Must Visit Alaska and Western Canada Ski Areas
Alaska and the Canadian Northwest might be known for their rugged, remote terrain and the high-octane adventures often undertaken across it, but that doesn’t mean the only way to experience the singular beauty of this region is via expedition. The top Nordic ski areas listed below manage to make the wondrous wild of this region accessible to all, without watering down its grandeur or taming its exhilarating topography. Be sure to follow the links to the websites of these awesome ski areas for more information and to plan your own trips!
Eaglecrest Nordic Center
Though there might be slightly vaster ski offerings in Alaska, what Eaglecrest Nordic Center lacks in trail length, it makes up for with its convenient location, excellent amenities, and views, views, views. Linked to the Eaglecrest Ski Area, the Center sits just outside of Juneau, on Douglas Island, giving visitors a lush panorama of the island’s peaks and the adjacent Gastineau Channel. Tickets, lessons and equipment can be purchased and rented at the Eaglecrest Lodge, which also offers delicious ski fare and the full après spread at the Tower Bar. Nordic passes are $18 for adults, and kids ski free!
Strathcona Wilderness Centre
The name of this remote gem tells you all you need to know: at Strathcona Wilderness Centre, getting into the wild is the name of the game. Located on a stunning island of forest in the UNESCO Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve, the Centre’s 15 km of well-maintained trails loop along lake and forest edges and lead curious visitors to various lookouts, and lovely picnic and camping spots. The rental shop has a full range of cross-country ski gear available, as well as sit-skis and skinning equipment for folks to try. Be sure to bring your own ingredients and cook a delicious feast for you and your crew over a woodfire. Plan your expedition to this understated ski destination here!
Photo Credit: JaN Studios
Cypress Mountain Resort
Known as Canada’s most popular cross country ski destination, Cypress Mountain’s 19km of wide corduroy and well-tracked trails offer an utterly unique perspective on the Vancouver area—especially as the Resort is the only Nordic ski center in the North Shore mountains. Used to accommodating throngs of visitors, the Center is equipped with a comprehensive inventory of Nordic gear, as well as the largest Nordic ski school in the country. If you are looking for top-notch terrain accompanied by excellent customer service and caring instruction, then this is the place for you. And if you’re in town for a few nights, don’t miss the Resort’s 8 km of night-skiing trails, which lend a whole other view of Cypress Mountain and its nocturnal beauty. Learn more here!
Whistler Lost Lake
As a general rule, if the Olympics have been to a ski venue, skiing there is going to be a pretty memorable experience. Whistler, and the Lost Lake trails that run along the resort’s edge, are no exception. The Olympic park (which includes a pretty awe-inspiring pass through the Olympic stadium, and swings by the ski jumps) brings 20 some odd kilometers of stellar terrain—of both the expert and the family caliber—to the table. Add to that the 30 km of long, gently undulating trails around Lost Lake, and you have many days’ worth of exhilarating adventuring and fun family activity. You can even extend that to a few nights’ worth of fun, on the fully lit Lost Lake night skiing course! Plan your visit here.
The Ridge for which this one-of-a-kind British Columbia ski destination is named is a sprawling plateau on the Sunshine Coast, whose 1,200-meter-elevation offers sweeping views of both the Coast Mountains and Vancouver Island. Over 20 kilometers of pristine ski trials will lead you through old growth forests and subalpine terrain, all the way up to these gorgeous vistas. A user-pay operation, your trip to Dakota Ridge is really what you make of it. Be sure to pick up a trail map and chat with a volunteer patroller before setting out on a sure-to-be wondrous adventure into the Southwest BC backcountry—which also happens to be Vancouver’s backyard! Learn more about this tucked-away treasure here.
Juneau Nordic Ski Club
This remarkable volunteer-run nonprofit boasts an impressive diversity of groomed terrain for its visitors and members to explore. By maintaining trails on public lands throughout the Juneau area, the Nordic Ski Club offers skiers both skate and classic terrain, that ranges in difficulty from novice to advanced. Of special interest may be the Montana Creek or Kaxdigoowu Héen trail, which follows the Creek uphill through what locals know to be an especially cold swath of forest—which means more snow, for longer—and opens out onto views of the frosty creek below and of Mt. McGinnis. But whether you’re looking for climbs and views or flat loops of hard cardio, this group of dedicated Juneauan skiers has you covered. Find specific directions and instructions at their website.
Since 1983, this Anchorage institution has been responsible for both maintaining a vast array of trails in and around the city and providing skiers new and seasoned with the information and support they need to enjoy them. The trails fall into around a dozen individual trail networks, each of which has its own appeal and particular geographical advantage. Several of the trail hubs are within Anchorage proper, while many others extend around the city limits. In addition to snowmaking and trail-grooming, the Ski Association also offers several off-the-grid cabins for group rental, as well as an exciting series of annual races which brings together skiers from near and far to celebrate the winter season and the sport they love. Lear more here!
Panorama Nordic Centre
An extension of British Columbia’s Panorama Mountain Resort, this Nordic center boasts over 20 km of trails, which follow the Tobey Creek up from the base of the mountain through the surrounding pine and fir forests, and across the gentle terrain of the Greywolf Golf Course. Skiers who make it to the far end of the trial network will be rewarded by a dense, hilly section of hairpin turns and heart pumping climbs and drops. As the name suggests, these trails frequently open out onto broad vistas that show off the long creek valley and the surrounding, snow-topped heights. Beyond their own trails, pass-holders at Panorama will also have access to the trails at Lake Lillian, Whiteway and Nipika Mountain.
Within the impressive downhill ski terrain of British Columbia’s Silverstar Mountain Resort lies an intricate network of trails equally as impressive: the Nordic ski trails that are folded into the alpine slopes alone add up to 55 km of breathtaking, expertly groomed terrain that varies widely in difficulty. Views of the surrounding peaks and the rugged mountains of Banff National Park to the east abound as the paths groomed for both skate and classic wind their way through the foothills of Silverstar Mountain. Add to this the 50 km of trails that loop and climb around nearby Sovereign Lake—which lies a few miles to the west and can be accessed via the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre—and you have one of the largest Nordic trail systems in Canada.
While the Sovereign Lake trails are often lumped in with the Silverstar ones when talking about the Silverstar region’s Nordic scene, they are indeed maintained by and accessed through the folks at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre. This nonprofit organization provides its 3,200 members and countless visitors access to the high-elevation winter wonderland of the provincial park that surrounds Silverstar Mountain. The adventures begin from the Centre’s day lodge, just off Sovereign Lake Road. From there, the eponymous Sovereign Lake is just minutes away, while long, moderately difficult trails take skiers to the edge of the Sovereign Lake terrain, where warming huts like the Black Prince Cabin offer bathrooms and shelter. For the intrepid, more challenging routes like Aberdeen span the six kilometers separating Sovereign Lake from Silverstar Mountain and can make for long, rewarding excursions.