Winter Tourist Season in Alaska

Winter Tourist Season in Alaska
More than 300,000 people flock to Alaska in the wintertime. The most often quoted reasons for visiting Alaska in winter include winter sports, Aurora viewing and the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Winter activities are as varied as they are epic. Outdoor sports opportunities are nearly limitless, with abundant skiing (downhill or cross-country), snowboarding, sledding, ice skating, hiking and biking. You can plan your own outings, or take advantage of great packages. Grab your winter jacket and let's go!

Skiing and snowboarding:
Alyeska Resort in Girdwood – truly some of the best skiing and snowboarding in North America, with an overall vertical rise, from top to base, of 3,200 feet and average seasonal snowfall at the top of the mountain often exceeding 600”. Alyeska’s runs cover 1,610 skiable acres with over 75 trails, including one of the longest double-black diamond runs to be found. Only an hour from Anchorage, the mountain boasts spectacular views you simply can’t find anywhere else, on or off the slopes and even a 4-star, mountain-top restaurant.

Watch the Iditarod Sled Dog Race:
Be in downtown Anchorage for the exciting ceremonial start of the “Last Great Race” on the first Saturday in March! Better yet, plan ahead and bid on a spot to ride as an “IditaRider”, in the sled of one of the iconic mushers for the 11-mile ceremonial race start. Thousands of spectators throng the snow-covered sidewalks for a view of the 50-plus teams of eager Alaskan Huskies and their mushers. After the 11-mile run through the downtown streets and roadways of Anchorage, the mushers load up huskies and sleds and head to Willow, two hours north on the Parks Highway, for the start of the actual race to Nome the following day.

Aurora Borealis Viewing:
Would you rather witness Alaska’s winter splendor without the need to be on your feet all day? Viewing the northern lights is often high on the wish list for wintertime visitors. Seeing the sometimes-elusive aurora borealis can’t be guaranteed, of course, but the trip itself is an awesome adventure and the further north you venture, the better your chances of seeing lights dancing in the sky.

A favorite winter outing starts on the great Alaska Railroad. They offer “Aurora Winter Train” packages on weekends which include round trip train fare from Anchorage to Fairbanks, overnight lodging and Aurora viewing tours – all in one package. The train ride itself is awesome. The Aurora Trains leave Anchorage heading northbound on Saturdays, and depart Fairbanks on Sundays, heading back south. In mid-winter; the Alaska Railroad also offers select Aurora Trains mid-week when Aurora activity is high.

Another great aurora-viewing option can be found at Chena Hot Springs, only 61 miles outside of Fairbanks. Take advantage of nightly Aurora-watch tours (weather permitting) as well as soaking in their world-famous natural hot springs.

Chena Hot Springs offers their own packages, which can include a fun night-time ride in a sturdy military-style all-terrain vehicle taking visitors along the isolated Charlie Dome trail (also available for snow-shoeing enthusiasts). Travel through a spectacular black spruce forest to the top of Charlie Dome, a hill-top destination far from the lights of civilization, where you will have an unobstructed 360-degree view to watch for the northern lights. At the top of Charlie Dome, you will find heated yurts to warm up in as well as tour-provided hot drinks and snacks. There is no plumbing or water in the yurts, so be prepared to use outhouses. It’s all part of the experience!

Alaska is wondrous any time of year, but in winter, the entire state sparkles with snow and ice. If you are up for a winter adventure and want to see Alaska in all it’s true breath-taking glory, journey here in winter and be prepared to be awed.

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