If you love snowboarding, the off the beaten path, back trails kind of boarding, this is a dream.
There are no designated ski areas in Unalaska and no chair lifts; but if you hike or hitch a ride on a snowmobile there are some of the most incredible runs I have ever taken.
You don't have to go far either to find a good run, a short hike will land you in primo snowboarding territory, and none of the mountains are off limits. Just be sure to get a land-use permit from the Ounalashka Corporation before going out.
The best part--no other people...you get the mountain to yourself.
The snow is the best in January and February but boarding is good from early December to late May.
Most people don't know much about the history of World War II in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. In fact, before travling to this remote Island, I wasn't even aware that this part of the U.S. was bombed by the Japanese during the war. However, remains of the war are visible all over the island. On top of Ballyhoo mountain (the mountain directly above the airport) there are a number of old military bunkers and ammunition storages. Many of the bunkers are connected by tunnels, and if you bring a flashligt you can explore the maze of tunnels and buildings. If you are lucky you may find a military canteen, silverware, or coke bottles circa 1940. Wandering through these remains gave me an appreciating of what it must have been like for soldiers here in WWII and it's just cool to walk through (or crawl through) structures actually used during the war. Also, check out the view from the top of the mountain...AMAZING!
Unless you hire Sheila as your guide, you will probably miss the view (and photo op) from atop Haystack Hill.
"You gotta see this", says Sheila, as she points the nose of the van skyward on the trail (I am not even going to call this a road).
The view is spectacular, but some were so scared, that they got out and walked part way down as Sheila turned the van around. The soil was giving way, and she clipped a high tension wire on a radio antennae.
One of the people who got out and walked was her sister!
Sheila drove us to Summer's Bay, on what they call a road (not for the faint of heart). The greenery was lush in mid-August, and offered some pretty views. Along the way, you will see remnants of the military campain from WWII. This is Sheila's nephew at a bunker.
The land is owned by a native corporation and you may not hike without permission (and a fee).
Everyone knows Sheila. I highly recommend her as a tour guide. It will not be your typical tour, but more of an adventure. So Buckle up and hang on.
Sheila is so full of life, and her attitude is infectious. You will not be dissappointed!
Radio ahead on VHF channel 80 as you don't want to miss this!
This is a picture of Sheila's house. If I didn't hype her enough, enlarging this picture should convince you.
The most famous landmark in Unalaaska is the first stop on every tour. Father Peter gave us an excellent tour and explained the layout of an Orthodox Church. The Cathedral contains many beautiful icon which are being restored, and the original text of Fr John Veniaminoff (St Innocent) who translated the Gospels into the Aleutiiq language. He did request that no pictures be taken inside the Cathedral.
I was saddened that an Icon of St Innocent was not available for purchase during our visit. It would be a great remembrance, and should be kept in a place of honor.
There was no charge for the tour, but please be generous and leave a donation for the ongoing restoration work.
Hiking and fishing are pretty much the main attractions. The great thing about Unalaska Island is that there are no bears to worry about, unlike most of Alaska. The ground squirrels can be feisty, though. The halibut fishing is world class but honestly - what are you going to do with 300 lbs of fish?
Like most of Western Alaska, there is a very strong Russian influence. The Russian Orthodox church sits in Unalaska.