On my Alaska trip, I drove the 330 miles from Anchorage up to Fairbanks to shred at the farthest north ski area on the North American continent. Fairbanks, is in the heart of the great Alaskan interior, sitting in a huge valley between the Brooks Range in the far north and the great Alaska Range to the south. The Alaska Range is a massive and impressive range of mountains with giants that reach the 14,000 foot level starting from about 500 feet. The crown jewl of this range of course is Mt. McKinley which rises to over 20,000 feet and is North America`s tallest mountain. On a clear day, you can see this giant from Fairbanks, 150 miles away. Fairbanks is Alaska`s cold spot, reaching -50 F easily and -40 F is common in Jan and Feb. The surrounding hills give Fairbanks a "New England" look with interspeserd Sitka Spruce and Birch trees. Inversions are common and in the hills above Fairbanks, the temperature can be 30 degrees warmer than in town.
North east of Fairbanks, the Steese Highway winds up over the hills to Cleary Summit on it`s way to Circle, Alaska. Shortly out of town, the Dalton Highway veers off to the north, toward Livengood and the North Slope where Prudhoe Bay lies some 465 miles via gravel road. At the 20.5 mile marker at the top of Cleary Summit, a turn to the right on Fairbanks Creek Road, will take you to Mt. Aurora Skiland. This wonderfull ski area sits at the top of a north facing valley into a creek drainage. A giant U shaped ridge with a cat track, makes for nearly a 180 degree bowl with a variety of runs that funnel down into the main creek drainage where the bottom of the single chairlift waits to haul the rider back to the top. The runs are surprisingly steep and offer some fine riding. There are ample off piste tree runs through Sitka Spruce and tall Birch trees. The western fork of the main drainage, called Tucker Road has a lot of gullies and fun hits to do natural freestyle tricks on. Willie`s Way and Walrus are the runs on this side for lovers of the steeps. I found them to be very nice runs. For a long run, one can ride the cat track called Cleary City over to Tamarack; this is very gentle, yet pleasant ride through the quiet Sitka Spruce forest with a real treat of a nice long blue run down Tamarack.
By far, the most chalenging and fun runs are access from the east side off of Jane`s Joy and Speninle Bahn. Runs like Madness, Mama Bear and Bob`s Bomb are a real rush in good snow conditions. The best Birch tree runs can be found by going off piste between Big Dippr and Binkley`s Bowl. A word of caution; if you travers north past Binkley`s Bowl to run down Big Dipper or White Alice, you will have a short (100 yards no more) walk back to the chairlift at the bottom. It is well worth it as these runs are very nice and have some of the larger trees.
The chairlift is an old but sturdy and reliable Silver Star double chair powered by a diesel engine. The day lodge is a cozy building overlooking the entire valley and the endless rolling hills and mountains to the north. There are huge windows and a gas freestanding fireplace to warm up by. Skiland offeres rental equipment, lessons and is patroled by Fairbanks Ski Patrol. The additional feature of Mt. Auroa is at night they have Aurora viewing from this lodge where visitors can view and photograph spectacular Northern Lights from the warmth and comfort of this building. Hot drinks are served and the cost is a reasonable $25 for a night of Auroa viewing. The owners of Skiland also run the nearby bed and breakfast called the Fairbanks Creek Lodge. This is the most charming, warm and friendly inn I have ever experienced. It is actually and old dormitory from the gold rush days, housing miners. The upper story contains small rustic rooms with shared adjoining bathrooms. Downstairs is a mess hall style eating area and warm comfortable sitting area with big screen TV and cable.
Every morning a huge, delicious breakfast is served buffet style with Saturady and Sunday brunch that will stuff you. This lodge is less than 5 mins away from the slopes and is accessed off the same Fairbanks Creek Road, but bear right imediately after making the turn off of the Steese Highway and follow it about 1 mile to the left hand driveway. For really cold nights, they offer plug ins for you car.
The owners of the lodge and ski area, are just top notch folks who go the extra mile to accomodate their guests. If you ever get the opportunity to go to Fairbanks in the winter, it is well worth taking the time to go ride at the farthest north ski area in North America. Check the online recorded condition report. When the temperatures drop well below the -20 F they do not operate due to lack of customers willing to ski and ride in those conditions. It was -14 F when I rode there and it really was not that bad since it is a dry calm cold. Traditionally Mt. Auroa Ski Land is only open on weekends and holidays.
Mt Aurora Ski Land Fairbanks, Alaska.
View from the lodge
East rim from the lift
West rim from the lift
Sunset at 2:30 PM from Willie`s Way
Sunset from Lodge looking north at endless rolling hills
A perfect end to a great day of shredding the Arctic
For more information and trail maps, goto the official website of Mt. Auroa Ski Land and the Fairbanks Creek Lodge:
Mt. Aurora Skiland - The Farthest North Downhill Ski Area in North America!
Mount Aurora Fairbanks Creek Lodge