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While Alaska is remote in one sense it is at the same time accessible. The international airport at Anchorage and the smaller one at Fairbanks enable families to get right up close to the action. We’ve chosen three different resorts that all appeal to the family, where you can get a taste of the wild in a safe environment. Choose your pick.
Alaska is on every skier’s bucket list. The draw is partly the sense of adventure, where you will be spending your days in a true wilderness of epic proportions but you don’t have to lose out on home comforts for the family. Alyeska is a more traditional resort with plenty of runs and ski-in ski-out accommodation, while Arctic Valley has the friendly feel of a not-for-profit.
Our Top Picks
3. Skiland – Mt. Aurora
Skiland has the claim to fame as the most northern ski resort in North America. Local it certainly isn’t but the six-hour drive from Anchorage will provide you with some of the most spectacular views of Alaska. Alternatively, the small nearby town of Fairbanks has an airport with links to some of the larger northern cities.
Fun for Kids
There are no options for lessons at Skiland but one attraction for parents and kids of all ages is a good chance of seeing the Aurora borealis.
Skiland has been attracting skiers and snowboarders since its first rope tows were installed in 1962. Based on Mount Aurora the resort has panoramic views, including the Brooks Range, the White Mountains, and even the Alaska Range, in the distance.
The resort is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday weather permitting. The main lift takes skiers up to 2435 ft (740 m) from where they can ski down a vertical drop of 1027 ft (310 m). The 46 runs fan out on one side of the mountain with a good selection of greens, blues, and blacks.
20% of runs are classed beginner, 50% classed intermediate and 30% classed advanced. The choice of runs is varied with plenty of glades and many of the easier green and blue runs trail down from the highest point. Even the terrain park, Hulbert Nanook Terrain Park, hints at the Alaskan heritage.
While the resort is remote the welcome is warm and Skiland operates two-day lodges, which have stunning views. They offer a full menu and a rental shop. At night time they can be used for aurora borealis viewing from October to April for $30 per person.
Off the Slopes
Several nearby lodges have partnered with Skiland to offer family accommodation in the wilds. The lodges are family-run and close to the slopes. Families lodging in this accommodation will also be entitled to a $10 per person, per day discount on their lift ticket. Alternative family-friendly accommodation can also be found in the nearby town of Fairbanks.
If you’re stuck for a memento of your visit to Skiland you can buy a chairlift seat from the Silver Star Chairlift. It makes the coolest porch swing and is yours for just $5000!
What We Love About Skiland
- The resort offers plenty of glade skiing
- The panoramic views and the possibility of the aurora borealis make this a must-see resort
- The location is remote but the welcome warm
|Summit Elevation:||1408 ft / 429 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||530 acres|
2. Arctic Valley
Operated as a not-for-profit, Arctic Valley ski resort is run by volunteers from Anchorage Ski Club. Located inland NE from Anchorage it has easy access to communication at Anchorage International airport.
Fun for Kids
Ski and snowboard lessons are available as one-to-one private lessons or in groups. Additionally, Arctic Valley offers several lessons introducing backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
Students start on groomed lessons improving their turning technique and progress to off-piste slopes to develop their skills on variable terrain and different snow conditions. Students are divided into beginner/intermediate and intermediate/advanced skill groups. There is no equipment rental at Arctic Valley but plenty of available options at nearby Anchorage.
The remote location of Arctic Valley gives the impression that you are skiing in the backcountry, however, parents can relax with the knowledge that their kids are always reasonably close and safe. The not-for-profit status of the resort means family skiing is more reasonable and there aren’t the usual crowds that can blight some resorts.
The highest elevation at the resort is 4000 ft (1200 m) giving a vertical fall of 1500 ft (460 m). The skiable area covers 320 acres, and the 24 runs are composed mainly of blues and a handful of blacks.
There are two chair lifts and one T-bar to access the top of the mountain. 10% of the runs are classed beginner, 40% are classed intermediate, and 50% are classed advanced. Arctic Valley also has a tubing park.
Off the Slopes
There is no on-resort accommodation at Arctic Valley but plenty of family-friendly choices in nearby Anchorage and even some hotels on the shores of Lake Hood.
What We Love About Arctic Valley
- Easy communication with Anchorage International Airport
- A family-friendly resort run as a not-for-profit
- The resort has a backcountry feel but is safe for families
Arctic Valley Stats
|Summit Elevation:||2500 ft / 762 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||320 acres|
1. Alyeska Ski Resort
At first sight on the map, Alyeska Ski Resort may look like the back of beyond, but dig deeper and you will find a civilized, family resort with some great skiing and some of the best views around.
Fun for Kids
Lessons are best booked in advance, especially for youngsters under four and for groups of similar ability but different ages. Lessons generally take place at 11 AM and 2 PM and can be booked for one or two hours.
Situated 40 miles east of Anchorage and its international airport, Alyeska is next door to the small town of Girdwood and its 2000 inhabitants.
The main ski area is composed of different facets of the same mountain, including alpine bowls, some tree skiing, as well as a few groomed, tree-lined runs lower down which are ideal for beginners.
The highest elevation is 2750 ft (840 m) so there are plenty of longer, top to bottom runs for intermediate skiers. 11% of runs are classed as beginner, 52% classed as intermediate and 37% classed as expert. Freestylers can also play in the terrain parks and mini pipe. There are six lifts in total, including a faster tram as well as two magic carpets lower down.
A possible downside of the big scenery is the big weather that can accompany it. The exposed maritime setting can lead to occasional wild storms, which lead to trail closures.
This also explains the phenomenal snowfall of 650 in (1650 cm) at the summit. The whole resort covers a colossal 1400 acres, of which 113 acres are covered with snowmaking. The northern latitude reduces daylight hours and so floodlit skiing takes place from Thursday to Saturday 4-9 PM.
Off the Slopes
In spite of the remote location, family accommodation is straightforward, courtesy of Hotel Alyeska, which is close to the base of the tram, making ski-in ski-out easy for the whole family. The 304-room hotel has several restaurants, a pool, hot tubs, a spa, and a fitness center.
Outside of the resort, the local town of Girdwood has a selection of condos and Bed & Breakfasts. If you decide on a break from the slopes there are activities such as a glacier boat tour or Anchorage Museum, which is aimed at kids.
What We Love About Alyeska
- Alyeska and Alaska, in general, are well known for their vast and panoramic scenery
- During weekdays lift tickets at Alyeska are cheaper
- There are reduced packages for beginners which include lift tickets, lessons, and equipment rental.
|Summit Elevation:||3939 ft / 1200 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||1610 acres|
Why Choose Alaska for Skiing
With its stunning scenery during the day and the possibility of seeing the aurora borealis during the night, Alaska has a powerful draw for skiers and snowboarders. While the wilderness is always just around the corner these three resorts have made sure families can enjoy the skiing safely. The elevation of the resorts means there is plenty of tree and glade skiing to enjoy, while the variety of terrain ensures there is enough to satisfy beginners and intermediates.
How Did We Order This List?
To help rank our top selection of ski resorts for this list we compared the following ranking factors:
|👨👩👦 Ranking Factor||📈 Power to affect Rank|
|Amount of Beginner Trails (Mi)||4x|
|Amount of Skiing Area (Mi)||3x|
|Cost of two adult tickets + child ticket||1x|
|How many magic carpet lifts||1x|
We gave each factor its own weighting depending on how important we feel it is for family fun across all ages. For example, a resort with more beginner trails is higher ranked than a resort with a lower-priced family ticket – with all else being equal. That’s because while cost is a factor, it’s not a primary one. We may also use our editorial judgment to remove or add resorts that we believe should make the list.
When taking all of this into account, it gives us our awesome list above. We hope it was helpful in planning your next family ski vacation.