S-turns; Alyeska, AK Pairs Slopes, Sushi, and Showtime

Paulie | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Historic Roundhouse at Mount Alyeska; an unforgettable icon of Alyeska Resort skiing.

[sponsored by Alyeska]

Alaska is a big state boasting even BIGGER lines, drawing snow-faithful from all the world over. Here, both residents and recent arrivals both look to turn up the heat—on and off piste.

Alyeska Hotel and Resort, the Great Land’s iconic luxury accommodation and largest commercial ski operation, matches the season’s blizzard pace with diverse (and unforgettable) cuisine-meets-carousing scheduling.

Resort amenities include numerous distinct venues for dining and a months-long seasonal calendar packed with live performances, special events, and nightly activities for all ages. Spring Break, marked for March 12th thru 16th by school calendar (or March 9th thru 18th to the freed student) is a particularly prime occasion to stretch the legs at Alyeska. And, by way of preparation, the state’s local recreation destination has pulled all stops.

Alyeska by night. Ralph Kristopher photo

The experience begins, as it must, upon the vertical moonscape that is Mount Alyeska.

Extenuating the resort’s network of 76 trails and 1,600 ski-able acres is its crowd pleasing week-ender Night Ski sessions. With lights aglow Thursday thru Sunday, Lifts, Bear Cub Quad, Ted’s Express, and Aerial Tram happily spin til 9pm each evening, offering a unique take on Mount Alyeska thrill.

Often opined as either a guilty pleasure or outright favorite, the Night Ski is a rare gem of the snow world.

Ralph Kristopher photo

Alaska’s usually fickle visibility, a potentially crippling factor to skiing by day, bears little to no affect upon slopes already basking under the brilliance of high wattage flood lamps. And clouds aren’t the only thing darkness seems to dissipate. The rush and crush of daytime crowds dwindles to barely a trickle by night. Post the kiddies’ bedtime, Mount Alyeska —as a general rule—is faster, colder, and usually all but empty.

Then there’s weather to consider. A savvy skier once said, ‘storm skiing after dark is like cold beer in the shower,’ and seldom have wiser words been shared.

With white light to fill a night speckled by swirling flakes, and soft snow to pad runs that ski as if grateful for at least some skier company, it’s little wonder that night sessions on Mount Alyeska have become a darling of the AK snow scene.         

Alyeska gears up after sundown.

The resort rightly anticipates its play-hard days (and nights) to grow strong appetites, and a panoply of dining venues beckon.

Unique among Alyeska Resort’s list of restaurants is niche-y Asian bistro, Sakura. As cozy as it is delightful, Sakura’s East-meets-West ambiance swirls casual with class and serves it with smoothness only warm Sake could rival.

Post-ski party.
Ralph Kristopher photo

Bistro seating melds family-friendly tables with traditional sushi bar, and both shine under a polished motif of the orient. The dining room harbors space enough for small children to stretch the legs while Moms and Dads enjoy the meal, cocktails (or both) while the nearby sushi bar unfurls action of a different sort.

Like any ‘bar’ should, Sakura’s sushi HQ nourishes a communal feel, where neighbors weigh-in on dish preferences and strangers become quick Sake chums. Bandana-clad and knife wielding, Sakura’s maestros prep. selections before the diners very eyes, simultaneously swapping tales and while carving sumptuous sushi.

“Sure, I’ve traveled to find different experiences,” said the culinary ninja before me, “but, I’ve always been drawn back to Sakura.”

“It’s the restaurant’s creative freedom and style that I most enjoy.”

Ralph Kristopher photo

Alongside his shared wisdom arrives a seemingly endless array of diverse delicacies.

Waygu Beef Sate, served grilled commences the culinary parade to come. The small plate of skewered beef cubes sets the tone for every dish to follow: artful balance of aesthetic and flavor.

The meat is cooked to perfection, and the accompanying Red Anticucho Sauce gleams under Sakura’s soft light while bursting with complimentary zest all its own. Precise hands next deftly present Sakura’s iconic California Roll. Tender and moist, the California’s medley of crab, cucumber, sesame, and avocado is tasty favorite that pairs will with draft Sapporo.

Straight sushi featuring seasonal Alaskan fish takes the taste buds to another gear. The full-flavored, almost buttery smoothness of fish atop rice lends mesmerizing fortitude to the otherwise dainty serving while the rich texture of fish gives the teeth something to chew on.

Never-ending sushi.
Ralph Kristopher photo

At that the timid diner might call it a meal, but the allure of Sakura is too strong to turn away. Specialty rolls, Hustler and Spicy Tuna land in a blaze of color to explode pleasantly across the palette. They are a one-two combo that finishes this dinner delight, and underscores the necessity to return to Sakura soon. Happily, Sakura unfurls over spring break, offering daily seatings, evening PLUS late night happy hours, and early week specials. The bistro’s popularity has also affected the addition of Tuesday evening dining throughout the remainder of ski season 2018.

Enter the Sitzmark.
Ralph Kristopher photo

Here the crisp Alaska evening presents an exciting next challenge: managing a decent dance move after such a meal. Alyeska Resort, utilizing the famous Sitzmark Bar & Grill as its base-mountain music hall, goes deep with a year-round concert that sizzles, particularly, over cold winter nights.

Returning artist, Young Dubliners bring the Slainte to the AK ski scene.

10pm showtimes allow ample cushion for unrushed arrival while inexpensive ticket prices allow elbow room on the dance floor, without breaking the bank.

An airy venue with a rockin’ reputation, the Sitz’ is an Alyeska legend. Its stage has hosted greats of travelin’ talent and its roof shelters hordes of fans who keep packin’ it in for more. A curvaceous long bar forms partition amidst the Sitz’s floor–which is cleared of tables for concert nights—and an artistically rendered northern lights nightscape glows from the Sitz’s raised ceiling. Wild dancing is encouraged and closes to within mere feet of the jammin’ artists themselves. Second only the up-close audience experience is the Sitz’s quality for sound. Tones both rich and loud ramble throughout the Sitzmark interior, becoming all but tangible elements and inciting even the most stoic to shake a leg.

Get ready to howl at the Sitzmark’s indoor starscape.

Annually visiting artists, Young Dubliners and Leftover Salmon are two diverse examples of Sitz staple talent. The former, an arm-raisin,’ fist-clenchin,’ grin-worthy reason for liquid libation plays homage to all things Emerald Isle, while latter wafts into its own via hop-steppin’ exhalations of perfectly strung notes.

Ralph Kristopher photo

Salmon swayed the crowd with hand-in-hand, backyard jam waltzing while Dubliners brought a jumpin’ pulse which threatened to cave-in the flooring. Both shows brought artists and audiences face-to-face, and either was a quintessential Alyeska Resort example of an all-out night to remember.

Preface that with afore described ski-to-sushi pre-game and it adds up to a full day of Alyeska Resort revelry not soon forgotten.

And best of all? It all starts again tomorrow.

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