The mountains are calling. For many—if not all—SnowBrains readers their siren beckoning of wild topography topped by pure snow culture never stops. And if heeded long enough, it inevitably lures to AK.
The Last Frontier, thankfully, is a big state with a small town feel and insomuch, it won’t be long after landing there that friendly advice directs the new arrival toward good ‘ol Girdwood and preeminent Alyeska Resort, where the slopes are steep, smiles genuine, and gems numerous.
Professional freeskier Angel Collinson knows the magic surrounding that valley. She lives there. Angel just moved to Girdwood, AK (Alyeska) from Utah this Fall.
Today, this quiet riot on skis takes a few moments to share her ideal day at a place called home: Alyeska.
Q: Can you recall your first ski memories of AK?
A: I remember being fascinated with Alaska since I was about 5 yrs-old. But it was 10yrs ago that the US Nationals first brought me to Alyeska Resort.
It was an incredible, interesting experience. Mount Redoubt was going off while a crazy storm was closing Seward Highway and Anchorage Airport. I was lucky to be on one of the last flights to land and, basically, all air and road traffic was shutdown while it just dumped.
That was my first taste of what it was like to be at Alyeska; pounding snow, no one around, BLK diamond run, Northface open and just cruisin’ top to bottom.
I looked around and said, ‘whoa, this place is really special.’
Q: So how did you come to live here?
A: Right, so fast forward 10 yrs. I was in the Lower 48 but looking for somewhere new. My only parameter was proximity to the ocean. Well, like everything, life’s progress follows unexpected flow and, in a decision that somehow felt sudden, I decided I was going to commit to it—moving to Girdwood, Alaska.
Quick fun fact about me: I love shredding ski resorts. A resort is my happy place. So a big draw of living at Girdwood was Alyeska Resort.
If I was to live in a place where my life revolves around skiing, I had to have resort skiing near me. I think it’s because I was raised on it, but there’s something about the social-meets-independent experiences there that, to me, is really unique.
Q: How so?
A: Alyeska Resort is an excellent cross section of that uniqueness, a place of varied aspects and multiple facets.
Q: You’ve skied alot of diverse terrain. What makes Mnt. Alyeska stand out?
A: Alyeska’s terrain is super interesting. In its way, the mountain combines Alta and Snowbird, lots really playful features with naturally fun aspects for light, agile skiing alongside steeper treelines or open faces. In terrain terms, I love lapping the tram for its non-stop steep, fluid, dynamically attentive skiing. Such zones really make for good skiers, I think.
Q: If all stars allign, how does a dream day play out?
A: Skiing starts at 10:30am, allowing for a comfy, slow mornings.
I enjoy waking, being at home, loosening at the Yoga Shack and grabbing a cup of coffee next door, at the Grind. After that it’s a four minute cruise to the mountain base area where, as is usually the case, there is no waiting line, and breakfast eatery, Javahaus is waiting inside the Daylodge with incredible breakfast burritos.
Ideally it would have been snowing all night, so we’re looking at an impending powder day with no crowds. Catch one of the first chairs at lifts Four and Six. Next thing you know, less than an hour passes and you’ve already bagged a bunch of laps.
(There’s just something wonderful about enjoying that whole morning routine; no need for crazy pace or dealing with wild powder panic.)
And, again ideally, right about mid-day is when patrol will have cleared outer areas for opening. Dropping into Northface, for example, that’s just a type of time warp.
Q: That’s interesting, how do you mean?
A: Well, suddenly its late afternoon and you’ve had a million resort laps because there’s no one on the slopes.
A: At this point in the day, you’ve still got lots of time, and you happily still face one awesome aspect of Girdwood: either continuing to enjoy the great day of resort skiing or jet to hit nearby Turnagain Pass for backcountry. If it’s the latter, then the crew meets to grab a quick bite at local mainstay, the Bake Shop or flashes through grocery icon, the Merc which is so tiny yet has everything you need.
Q: It sounds like the transition from resort to backcountry can be pretty fluid.
A: It’s crazy. It feels like it’s far, because Alaska is so big, but Turnagain Pass is only 20 minutes away from Girdwood. Once there, you’ve got a whole afternoon of mind blowing touring or snow machining at your fingertips.
Or, as an alternate option to backcountry, I’ll break from day’s skiing and visit the Fitness Center or Spa at Alyeska. To have that facility at the base, right after skiing is a pretty sweet option.
AND, the on-slope options offer still more. Night-skiing at Alyeska has become one of my newest favorite things. There are hardly any pistes in Lower 48 that go for the night ski, and it is SO fun. Often, the lights provide way better viz than the daytime hours and on or off-trail access is really fun. I love the scenic tram ride with Girdwood illuminated below before enjoying treats like a Fizz at fine dining must, Seven Glaciers or a late bite at Boretide Bar & Grill and then go shred with your friends.
Q: That’s a full day, but surely you’ve saved space for aprés fun, right?
A: Definitely. At this stage the night is still only setting in and, again, can take any shape you want it to.
A visit to Girdwood Brewing Company’s taproom has become a staple post-ski stop for great vibes with good friends. From there, whether its quiet nights in or dining out, I like where I live for all its options. The town’s restaurants are wonderful, and the hotel base area offers a great hub with many venues and super nice people.
Home is a place where staying in is so special yet, at the same time, there is stuff going on.
Girdwood’s sleepy if you want it that way–which can be really nice–but if you want to go out there’s outlets for that too, where there are people you know. Live shows at the Sitz, for example, are super fun.
Q: And what else impresses you about your Alyeska, Girdwood home?
A: That it doesn’t stop at winter. Girdwood’s seen a Mountain Bike Alliance growing of summer trail riding.
I’ve fallen in love with downhill biking, the summer equivalent of resort skiing at Girdwood. Already it’s really a core part of the community, and a lot of skiers I know utilize bike riding to keep sharp. To have this here is a huge bonus that, at first, I hadn’t even realized.
Here, the downhill bike and ski scenes are challenging but both hold even greater rewards.
Q: So, for you, life off Turnagain Arm is the all-around package?