"Girdwood - Quiet Town, Spectacular Skiing" Girdwood by AlbuqRay

Girdwood Travel Guide: 89 reviews and 167 photos

Alyeska Ski Resort

Girdwood was originally named Glacier City, since it is surrounded by seven permanent glaciers. It boomed after placer deposits of gold were discovered in the Crow, Virgin and California Creek drainages. It was renamed for Colonel James Girdwood, a Scots-Irish entrepreneur and linen merchant who staked the first four gold claims along Crow Creek in 1896. As the number of miners increased, a supply camp arose that also supplied a trail stop on the route between Seward and Ship Creek which is now Anchorage.

Summer activities include hiking, fishing and rafting, but Girdwood is best known for winter skiing and snowboarding at Alyeska Resort on Mount Alyeska. This all started in 1954, when eleven local men formed the Alyeska Ski Corporation. The first chair lift and a day lodge were built in 1960. Currently, Alyeska has six chair lifts and one high-speed tram. Chair 5 is co-owned by Alyeska and the Tanaka Corporation. Chair 6 is a high-speed bubble-quad, while Chairs 4 and 7 are normal quads. Chair 1 is the oldest chair lift on the mountain, and leads all the way up to the Roundhouse Lodge at the top.

One of my assignments in Alaska was to bring back an Alyeska Ski Resort cap for my son. He is a former extreme skier, had heard about Alyeska, but never made it there before he injured his knee. It turned out that the only place you can get caps with the resort logo is in the gift shop in the Alyeska Hotel.

Directions to Everything

The original location of Girdwood was on the Turnagain Arm 38 miles south of Anchorage; however, on Good Friday in 1964, an earthquake of magnitude 9.2 subsided the coastal edges along the Turnagain Arm 8 to 10 feet, putting much of the town below high tide. Consequently, the townsite was moved 2.5 miles up the valley to the present location.

To get to Girdwood, turn onto the Alyeska Highway at Mile 90 of the Seward Highway. The Alyeska Highway dead ends at Arlberg Avenue. Go left 1.0 mile to get to the Hotel Alyeska and tramway. Go right 0.1 mile to get to the ski resort, day lodge and parking.

Chairlift Into the Clouds

It was a foggy day when I was in Girdwood. I could only see the chairlift rising into the clouds over the fields of fireweed.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Quiet in the summer; close to Anchorage
  • Cons:As they say in Alaska, 'spendy'
  • In a nutshell:Ski in the winter; eat steak year-round
  • Last visit to Girdwood: Aug 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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