The Alaska Territory:
Girdwood, Alaska’s premier year-round destination is the home of Alyeska Ski Resort. Approximately 40 miles south of Anchorage nestled below the Chugach Mountains, lies the small community of Girdwood. With its breathtaking view of Alaska’s vast wilderness, hanging glaciers and virgin beauty, enjoy year-round activities, incredible Alaskan hospitality and a variety of excellent accommodations to meet your individual needs.
Girdwood is the gateway to Portage Glacier, Kenai Peninsula, Whittier and the Prince William Sound. Summer days offer hiking, berry picking, goldpanning, flightseeing, kayaking, white water rafting trips, mountain/glacier climbing, birdwatching, paragliding, abundant wildlife, glacier cruises, fishing and photography at its best. Winter offers dogsled tours, Alpine skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, cross country skiing, heli-skiing, skijoring or nearby snowmobiling.
The resort, nestled at the base of the Chugach Mountains near Turnagain Arm, is an outdoor lover’s mecca. Access to the mountain is made easier by the ski area’s tram, which climbs Mount Alyeska between 10:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. The five-minute ride ends 2,300 feet above sea level with spectacular views of Turnagain Arm and seven glaciers. Tram ticket prices range from $7 to $16.
Alyeska hosts a variety of summer activities and celebrations including the Alyeska 5-kilometer Girdwood Fun Run (early July), the Midnight Sun Paragliding Fly-In (early July), the Alyeska Mountain Run (mid-August) and the Blueberry and Mountain Arts Festival (early September). Other activities at the resort include tandem paragliding and guided mountain hikes.
One of the most visited sites in the area, the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center overlooks Portage Lake in Portage Valley, a short drive south of Girdwood along the highway. Exhibits focus on Portage GlacierPortage Valley, Prince William Sound, Alaska animals and Native stories. A 20-minute film, “Voices From the Ice,” shows several times daily.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AKA Big Game Alaska):
Photograph until your hearts content with this natural, up close viewing of Alaska’s wildlife. Located on 140 acres of natural Alaska wilderness, just 30 minutes from downtown Anchorage, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center opened to the public in 1993. On the shores of Turnagain Arm, surrounded by mountains and hanging glaciers, this is the perfect place to learn about Alaska wildlife. Drive through in the comfort of your own vehicle or walk through to photograph and learn about the animals, the park and the history of the Portage Valley area. The owner raised buffalo and elk as a hobby since 1984, and wildlife officials began putting orphaned moose in his care. Eventually his hobby transformed into the Wildlife Center that you see today. Injured or orphaned animals are regularly brought to the Wildlife Center for care. The center often provides care and housing for non-releasable birds.
Although Girdwood is just 37 miles southeast of Anchorage, the weather can be dramatically different, in part because the tiny community is nearly ringed by the Chugach Mountains. Girdwood also borders the northernmost rainforest in the world, and all those huge trees along the Winner Creek trail (you’re planning to hike it, right?) require lots of moisture to sustain them.
So in the summer, when Anchorage is overcast, Girdwood is often cool and rainy. Sometimes, much to the chagrin of the locals, it’s clear and sunny at the turnoff on the highway from Anchorage, just three miles from Girdwood.
Alyeska/Girdwood is located just off Turnagain Arm, 37 miles southeast of downtown Anchorage.
By road via the Seward Highway.
1 resort, numerous condos/chalets/cabins/bed and breakfasts, 8 restaurants/cafes/snackbars.