Alaska’s winter appeal
Think Alaska might be a little too brisk for a winter visit? America’s iciest state comes into its own during the colder months, presenting snowy options almost unimaginable to those of us from warmer climates. Suit up and explore the best of Alaska’s winter wonderland.
Canine-based transport is about as Alaskan as it gets, and winter is a key time to witness the state’s official sport. Visitors from around the world gather to see sled dog races like the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome, or the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in which elite dogs can cover between 60 and 160 kilometres at a time.
A snowmobile is often the best way to explore the Alaskan wilderness when it’s blanketed in pristine snow, and numerous tour operators offer both guided and unguided treks into the backcountry. Locals often call them “snowmachines” and top locations include Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Valdez, Haines, the MatSu Valley, Girdwood and the Kenai Peninsula.
The surreal lights of the aurora borealis are best viewed during the northern winter months and are most active around the time of the autumn and spring equinoxes. It generally means rising in the wee hours — and on clear nights when temperatures plunge — but many hotels offer northern lights wake-up calls. Visitors can track activity on the University of Alaska website: auroraforecast.gi.alaska.edu
Alaska’s winter festivals offer a quirky mix of arts and culture. The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival, or “Fur Rondy”, coincides with the Iditarod Dog Sled Race and includes events like snowshow softball and snow sculpting. Those braver may opt to jump into frigid waters in the Polar Bear Jump in Seward, while in Fairbanks, the World Ice Art Championships features the work of top ice sculptors.