Alyeska to open for skiers, but not all runs ready

Beth Bragg
Skiers and boarders hit the slopes of Alyeska Resort in Girdwood on opening day in 2011.
Bill Roth
Skiers and boarders hit the slopes of Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska on opening day in 2011.
Bill Roth

With a fully operational tram and a new lift to the top of the mountain, Alyeska Ski Resort will open for the season Thursday, although both the tram and the new Glacier Bowl Express may be idle.

Portions of the lower mountain will open to skiers and snowboarders Thursday, but terrain at the top needs help from nature or technology before it's ready.

"Lower Race Trail is wall-to-wall gorgeous," mountain manager Brian Burnett said Monday, and there is a good coverage on terrain accessed by Ted's Express (the old Chair 4).

"But being the greedy guy I am," he said, "I want more."

Based on current conditions in Girdwood, neither the tram -- which Burnett said is back in business after repairs to the car damaged during a January windstorm -- nor the new Glacier Bowl Express will be running.

That was the word on Monday. It could change quickly if it starts snowing or if it gets cold enough for snowmaking machines to do their job.

"We're taking it day by day," Burnett said. "Just because something's not running right now doesn't mean it won't run the next day.

"We're gonna see some temperatures start dropping down on Wednesday, so we're expecting cold temperatures Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, which means we could have the tram operational on Friday."

Dropping temperatures is good, because it needs to be cold for snowmakers to work.

"It's 27 degrees right now," Burnett said Monday afternoon, "and it needs to be 26."

He predicted it would be cold enough by Monday evening to make snow.

Once there is adequate snow cover, skiers will discover a new way to the top of Alyeska. The Glacier Bowl Express replaces the old chair 6 and promises to be a quieter, smoother rider, Burnett said.

That lift comes on board a year after the debut of Ted's Express, which proved a significantly faster replacement for Chair 4, turning a 12-minute ride into a 7-minute one. "We couldn't have been happier with it," Burnett said.

The Glacier Bowl Express will be a little faster than Chair 6, but not dramatically so, he said.

Alyeska plans to be open Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesday, there will be a limited opening for season-pass holders from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Sitzmark also will be open, with two showings Wednesday of Sherpa Cinema's "Into the Mind" and free shows Friday and Saturday by the Dirty Hands.

Decisions will be made daily on what lifts will run the next day. Burnett urged skiers and riders to check on snow conditions and lift openings by the Alyeska website or call the hotline at 754-SNOW.

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.