I arrived in Girdwood, Alaska, on Thanksgiving Day after spending a month on the road. Our journey started in Colorado and we explored the Pacific coast all the way up to Vancouver, where we quickly revamped our plan because camping in a tent every night in the cold and snow is not as glamorous at we thought it would be.
Taking the ferry to Haines from Vancouver Island turned out to be the highlight of our trip, however, because an adventure through the Inside Passage is incredible anytime of the year. Who doesn’t want to snuggle on chairs under the heat lamps on the deck of a ferry, and see glaciers and eagles and mountains? (It’s called the poor man’s cruise, and I highly suggest you check it out.)
We slept on the side of the road somewhere outside of Tok, crammed in my Subaru with our pup and all our gear. Eager to reach our final destination, we woke early to a light dusting of snow and started driving in the darkness.
The snow turned to rain, and the rain turned to a torrential downpour as soon as we headed south on the Seward Highway. I had never experienced wind and rain like that—especially since I had lived in the Rocky Mountains in a ski town known for its champagne powder. It was Thanksgiving. We were hoping to strap on our skis for our first turns of the season. Instead, our car felt like it was going to be slammed either into the huge mountains to our left or swept out to sea to our right.
We arrived in the soggy, dark town of Girdwood later that afternoon with equally soggy attitudes. With just enough money in our bank account to hopefully find an apartment, we checked into the local hostel for the night. Our new roommates quickly filled us in on what was going on in our new home: the mountain had opened early because of tons of early season powder, but the rain had shut it down and now there was a hiring freeze at Alyeska Resort, our hopeful employers. It was a depressing welcome to Alaska.
It’s a grim feeling indeed, waiting on snow. But it ended up coming, as it always does. Waking up every morning to avalanche bombs gives you such a warm feeling of anticipation of the winter wonderland waiting to be skied.
Over a decade and two children later, I still have that feeling. I’m waiting on the snow—to ski on, to build a snowman, to sled, to snowshoe, and to build snow forts in. Maybe I’ll even get crazy and pitch a tent again, nestled in the snow covered trees, in the beautiful Chugach mountains.
What are your favorite snowy adventures in Alaska? Tell us about it in the comment below.