Guest Author - Dawn Engler
Alaska is a beautiful state. There are so many ways to see it. Cruise ship, train, helicopter, driving, boating, hiking, and camping all from late May to September. But what do you do in the winter? Believe it or not, you can do quite a bit.
Imagine cruising along on the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage and Fairbanks, with travels through Denali and alongside that great Mount McKinley. Besides seeing the countryside while someone else drives, the overnight stays almost always include being able to see some of those beautiful Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. That is definitely a plus side to the extra hours of darkness. Bring your snowshoes or skis and in the free time, enjoy some cross country snow! Maybe take a side trip to the Arctic Circle? How about some dog sled mushing? You can time your trip around the Iditarod and see the racers take off from Anchorage in early spring. Or book accommodations early and you can watch the winner cross the finish line in Nome mid-March.
Most public accessed lands remain open in the winter months. You will find less public restrooms and facilities open, but you can still enjoy the great outdoors. Downhill and cross country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sled racing, and to loosen up those stiff joints, a nice soak in the hot tub under the stars sounds great! In April, there is an extreme competition called Arctic Man that puts together snow machining, skiing, and snowboarding. Or you could try Heli-Skiing if you are an advanced skier. Yes, a helicopter drops you at top of a mountain and you ski down 5,000 vertical feet.
There are still many things to do in Alaska in the “off season”. And while we all tend to imagine Alaska as this state with darkness for half the year, really, beginning with the winter solstice, December 21, the days start getting longer! Depending on where in the state you are, thirteen hours of daylight is still plenty of time to see some wonderful Alaska. The snow settles in and the eerie quiet and peacefulness of winter surrounds everything. Light reflects off the snow helping make the days stretch. A general average temperature hovers around twenty degrees Fahrenheit, so put on some snuggies under your coat and you’ll do just fine. A mug of hot chocolate and quiet reflection of your own, awaits your return when you are through playing in the outdoors.