Valdez is a city in Valdez-Cordova Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to the 2010 US Census, the population of the city is 3,976. The city is one of the most important ports in Alaska. The port of Valdez was named in 1790 after the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y Fernández Bazán. Valdez is located near the head of a deep fjord in the of Prince William Sound in Alaska. It is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains, which are heavily glaciated. Valdez is the northernmost port in North America that is ice-free year-round. The northernmost point of the coastal Pacific temperate rain forest is in Valdez, on Blueberry Hill. Despite the present of temperate rainforest, Valdez under the Köppen climate classification has a subarctic climate (Dfc): its winters, though much warmer than most climates of this type, are not sufficiently mild, as those of, say, Ketchikan or Kodiak are, to fit into the oceanic or subpolar oceanic climate category.
Valdez is a fishing port, both for commercial and sport fishing. Freight moves through Valdez bound for the interior of Alaska. Sightseeing of the marine life and glaciers, together with both deep-sea fishing, and heli skiing support a tourist industry in Valdez. The oil from the Trans-Alaska pipeline is loaded onto ships at the Valdez oil terminal. It is sometimes called the Switzerland of Alaska. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company is one of the biggest employers in town but it started to move several positions to its headquarters in Anchorage since the town Council passed a resolution charging a tax to all the tankers coming into the port to be loaded with oil. This has had an impact in the population size and the economy. Valdez is connected to the interior of Alaska by the Richardson Highway, and is a port of call in the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. Just north of Valdez on the highway is Thompson Pass, which has spectacular waterfalls and glaciers next to the highway. Thompson Pass is also known for treacherous driving conditions during the winter. Valdez hosted the World Extreme Skiing Champions (WESC) in the early 1990s. In 1993, WESC champion Doug Coombs, along with his wife Emily, went on to found Valdez Heli-Ski Guides at the historic Tsaina Lodge on Thompson Pass. This was the first guided heli skiing in Valdez. Soon afterwards, another WESC champion, Dean Cummings, founded H2O Guides. Both continue to operate to the present-day. There are five heli-ski outfits based in the greater Valdez area.
The Valdez Marine Terminal is an oil port in Valdez, at the southern end of the Alaska Pipeline. The terminal was the point of departure for the Exxon Valdez just prior to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. There are 18 holding tanks at the terminal, and an average of three to five oil tankers depart from the terminal each week. Since the pipeline became operational in 1977, more than 15,000 tankers full of oil have left the terminal.