Backcountry paradise at Hatcher Pass

Low pressure, high humidity and cold temperatures are a recipe for snow; mixing snow with the 500,000 miles of alpine terrain that Alaska offers gives snowboarders a big backcountry playground.
One playground in particular is Hatcher Pass, which is located 60 miles north of Anchorage off of the Glenn Highway near Palmer.
Hatcher Pass usually has seven months of snow and is a great place for both beginners and more experienced riders.
The “trail” is actually Hatcher Pass Road, which is closed to vehicles in the winter and climbs between 3,000-3,886 feet above sea level. Because the road is above the tree line and maintained in the summer, there is no overgrowth. This makes it a haven for snowboarders who do not want to tangle with alders and underbrush.
As of now, the pass has between two and four feet of powder depending on where you are. There is less powder and more wind as you climb closer the ridgelines, whereas lower in the valley there is up to four feet of snow right off the sides of the road.
The road is still soft packed as well which works great for building up speed to hit the various roadside jumps, otherwise known as “kickers.”
Hatcher Pass Road is built into the side of Skyscraper Mountain, offering a perfect opportunity for snowboarder to utilize the downward slope of the mountain as a landing zone for jumps. Small kickers are all along the trail and more appear each day, thanks to the creative riders who built them. There are also an abundance of natural drops off of rocks and outcroppings covered in snow.
There is a short rail on the first switchback that a good Samaritan brought to share.
There is not necessarily a “top” to this hike; riders, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts merely stop and go where they please. Some may call the ridges of Bald Mountain Ridge, (the mountain opposite of Skyscraper Mountain) the top while others make the saddle between the two mountains their goal. Whichever is chosen, time spent on this snowy adventure is mostly determined by how many kickers are hit or breathtaking pictures are taken.
As with all winter expeditions, make sure to bring many layers, even if it is a warm day. Though the hike may make you experience tropical body temperature, once stopped the true temperature will set in quickly, especially if there is a breeze.
There is also an exceptionally noticeable temperature difference between the sunny and shaded areas on a clear day.
Getting to Hatcher Pass is a relatively simple journey; take a right on the Palmer exit, off of the Glenn Highway, labeled AK-1 (State Hwy 1 E/Palmer), and follow the road about six and a half miles until you see Palmer Fishhook Road on the left. Take a left on Palmer Fishhook Road and follow it another 12 miles after it turns into Fishhook-Willow Road.
This is where you will find the upper parking lot, which offers the easiest access to Hatcher Pass. The parking lot is in Independence Mine Historical Park; so there is a $5 parking fee, which the park rangers are good at enforcing.
If the top parking lot is not where you want to go, there are many other parking lots and attractions on the way up.
On the gorgeous drive to Hatcher Pass, many winter lovers stop to take pictures of the frozen and majestic Fishhook Creek that runs alongside the road for a portion of the drive. Fishhook Creek has many large boulders and in the winter they look like sleepy lovers, snuggling underneath icy covers.
The possibilities for enjoying Hatcher Pass are up to each rider’s imagination; its beautiful views and natural wonders are added bonuses.