Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Alaska, Skiing is Believing

When a typical powder weekend at his native Jackson Hole just won’t cut it for American professional snowboarder Travis Rice, he heads north to Alaska for steep-and-deep experiences unlike anywhere else on earth. Better than Jackson Hole? That’s up to each skier to judge, but the ski fields in Alaska have been described by Snowboard magazine as the craziest, steepest, deepest powder that you can find. Little surprise since in Alaska everything is 20 times bigger than it is anywhere else in the world. But you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy this insane snow scene.

Located just 56 kilometres south of Anchorage, Alyeska Resort averages a whopping 19.8 metres of snow a year. It also boasts 1,400 skiable acres, nine chairlifts, a 60-person aerial tram, 68 runs and more spring daylight than any other major ski resort in North America. Alyeska’s slopes cater to families or adventure lovers of any skill level. Festivals for all ages and two of the largest downhill ski championships in the country, Alyeska is an ideal spot for your Alaska ski experience. For those looking to indulge, the Aleyska resort has its own spa. Try a Alaska Glacial Facial, which features the timeless decadence of a rich and creamy Arctic mud used to exfoliate, detoxify and soften the skin. A final mist of Alaskan Glacial water completes this truly Alaskan experience.

For the above average’ skier Alaska offers a range of options. Heli-skiing is one of those options and involves plunging out of a helicopter onto an almost vertical slope of snow-covered mountain. The heli-skiing season runs in late winter, from about February through to April, when snow conditions are optimal.

The most popular areas for heli-skiing in Alaska include the Prince William Sound communities of Valdez and Cordova, Girdwood in South-central Alaska and the Southeast Inside Passage communities of Haines and Juneau. “We offer five- and seven-day packages, depending on what you want to do,” said Jill Kief of Chugach Powder Guides out of Girdwood. “Everyone gets a safety briefing and a transceiver drill... Depending on the package, you can ski 50,000 to 60,000 vertical feet... Typically, you’re getting about eight to 10 runs a day.”

Although skiing in Alaska is attracting the world’s top athletes, there’s plenty of ways to immerse yourself in the winter wonderland off-piste. Contrary to popular conception, Alaska is not in the dark all winter long. It basks in 6 to 13 hours of daylight sandwiched between endless twilight on one end and dawns on the other. And with average temperatures around -6 degrees Celsius, pair a hot chocolate (or whiskey—to each his own) with a parka and everyone will enjoy Alaska in complete comfort.

Explore Alaska’s unique Native American culture, check out the wildlife, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride or mush your own team of sled dogs.

Cross-country skiing, ice skating, ice hockey, ice fishing, snow machines, winter carnivals and festivals are all at your disposal when the snow flies, and are all complimented by unique and scrumptious culinary experiences.

Alaskans don't hibernate like bears, winter's when the fun really begins. Delta fly directly to Los Angeles from Sydney and has partnered with Alaskan Airlines to provide flights to Alaska daily.

There’s never been a better time to go.

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