Hotel Alyeska, Girdwood

Ski and be seen at the Hotel Alyeska, at the base of Alaska’s premier ski resort. Rustic accents, high-ceiling wood beams and worn leather love seats around a crackling fire exude the warmth of a hunting lodge, while the constant comings-and-goings of Mt. Alyeska-bound boarders make this five-star property the most happening in town.

ROOMS AND DESIGN

The management here clearly knows what a jelly-legged skier needs after a long day on the slopes—comfort and luxury. Cavernous rooms with plush king or twin beds, bathrooms with heated towel racks and movies on demand provide that. The decor is minimal, anything more would detract from the main display: large picture windows showcasing the stunning snow-covered peaks and pines of the surrounding Chugach state park.

Honeymooners wouldn’t want to leave the 2,300-ft royal suite with full kitchen, bath and birds-eye view of the slopes, but the rest of us can still slip into a fluffy robe and slippers, order room service and drop our ski boots on the ventilated boot storage.

FOOD AND RESTAURANTS

Four restaurants, including a sushi bar, help sate any craving but the real gem is the Seven Glaciers Restaurant, located high above the hotel on a mountain-top perch. The menu is pricy at $35-$50 per entree, but the artful selection of local seafood, produce and game brings even locals from nearby Anchorage, 45 minutes by car, to savour signature dishes such as Alaskan King Crab Cakes and Baked Alyeska, a rich chocolate and vanilla meringue dessert sprinkled with coloured candies that represent the Northern Lights, over panoramic glacier and water views! (A tram ride from the hotel is free with your meal.) The Sitzmark Bar and Grill, located in a separate part of the ski resort is more casual and offers burgers, beer and pub grub, with live music on weekends.

STAFF AND SERVICE

Alaskans are known for their hospitality, and Alyeska’s front desk is no exception. Whether you need someone to lug bags and skis to your room, or recommend the best bar in Girdwood that evening, the welcoming front desk is open 24 hours and happy to help. And if you’re up for a real Alaskan adventure, they’ll help you arrange glacier helicopter or snowmobile tours, dog sled outings, ice-climbing clinics and salmon or halibut fishing trips in summer months. What strikes one first is how the hotel easily fuses the best of two worlds, harnessing the raw beauty of Alaska with chic, minimalist style, yet refusing to compromise on the typical comforts of a five star facility. In doing so, it redefines the concept of a luxury brand, proving comfort doesn’t always mean pretentious, nor rustic means doing without.

In fact, when you stay at the Hotel Alyeska, you may experience a new kind of dilemma. Skiing Alaska’s premier slopes is the ultimate adventure, but sometimes, you may just want to hang out at the hotel.