When does it snow in Alaska? Although Alaska may not have the highest snowfall among states (that honor goes to Vermont), it is home to one of the snowiest cities in the United States.
And that often makes people wonder, “Does it always snow in Alaska?”
Well, what do you think? And when should you plan your visit to Alaska if you are interested in winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, and more? Let’s find out now!
December is the snowiest month in Alaska, but the snowfall can vary greatly from one location to another.
When Does It Snow in Alaska?
Okay, so does it snow all year in Alaska? Not really!
Upon analyzing the data, it becomes clear that Anchorage and most of Southcentral Alaska are known for getting more snow.
They typically receive most of their snowfall either at the beginning of the season, in November and December, or towards the end, from late February to March.
In January and February, the snowfall is usually lighter because of the drier and colder conditions from the North Pole.
Typically, the coldest air of the season settles in during this time and stays for a few weeks.
Where Does It Snow in Alaska?
If you are interested in finding out the exact location of the snowiest spot in Alaska, then Valdez is the place to go.
Valdez, Alaska receives an average of over 20 feet of snowfall yearly. The strategic geographical placement of this area allows for the remarkable accumulation of snow.
Valdez, a small port town, is nestled in the embrace of the Chugach Mountains and bordered by a deep fjord in the Prince William Sound. It is renowned for its significant snowfall.
The Chugach Mountain range boasts remarkable glaciers like:
- The Bagley Icefield
And that is why it is quite common for the town to get about a foot of snow on certain nights because of the cold weather.
Here is a bit more about the recent snowfall data in Alaska:
|Snowpack levels||At 50% of normal|
|Largest recorded snow depth||10 inches in Aniak Snotel|
|Current depth percentage||About 16″, 61% of average depth|
Fact: Valdez receives impressive snowfall due to the special blend of the fjord’s icy impact and the protection offered by the nearby mountains, particularly the Chugach Range.
How Much Does It Snow in Alaska?
Okay, so you may be wondering, “How often does it snow in Alaska?” Well, the truth is that the amount of snowfall in different parts of the state varies greatly.
- Anchorage, for example, gets an average of 79 inches of snow each year, equivalent to the amount received in Burlington, Vermont.
- However, if you travel just two hours to the north, Talkeetna receives significantly more snow because of its higher elevation.
- Alyeska, located just an hour away from Anchorage, receives an average of 178 inches of snow annually.
The National Weather Service at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport recorded a snowfall of two inches recently.
The city has received a total of 100.4 inches of snowfall for the 2022-2023 season.
Here is a bit about the historical data about avg. snowfall from 2015 to 2019:
|Area||Avg. Snowfall in Inches|
Snow usually falls at a speed of 1.5 miles per hour, taking approximately one hour to reach the ground.
Heavier variations, similar to sleet, can increase this speed to 4 mph.
Fact: Since the early 1950s, Anchorage has experienced over 100 inches of snow in a single season for the ninth time.
Is Alaska a Good Place for Winter Vacations?
Alaskan winters typically extend from around October to March, although the temperature and amount of daylight can differ across different regions.
In coastal areas, the weather tends to be milder, and temperatures rarely fall below 20°F.
Winters in Southcentral Alaska
During the winter in Southcentral Alaska, the landscape is covered in a blanket of snow.
This creates the perfect conditions for activities such as skiing, snowmobiling (known as snowmachining to locals), and dog mushing.
Winters in the Interior and Arctic
On the other hand, the winters in the Interior and Arctic regions present a contrasting scene.
In the Interior, snow can start falling as early as October, and temperatures can drop below -30°F during this time.
It is interesting to note that the Arctic is considered a desert, although it is covered in snow.
Fact: Utqiagvik, Alaska's northernmost community, receives less than 5 inches of rainfall per year, even though snow is visible.
Can You Ski in Alaska?
Yes, you can. In fact, those who possess the skill and budget will discover enormous bowls, slopes lined with trees, and unmatched powder skiing experiences.
Certain ski resorts receive an impressive amount of snow each year, reaching a staggering 40 feet or even more.
These resorts are usually popular among the skiing community in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
While the locals enjoy the snowy environment, there are many visitors who specifically come to Alaska for skiing and are particularly interested in heli-skiing adventures.
Many operators provide these trips, where they guide you through the famous Chugach Mountains, allowing you to explore areas that are otherwise inaccessible.
Best Ski Resorts in Alaska
When your goal is to have fun skiing in Alaska, you will be able to choose from many different options.
Here are some of the best hotels that will help you be close to your favorite ski resort in Alaska:
Option #1. Alyeska Resort
Located only 45 minutes from Anchorage, the Ski-in/Ski-out Alyeska Resort is a full-service spa. It has earned a name for itself as a high-end destination.
Skiers often spend a few days at this resort to get their bearings before taking a helicopter into the Chugach Mountains for more serious snow sports.
The resort covers 1,610 acres and boasts an amazing 76 runs and 42 feet of yearly snowfall.
There are wide open groomed slopes, bowls, and plenty ski ski-challenging black and double black diamond trails to explore. The resort brags of having North America’s longest double black diamond run.
Thanks to the resort’s plentiful snow and expansive wooded terrain, tree skiers will find paradise at Alyeska. A 60-person aerial tram, high-speed quad chairs, double chairs, and surface lifts are only some of the nine lifts at this resort.
Keep in mind that midway from December to late April is peak ski season, with weekend hours continuing into early May.
Option #2. Alaskan Hotel and Bar
The Alaska State Museum is only 10-minute away, and the Centennial Hall Convention Center is only a 5-minute walk from the Alaskan Hotel and Bar.
And the best part is that the Eaglecrest Ski Resort is only a two-minute walk away.
The Eaglecrest Ski Resort on Douglas Island is easily accessible from Juneau in about 15 minutes.
Over 26 feet of snow falls each year on the slopes, with a record high of 53 feet set in a single year.
The resort’s top elevation of 2,740 feet offers breathtaking views of Juneau and the surrounding snow-covered peaks, while the resort itself includes a substantial vertical drop of 1,620 feet.
The resort’s 640 acres mean it is perfect for beginners and intermediates of all ages and abilities. Sixty percent of the 36 named routes are easy (blue or green), making them suitable for families and skiers of all levels.
The four double-chair lifts at Eaglecrest provide a comfortable and gentle ascent to the summit.
During the regular season, the resort is open primarily from Wednesday through Sunday.
However, it is open seven days a week during Christmas break and spring break.
Eaglecrest’s ski season typically begins in early December and runs through late April.
Option #3. Aptel Studio Hotel
The Dena’ina Civic Convention Center is only 4.8 kilometers away, while the Anchorage Historic Depot is only 5.2 kilometers away from the recently opened Aptel Studio Hotel.
It is also located 7.3 kilometers from Alpenglow at Arctic Valley.
Only a ten-minute drive from Anchorage, family-owned and operated Arctic Valley has been a popular ski destination since 1961.
This ski area spans over 500 acres and features varied terrain suitable for skiers of all abilities, especially those in the intermediate and novice range.
Weekends are the only time Arctic Valley is open, so if it snows during the week, skiers and snowboarders can look forward to deep, fluffy powder on the weekend.
All of the skiing on the resort’s 25 named slopes, which cover 1,400 vertical feet along a wide ridge, takes place above the tree line, providing spectacular vistas on sunny days.
The resort’s small base lodge has everything skiers need, from a restaurant to a rental shop to lockers.
Fact: At Arctic Valley, sliding down the long chute at the tube park is also an exhilarating alternative to skiing.
Option #4. Pike’s Waterfront Lodge
Pike’s Waterfront Lodge is in a prime location for those interested in boating and fishing on the Chena River. The resort is ideally located, being only one mile away from the University of Alaska–Fairbanks.
Although Moose Mountain does not have ski lifts, skiers can get to the top of its 42 runs by turbo-charged school buses.
This innovative method provides a one-of-a-kind skiing adventure with the same level of ease as conventional lifts.
Moose Mountain is the largest inner resort in Alaska, stretching across 750 acres and including a 1,300-foot vertical drop. Although annual snowfall is just about five feet on average, the quality of that snow is stable since it lasts so long.
Fact: Moose Mountain, in an effort to alleviate the overcrowding that plagued the base area last season, now uses an online ski lift ticket reservation system.
How Cold Does it Get in Alaska?
Winters are not as bad as people say they are, despite widespread myths to the contrary.
Anchorage enjoys a more temperate environment than inland towns like Chicago and Minneapolis because of its proximity to the shore.
The ocean also helps keep Southeast Alaska at a comfortable temperature.
On the other hand, it gets very cold in the Interior.
Fairbanks and similar places, far from the coast, can experience subzero temperatures for weeks at a time (albeit it is a dry cold that is less biting than it might sound).
Bear in mind that Alaskan weather is notoriously spotty. A one- or two-hour travel in any direction can bring a temperature difference of up to 30 degrees.
Here is a bit about the highest and lowest temperatures in the history of Alaska:
|Highest temp||Fort Yukon||100F|
|Lowest temp||Prospect Creek||-79.8F|
|Lowest annual normal temp||Utqiagvik||9.3F|
|Lowest summer normal temp||Utqiagvik||36.4F|
|Lowest winter normal temp||Barter Island||-15.7F|
What to Pack When Visiting Alaska?
You can pack the usual stuff for a winter vacation, but the most important thing to get ready for is not the snow or the temperature.
The lack of sunlight from around the middle of November until the end of January can be trying.
Many Alaskans choose to escape the cold for a week or two during this time. If you decide to follow suit, you may find it easier to adjust to the reduced lighting.
The winter months are a photographer’s dream, with their low-angle light and the magnificent Alpenglow that decorates the sky.
Things to Explore in Alaska During Winter?
Once you have done skiing, there are many other things to try in Alaska during winter.
Heliskiing in Thompson Pass
If you do not like hiking uphill but want to shred the world’s best powder, hire a chopper.
Even though a day of skiing might easily cost over $6,000, there is no better way to enjoy the snow sports Alaska has to offer.
You know you have gotten someplace amazing when you can ride numerous 2,000-foot lines in a single day.
See Glaciers Up Close
Although seeing glaciers at any time of the year is a treat, their appeal increases as the temperatures drop.
During this time of year, they take on a pristine white color, with the signature glacial blue color radiating from any visible fissures.
Keep in mind that snowy trails can make it difficult to reach some of them, including Exit Glacier.
Fact: When visiting remote locations like Matanuska Glacier, it is wise to hire a seasoned local guide to ensure your safety.
Visit National Parks in the Winter
Even in the dead of winter, Alaska’s national parks and pristine ecosystems retain their natural beauty.
Skiing, biking, snowshoeing, and educational opportunities are just a few of the fantastic winter pursuits that await visitors to Denali National Park.
Skiing, motorcycling, and snowshoeing are all possible in Kenai Fjords National Park, and there are also organized trips to Exit Glacier.
Seward’s snowy beaches and glaciers fed by the Harding Ice Field are best seen on a backpack boat journey into the National Park.
Alaskans celebrate dog sledding’s storied history all winter long.
Dog sleds were once the primary mode of transportation for native Alaskans, and this tradition lives on in remote communities.
Nearly a hundred mushers worldwide compete yearly in the Iditarod, a dog sled race spanning 1100 miles from Anchorage to Nome.
The children of Nome needed emergency serum delivery in 1925, and this marathon honors their journey.
What is the Best Time to Plan Your Visit to Alaska?
The peak tourist season in Alaska is from May 10th to September 15th. Temperatures will be in the mid 70s, there will be 16-24 hours of daylight.
However, the long, dark winter nights in Alaska make it an ideal place to go on vacation to see the northern lights.
In addition, after the winter solstice, each day will have a little bit more daylight.
The months of February through April offer the longest days, making them ideal for sightseeing.
When does it snow in Alaska? You can expect most snow in December, but the winters last till March, so you can always plan your visit accordingly.
But, one thing is for sure you are going to get some of the best skiing opportunities in Alaska, especially at the Alyeska Resort, which offers some amazing slopes and various other facilities.
So, start packing and get moving!