Thursday, February 09, 2012

National Geographic Includes Girdwood, Alaska On Its List Of 25 Best Ski Towns Worldwide

A view of Girdwood and Turnagain Arm from one of the mountains
Alaska just got a big feather stuck in its cap. National Geographic set out to identify the best 25 ski towns in the world, and Girdwood made the list. Their criteria: Premier skiing and snowboarding coupled with an inviting burg steeped in ski heritage, amenities, and culture. The 25 ski towns listed are not ranked in any particular order.

National Geographic starts out with a discussion of Girdwood. Unlike Hilltop and Alpenglow, which are located within the Anchorage Bowl, Girdwood is a 45-mile drive south down the Seward Highway, although it lies within the boundaries of the Municipality of Anchorage. National Geographic says it's best for off-the-beaten-path powder hounds with an aversion to glamour. This community of around 2,000 includes Alyeska Resort, which is the largest ski area in Alaska. It has six lifts, two magic carpets, and a 60-person tram that climbs the mountain’s steep north face with views of the Turnagain Arm and Cook Inlet. There is also real-deal Chugach heli- and cat-skiing available right from Alyeska’s base area. They suggest it's best to visit in March, when there is an average of 12 hours of daylight, though lifts keep running through April and on weekends in May. During the summer, it's a popular destination for hang-gliding.

Recommended amenities include the Hotel Alyeska and the Alyeska Hostel for lodging, the Double Musky Inn and Coast Pizza for dining, and the Sitzmark for an all-purpose watering hole. Note that the drive from Anchorage to Girdwood can become occasionally hazardous during the winter due to heavy snow and high winds; on rare occasion, the road can be closed due to induced avalanches and traffic accidents. All part of the adventure.

But while National Geographic has just wised up to Girdwood, readers of Ski Magazine have known about Girdwood for years and have rated it one of the 25 top ski resorts in North America. Some come to Girdwood for many ski and snowboard competitions including the prestigious U.S. Alpine Championships. The resort is also one of the best training facilities for many of the U.S. Ski Team members. Former U.S. Ski Team stars such as Tommy Moe, Mike Makar, Megan Gerety and Hilary Lindh, and more recently snowboarder Rosie Fletcher trained on Alyeska’s skiing runs.

To save you the trouble of maneuvering through a typical clunky slideshow, I've listed the other 24 ski towns below, each one hot-linked to National Geographic's rating of the town (after the jump):

-- Fernie, British Columbia, Canada
-- Zermatt, Switzerland
-- Bozeman, Montana, USA
-- Chamonix, France
-- Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
-- Whitefish, Montana, USA
-- Crested Butte, Colorado, USA
-- Aspen, Colorado, USA
-- Niseko, Japan
-- Kitzbühel, Austria
-- Bend, Oregon, USA
-- Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada
-- Taos, New Mexico, USA
-- Park City, Utah, USA
-- Truckee, California, USA
-- Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
-- North Conway, New Hampshire, USA
-- Banff, Alberta, Canada
-- Steamboat Springs, Colorado, USA
-- Telluride, Colorado, USA
-- Jackson, Wyoming, USA
-- Wanaka, New Zealand
-- Stowe, Vermont, USA
-- Ketchum, Idaho, USA

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