From Girdwood to Hatchers Pass – Our favorite Nordic Ski Trails
by Marianne Wick, Palmer, AK
We took up Nordic skate skiing six years ago after being frustrated with no exercise outlet during the wintertime. Boy, are we glad we did! If you are looking for a great workout, this is it. Since both your legs and arms are used at all times it not only tones your muscles but is an amazing cardio workout as well. For us though, one of the best parts about the sport is being outside in the quiet and serene woods, surrounded by snow-laden trees, and breathing in the crisp winter air (making it not only a serious workout but a stress-reliever to boot).
Being beginners to the sport we still have much to learn, with many more trails to explore, but for what it’s worth here is a list of favorite ski trails we’ve discovered from Girdwood to Hatchers Pass.
Girdwood: Alyeska is not just for downhill skiers anymore since the addition of the Girdwood Nordic Ski Trails a few years back. The Moose Meadow portion of the trail is very flat but be prepared to climb some hills on the 5k loop! Also, a huge bonus point for us to drive from the Matanuska Valley to ski at Girdwood is the excuse to eat dinner at Jack Sprat (our favorite place to reward ourselves after burning some serious calories).
Kincaid Park (Anchorage): This park has world-class, amazing ski trails with 20k of the 60k trails lighted so you can enjoy night skiing as well. We love Kincaid because the trails are wide, expertly groomed, and there is something for everyone, from beginners to experts (even Olympians Kikkan and Holly have trained there in the past). Since this 1,400-acre park is located in Anchorage you would think the trails would be crowded, but amazingly, that’s not the case. Most of the time we count more moose than people.
Beach Lake (Chugiak): Beach Lake trails are excellent for learning how to Nordic ski. With many flat areas, some easy trails, and even a groomed soccer field, it’s where we often went to get the hang of this new-to-us sport. In addition, there are also many more challenging loops there (yes the “Hill Loop” is aptly named!). We head to Beach Lake often since the 17k trails are only a 20-minute drive from Palmer.
Moose Range (outside Palmer): This large recreational area is actually a multi-use trail system shared by snow machiners, fat tire bikers and skiers. That means the trails aren’t the normal, perfectly groomed variety you will find at the other trail systems. However, on a good snow condition day, nothing beats a ski at the Moose Range! To put our finger on why we feel that way is hard to do, but it may be that you feel like a “wilderness, adventure skier” when you ski here. Skiers seem to either love or hate skiing at the Moose Range and we are definitely in the former group.
Government Peak Recreation Center (lower Hatchers Pass): The Valley’s newest ski trails were much needed and much welcomed! Especially by the HS ski teams who before these trails had to drive all the way to Independence Mine everyday for ski practice due to the lack of snow on the Valley floor. These 7k trails have a spectacular view of Mat-Valley, making it worth the ski right there. Though there are fewer flat areas on this course, the up and down trails are great for getting your heart rate going. We are blessed to have these trails so close by.
Independence Mine (upper Hatchers Pass): We mainly ski on the 20k Independence Mine trails at the beginning and end of winter since it’s the first to have snow arrive and the last to see it go. Getting up to the actual groomed trails is a very, very long climb but the panoramic view at the top is absolutely breathtaking (literally!).
Those are just a few of the numerous XC ski trails that Alaska has to offer. So grab your XC skies (or borrow/rent a pair if you don’t have any) and check these trails out for yourselves. We think you’ll be glad you did. For us, Nordic skiing is just another great part of living the Alaska life.
*For directions/maps to the trails go to:
For current trail conditions check out:
*no payment is required to use these trails but please consider donating to the local ski clubs to help cover grooming costs