Since I got into snowboarding I have tried to think of some awesome places to go snowboarding and sight-seeing. Near the top of the list was Alaska. So my friends and I decided to make that our big snowboarding trip of the year. We decided on the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, AK.
We started making our reservations in November. We wanted to make sure to take advantage of cheap airfare and early season specials the Alyeska Resort was having. We also jumped on Liftopia for some deals on the lift tickets. So overall the trip was relatively inexpensive.
It was exciting to see the early season snowfall. At the time we checked, they were getting snow almost every other day. Unfortunately that pace didn’t keep up. As it got closer to our departure date, Southern Alaska started getting unseasonably warm and rainy. With about a week to go before we were scheduled to leave, there was nothing but rain and 40 degree temps in the forecast. Apparently these conditions created avalanches and they scheduled the mountain to close for a little while. So the week we were to head to Alaska, the hotel let us know that they would be closed the day we would arrive but should open late the first day we planned to snowboard.
This caused us to worry that it might stay closed longer and we might not get to snowboard. So we started mentally preparing for the worst and tried to think of other things we could do up there. There was a lot, so we definitely wouldn’t be bored, but we would be highly disappointed not to snowboard.
Luckily once we got there the temps were back to below freezing and they were able to have the late opening on our first day just like they had planned. The conditions weren’t great and there were a lot of the closed trails. With the mountain being closed the first half of the week, the trails were almost like ice sheets. At first it was a little unsettling because of how hard the ground was and how little control there was on the snowboard. Fortunately as the sun came out, it softened up certain areas. Also as more and more people traveled on the trails it broke up the ice and hard snowpack. This created slush like conditions that were easier to maneuver in and keep control. In some parts the slush felt almost like fresh powder. We still had to be careful because the trails still had ice in some parts and it was hard to tell where they were sometimes.
By our final days on the slopes, they brought out the snow makers to cover some of the thinner areas. The had the snow makers positioned all over the bottom part of the mountain. The fresh artificial snow was nice and soft but a little sticky. I would be flying down the slope and then hit these areas and find myself slowing down quickly. It was better than hitting ice though. We wondered what took them so long to pull the snow makers out and get them running. They were only running the last two days we were there. I’m not sure what the conditions needed to be to have them running. At least they did finally get them out and going.
Some days there were low clouds that only covered the lower part of the mountain. This made it interesting as we went up the lifts and then down the trails. It felt like we were snowboarding in two different places. When we were at the top of the lifts above the clouds, the sun was out and the trails were very visible. Riding down the trails we would approach the clouds. As we went through the them, visibility was severely limited. It made it hard to see the different conditions of ice and snow on the trails. After we broke through the clouds, the bottom part of the mountain was dark and gloomy. It was a very intriguing feeling for me.
In the last 2 days, I also got the courage up to try the small terrain park they had by Lift 7. I didn’t get on the rail features, but I did the jumps. I stayed on the smaller jumps just so I could learn and progress. They were fun and were excellent to learn on. The design of the terrain park seemed like it was made to help people progress their skills. I just wish I had a little more courage to catch more air. But it did help my confidence and I can’t wait to keep trying more and more jumps.
Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news snowboarding. We had two injuries this trip. One friend hurt her ankle on the first run out on our second day. Good thing it wasn’t too serious. She only missed that day of snowboarding but did have to take it easy the other days. Another friend knocked herself out and got a concussion in the terrain park. Luckily she was wearing a helmet. It was a little scary at first, but she didn’t develop any symptoms that would indicate a more serious injury so all was good. She too had to miss a day of snowboarding, but sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.
Even though the snowboarding conditions weren’t the best, we had a great time. Alaska also has some very beautiful views especially up on top of the mountain. It was very breathtaking at times. I was glad my girlfriend, Anna, was there to share the whole experience with me. We didn’t really do much besides snowboarding, but we did get out a little and eat at some of the local Girdwood establishments. For me the food was just ok. They did have some good seafood though, which one might expect.
Overall it was a great experience. The resort was very cool and the staff was very friendly. It’s hard to rate the snowboarding because a lot of the trails were closed off, but I wouldn’t mind going back when the conditions are better to try them out. I would like to try another trip to Alaska sometime to snowboard and do more sight-seeing. I want to do the dog sleds, glacier tour, and get more photos.
You can view the photos of our Alaska Trip and I’ll update this post once I get the video up.
UPDATE (6/9/2014): Finally got the videos made. Take a peak: