With an abundance of premier ski resorts scattered across the United States, envisioning a family vacation to schuss the snowy slopes of Alaska seems a little far-fetched, doesn’t it? The Rocky Mountains are much closer, the Wasatch much drier, and the Cascades much cheaper. Why the heck would mom and dad spend a bundle to vacation in a state that everyone knows is too cold for the average skier? Be bold, friends! Alyeska Resort, Alaska’s only premier ski destination and one of the classiest joints we’ve found in the 49th state, is truly a beautiful black diamond in the not-so-rough.
Situated an easy 45 miles from Anchorage in the growing community of Girdwood, Alyeska features 1,400 skiable acres of alpine meadow/spruce forest to glide and turn, and 650 inches of white stuff to do it upon. Sporting a day lodge, mountain learning center, two rental shops, and a hotel worthy of European standards, Alyeska Resort has made a name for itself among skiing families who want prime mountain time combined with Alaskan hospitality. Stunning vistas from the Alyeska Aerial Tramway, where Turnagain Arm and towering mountains send one scrambling for the camera, excellent customer service, and wonderful dining await both the seasoned local and honored guest, and the resort is rolling out a red carpet of specials for 2011-2012.
For families, a stay at the beautifully-appointed Hotel Alyeska allows parents the luxury they crave and the kid-appeal they require. The resort now offers year-round deals specifically geared toward parents and kids (and their friends, too). Try the Fall Family Package for the early birds between now and November 23, Alyeska’s opening day, and receive two adjoining rooms, pizza, a movie, sodas, and $75 in Resort credit for one night.
OR, book your Hotel Alyeska stay by October 31 and receive 25% off your lodging between December 1 and April 29 (yes, blackout dates are to be expected, but surely you can work around them); we prefer odd dates for skiing, anyway; fewer bodies to ski around.
We like the hotel for its warm embrace of families. In fact, the resort itself understands that families crave the sort of ambiance Alyeska affords; kids can swim in the pool, skate on the outdoor pond, or hang out in one of the many cozy common areas (yes, wi-fi in all of them). Parents will enjoy the spa and hot tub, and an opportunity to linger by a roaring fireplace with no obligations other than the ones immediately in front of them, demanding equal time on the iPhone.
Need a ski lesson? Alyeska’s Mountain Learning Center boasts top-notch instructors who truly do understand the dynamics of teaching wiggly, energetic, and sometimes hot-dogging kids the mechanics, and the sheer joy, of skiing on Alaska’s most fabulous runs. AK Kid took a Super Cub lesson when we stayed at the resort last, spending so much time on the Magic Carpet (easy lift requiring no skills other than walking on skis) that I’m sure they’ll engrave his name onto the astroturf. His teacher had him gliding, turning, and ducking in and out of an inflatable obstacle course, ready to hit the lift by day’s end, just where we wanted him at age 5.
AK Dad took a lesson, too, heading up the blue runs while I made my way up to the top for a few hours of mom-time featuring some hard-core turns along the ridgeline and swooping down into bowls before meeting the guys for a well-earned lunch in the daylodge. That’s the beauty of Alyeska; it feels large enough to be a big-time resort, but small enough that we all ran into each other multiple times throughout the afternoon; a nice compromise.
At the end of the day, though, our favorite part was shedding ski boots, wrapping ourselves up in the hotel’s uber-soft, deep-fill comforters, and gazing upon a brilliant moon rising above the steep roofline, waiting for the first stars to appear. AK Dad and I clinked our wine glasses in mutual agreement that we had, indeed, made a great choice for a family ski. AK Kid snored softly from the depths of his pillow, further reinforcing our decision to return next year.
NOTE: For a full calendar of events hosted by Alyeska Resort, including their holiday season special activities geared toward kids, visit their events page HERE. Military? Check out their famous and fabulous “Military Mondays” too, where active-duty military and their immediate family members can ski for FREE, with 50% off rentals. First Military Monday is December 5, 2011.