Backcountry on a budget: Three ski resort substitutes

Ski resorts are limited in the Anchorage area resulting in boredom for many experienced ski and snowboarders. Going to the same resorts repeatedly loses excitement and even motivation to go out and hit the slopes. An option that can help keep that passion would be to find new places to ride. If you don’t mind driving 45 minutes out to Girdwood for Alyeska, an hour-long drive and a little hiking can take you to new exciting places and give you more possibilities.

Flattop is known for its hiking trails in the summer time and Alaska’s most visited peak. This is located in town and is familiar to most who have hiked it, especially during the summer. During the winter, you can hike it the same way, with skis or snowboard and ride down the face, which contains the best snow. There are also the peaks behind flattop that is available to be trekked up and ride. This would be a good place for beginners to advanced ski or snowboarders to go if not a resort.

Hatcher’s Pass is located in Palmer in the Talkeetna mountains about an hour and a half outside of Anchorage. There are many different activities that can take place at Hatcher’s throughout the whole year, but what most look forward to is the backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Hatcher’s Pass hosts one of the best snow conditions in the state, usually starting in November. According to the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation web page, “The High Glacier Peaks area north of Reed Lakes provides hearty backcountry traverses amongst the mountains and glaciers.” If you explore far enough, there are mountain huts that are open to the public. They warn only experienced skiers and climbers attempt to reach huts because it’s a several day trip with no designated trails. For more information on how to plan a trip to stay in these huts, the Alaska Mountaineering Club is willing to help.

Turnagain and Summit Pass is located in the Kenai mountains about half an hour past Girdwood. This is a great place to go after riding Alyeska and are looking for more of an adventure. Again, these backcountry areas are for advanced ski and snowboarders. Turnagain Pass has steep mountains similar to backcountry areas in Valdez, Alaska, because of the oceanic climate with deep and stable snowpack. After an hour of hiking, you will reach untracked snow and ready to shred. This is considered one of the best roadside backcountry areas in Alaska.

These are three places that have difference levels of expertise that don’t involve spending money on a lift ticket while also being able to venture out to a new spot. They do require a bit of hiking to be done, but is ultimately worth it. If you are looking for a new area to ski or snowboard, these can be an option for you. Before heading out to more of the advanced places such as Hatcher’s Pass and Turnagain Pass, check online about daily weather conditions and avalanche warnings. There are also free classes provided about avalanche safety and gear by many organizations such as Alaska Avalanche Information Center, Alaska Avalanche School and Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.