the Last Frontier, punctuates with exclamation a late January snowpack surpassing 300 shred-able inches.
Almanac data reports Alyeska’s winter ‘17/’18 to indeed outpace the previous year’s snowy season. Online research of snow-track services quotes the December-meets-January snowfall pool to total 171 inches, a mere 3 inch increase over Winter ‘16/’17.
The cream, however, accumulates over January.
Closer inspection of the ’18 opener reveals nearly 130 inches of flakey white goodness to have fallen at the Great Land to date in January, a foot over Thursday hours alone.
And frankly, those figures ski (and shovel) like an understatement.
The long-awaited—7 meter plus–crystalline padding has worked wonders on Mount Alyeska outer areas, allowing White Room openings at zones, High Traverse, Center Ridge, High Silver, Chilkoot and Tram Pocket.
Alaska, happily, grows a scale consequential of both experience and perspective.
The already familiar recognize Tram Pocket as a fun, lap-able and relatively brief ski entry accessing much longer-spooling terrain. Current snowfall upon that mixed feature aspect has transformed the skier’s left pitch into a jamboree of quick, tail-wagging turns through DEEP POW and funneling conveniently into Tram-serviced on piste zones.
Lovable Chilkoot Knoll, meanwhile, is a relatively tiny geographical bump with enormous snow magnetism. Its centered, mid-height elevation offers leisurely access to snapshot vistas via an easily stroll-able bootpack. Chilkoot’s sharp shot descent to meet ski thoroughfare, Silvertip often hides cheeky POW caches, making its short, non-technical hike a pleasantly surprising arrival to curiously untracked lands amidst otherwise high skier traffic.
And speaking of ‘High’, outer zones High Traverse (High T in local lingo) and High Silver are—thanks to fat snow–open doors to practically endless joys.
High T, in particular, is a quick mainstay upon travel itineraries of Mount Alyeska skiers. Its long-arching, two-plank track encompasses runs, Citation, Peel Off and Surprise Gully, among others. Here, cleverly speed-guarded bolts from atop GBX Chairlift lead to paced, flat-pitched traverses looking down upon lightly tree’d steeps enhanced by the occasional mini chute feature.
High Silver, then, raises the bar both literally and figuratively.
Foremost in appearance here is necessity of kit: transceiver is required at High Silver heights. Past a Ski Patrol checkpoint, a three-stage snow ladder looms. The initial steep stretch of Center Ridge bootpack imparts to the intrepid that they’re in for a hike. Packs for hefting gear can be useful here, and a climbing stick can quickly become the trekker’s best friend.
Once atop the up; flat; up ascension, High Silver too becomes a narrow, unspooling track where the rewards far outweigh invested effort. Picturesque snow hollows fall beside the powder dollop-ed flanks of Center Ridge before friendly, wind-rushing rock drops (or workable open faces) descend the skier to meet High T.
Once again, and always, Alyeska panoramas are stunning. Opposite from High Silver and T, Penguin Ridge glows under late day sun, and the many carve-centric pleasures of Silvertip Face or Ptarmigan Gully still wait below.
But all the above; winter’s January arrival, the 300” snowpack, or the zone specific access such depth allows, pales in comparison to the pure blissful snow culture flourishing atop the still swelling snowpack on Mount Alyeska flanks.
Expert snow safety officers assure Alyeska Resort Outer Areas undergo daily Ski Patrol assessment and, while conditions may vary greatly from ski day-to-ski day, the zones immediately accessible from within Mount Alyeska ski area boundary remain cross section glimpses into an extra-ordinary Alaska ski experience, waiting just for you.