January in R11R, Alaska signals the beginning of the heli- and cat-ski season. Alyeska Resort and Chugach Powder Guides team up to offer packages for one day to one week of backcountry skiing or riding in the mountains around Girdwood.

The Chugach Powder Guides office is located on the second floor of The Hotel Alyeska at Alyeska Resort, and the hotel concierge desk can add on a day of heli- or cat-skiing January through April for those already skiing or riding the slopes at Alyeska. You can add on a full day of heli-skiing that guarantees 16,000-20,000 vertical for $1,075 per person or reserve a full day of cat-skiing at $325 per person. You can also opt to go standby for $285 per person.

We spoke with Chugach Powder Guides owner Chris Owens to get a preview for the season. "We don't try to call it more than 12-18 hours in advance, but La Ninas usually work out pretty well for us," he said. "Right now the snow is dry and light, but historically we do get big dumps with La Nina."

Multi-day packages combine heli-, cat-skiing, or both with lodging at The Hotel Alyeska at Alyeska Resort while skiing and riding the mountains surrounding Girdwood. Trips run three to seven days with an extra night of lodging to accommodate travel days. Round trip transportation from Anchorage International Airport is included. "We're getting sold for some weeks, but still have availability, and we have quite a bit of capacity," Owens added.

The Alyeska Hotel packages add convenience. Some days, heli-skiing may require a 20-minute shuttle to a remote staging zone to access the best skiing on the safest slopes in the 750,000 acres of Chugach Powder Guide terrain. But much of the time, the access is much closer. "The cat departs 100 yards away from the hotel, and the hanger for heli-skiing sits about three minutes away by shuttle," explained Owens. "The beauty of Girdwood is there is no such thing as a no ski day. We may have a no fly day, but we're out in the snowcat or ripping up the north face of Alyeska because it's snowing like crazy."

Week long heli-ski trips run Feb. 12-April 17. They include eight nights of lodging and seven days of skiing or riding that totals 80,000-100,000 of vertical. Rates run $6,800-8,300, depending on the week. The five-day heli-ski package that guarantees 50,000 to 60,000 vertical and includes six nights of lodging is available Feb. 13-April 16. Rates run $4,950-5,950.

Combination heli- and cat-skiing packages are available, too. They mix two days of heli-skiing with three days of cat-skiing and lodging. Rates run $4,275-5,120.

The cat-skiing and lift-skiing packages, which cost $1,900-2,700, include six nights of lodging, two days of resort lift tickets, and three days of cat-skiing. Three- and five-day cat-skiing packages with lodging run $1,600-3,300.

All multi-day cat- or heli-ski packages must be booked through Chugach Powder Guides.

More information: Hotel Alyeska concierge, 907-754-2108; Chugach Powder Guides, 907-783-4354.