The winter of 2011/12 left most resorts with record low snowfall; however one resort received record-breaking amounts. The Alyeska Resort, part of the Chugach mountain range, accumulated 704 inches of snow from November 1 to present. This amount of snow has created the perfect winter experience for skiers and riders. Although it was a record-breaking amount, it still lacks in comparison to the 2000/01 winter season of 939 inches.
This winter season started early for Alyeska with two sizable storms and countless smaller ones that delivered a healthy base of snow above 1,500 ft in the month of October. The cool temperatures and sustainable snowfall resulted in 71 inches of snow at the base alone for the month of November, which was just shy of the record 77 inches set in 1994. The month finished with 96 inches at the top of the 2,750 foot summit.
On Wednesday, November 23, 2011, Alyeska was able to open their slopes with fresh, snow-surfing powder conditions. The trend continued through the month of December, where it snowed 29 out of 31 days. The abundant snow allowed the resort to open Christmas Chute and High Travelers on December 13, one of the earliest openings in decades. The snow-covered terrain allowed for skiers to explore more of the mountain’s pitches. The skiable terrain reached far beyond the North Face to Max’s lower face, and has been skiable consistently. New Year’s Chute, an expert-only area on the North Face, opened for three days in January. This was the earliest opening in the resort’s history.
For the first time in the resort’s history, Max’s Chutes opened to the general public on January 21, where the elevation reaches 3,302 feet. This extraordinary run, packed with breathtaking views, is well worth the 45 minute boot-pack hike and half hour traverse across the ridge. The resort estimates about 300 runs were taken there that day.
After a perfect month of skiing for January, February followed with a 26 day encore of precipitation. There were 10 days with 10 inches or more of new snow to ski, and 5 days of 20 inches or more of new snowfall during the month. The snowfall continued to accumulate, resulting in an average base depth of 60 inches, twice as much as the average 30 inches for the month of February. And interestingly enough, Alyeska Resort’s base area is one of the lowest in the world, measuring 200 feet above sea level.
On March 8 and 9, the public was rewarded with the opening of the iconic Headwall. Headwall is the dramatic face at the very top of the ski area. The ski area can only be approached by boot-pack to the saddle. Off the saddle, skiers then can access open bowl runs up to an area called Slow Boy, about halfway up the ride to the north. Skiers were required to wear a beacon for the hike, and were encouraged to hike with a partner and carry a shovel and probe.
The resort’s snow safety and patrol teams were able to open for the public the iconic Headwall for two days on March 8 and 9. The Headwall is the dramatic face at the very top of the ski area and is approached via boot-pack to the saddle. From the saddle, skiers can access open bowl runs over to an area called Slow Boy, approximately halfway up the ride to the north. Skiers were required to wear a beacon to do the hike, and the resort encouraged all guests to hike with a partner and carry a shovel and a probe.
With the spring equinox on March 20 Alyeska Resort is enjoying 10 hours of daylight per day and gaining light quickly. Spring conditions have been excellent. There are close to 50 more days of ski operations and the snowfall record of 939 inches could be within reach. The resort will be open for skiing through April 29, 2012 and will reopen for weekend May skiing. May skiing is available on select chairlifts and the aerial tram between 11:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday between May 5 and 27 including Memorial Day, Monday, May 28.