Skiing and snowboarding are two of the main reasons people flock to Alaska outside of the main summer season. We've got plenty of powder, and amazing landscapes that create epic backdrops for your outdoor adventures. But—just like any winter activity—you have to be properly outfitted to fully enjoy, and live in the moment, for those long days on the slopes.
We spoke to our friends at Powder Hound Ski Shop in Girdwood, Alaska, to get the inside scoop on the most important strategies—and the best local places—to get geared up for a great day on the mountain.
These folks know their stuff, too: Powder Hound has over 25 years of combined boot-fitting and ski-tuning experience, including four MasterFit Certified boot fitters. Their passion for the ski industry runs deep, and they test every ski they sell.
Here are some tips that will help streamline your ski-trip needs, depending on your experience level—and just what you want to experience in the snow:
Skis for Beginners
As a beginner, your best bet is to rent equipment. If you’re skiing at Alyeska Resort, The Daylodge rental shop has a large selection with low rates, and they can get you out on the mountain quickly. Basic ski and board packages cost $35. If you’re skiing closer to Anchorage, meanwhile, Sports Authority offers rentals for $20 a day.
Skis for Kids
If you’re taking your kids to Alyeska, the Daylodge offers seasonal rentals that will save you a bundle. If you’ll be skiing in Anchorage—at Hilltop or Arctic Valley—Sports Authority has seasonal rentals for the little ones as well. At Sports Authority, new rentals are $119 for the whole season, and used rentals are $89. If you just want to rent for the day, rates are $15.
Skis for Experienced Skiers
As an expert skier, you know it’s key to find the best equipment for the snow you’ll be skiing. Powder Hound Ski Shop offers a top-quality selection for the conditions we face in South Central Alaska. You’ll get great feedback from the staffers on what will suit you best—after all, they get to ski all of the models they sell on a daily basis. They also offer a “demo” program so you can try out skis before you buy them.
This is, hands-down, the biggest factor for a happy, comfortable day on the hill. Make sure you see a trained boot fitter so that you get the proper shape and size boot for your foot. For a variety of backcountry and resort boots, Powder Hound Ski Shop offers highly-trained boot fitters to help you select your perfect fit; before measuring you up, they’ll even ski with you to see exactly what you’ll need. (To get that one-on-one time, just be sure to book an appointment.)
And as more than just a footnote (no pun intended), keep in mind that foot beds are a must. Custom or trim-to-fit, these inserts will make your feet 100-percent happier at the end of the day. Depending on the build, though, they can range up to $200. They can also last more than 20 years, so if you're any level of regular skier, it’s well worth the investment.
If you’re mainly looking for an extremely lightweight touring setup, check out the selection of long-distance tour equipment at Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking (AMH)—this Anchorage institution has been in business for over 30 years.
There are plenty of places to find good-quality clothing in the Anchorage area. Your priorities should be on waterproofing, venting and layering, since our weather in Alaska can change drastically from day to day (and even within a given day).
For backcountry skiing, check out AMH, which offers a large selection of outerwear and base layers that are designed for tough winter conditions. These are the guys who outfit climbers seeking to summit Denali (Mt. McKinley), so to say they know outerwear is an understatement.
If you just need something extra while you’re skiing at Alyeska, the Alyeska Mountain Shop has a great selection of resort outerwear.
You really should get your equipment serviced at least once every season. For quick turnaround and the highest quality wax service in the state, drop off your gear at Powder Hound Ski Shop the night before you plan to ski; it will be done by the time the lifts are spinning the following morning. If you have a pretty damaged pair of skis, you may need a base grind, and SkiAK does a nice job with this. That kind of work can take a bit longer, so factor in some leeway—sometimes more than a week.
The Bottom Line
When getting yourself ready for a ski trip, don’t forgot to make boots a priority— because, like any sport, happy feet make for much happier days. And whenever you can, stick with the stores whose staffers are testing a wide range of gear on a daily basis. While the big-box stores can save you a small percentage on price sometimes, you're more likely to get the right gear the first time around when you get outfitted at local shops.