Winter may be slow season for tourists in Alaska, but for winter sports enthusiasts and adventure seekers it can be an excellent time to visit the US’s northernmost state. Average daytime temperatures are around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and daylight hours range from 6 to 13 hours per day in most of the state. Adventure vacations in Alaska are available throughout the winter months, but some specific winter sports vacations are limited to shorter seasons.
The state’s most famous dogsledding event is the 1,150-mile Iditarod race from Anchorage to Nome. Taking place annually in March, the race takes mushers 10 to 17 days from start to finish. Visitors can incorporate the Iditarod into their vacation by attending the opening in Anchorage, celebrating with mushers at the finish line in Nome or visiting checkpoints along the trail. Alaska Iditarod Tours offers multiday vacation packages that coincide with the race.
If you want go dogsledding yourself, check out the three-day dog sledding tours offered by The Alaska Adventure Company. You’ll learn how to mush with former Iditarod mushers and tour the backcountry of Denali.
The mountain ranges of Alaska offer numerous spots for high-altitude skiing and snowboarding with a helicopter drop-off. Chugach Powder Guides has seven-day heli-skiing vacations in the Tordrillo Mountains just south of Denali National Park. From Haines, Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA) offers full-package vacations and “just skiing” rates, and Points North Heli Adventures offers heli-skiing runs and vacations in the Chugach Mountains at Cordova.
Alaska’s Ice Climbing Festival and competition takes place annually in March. You can coordinate your Alaska vacation with the festival to see some of Alaska’s best ice climbers in action, or you can have a go at ice climbing yourself. The Ascending Path offers ice-climbing tours and vacation packages from Anchorage to Thunderbird Falls, Portage and Seward Highway.
During winter, snowmobile is often the most convenient way to get around Alaska’s backcountry areas. You can include a full or half-day snowmobile tour in your Alaska winter vacation or reserve a multiday snowmobile backcountry vacation. Alaska Snow Safaris operates snowmobile trips out of Valdez, Denali, Girdwood and Summit Lake, and Glacier City Snowmobile Tours has day tours from Girdwood.
Northern Lights Viewing
Winter is prime time to view the aurora borealis, or northern lights, in Alaska. While you can see the northern lights throughout the state, the best place to view them is the Far North. Northern Alaska Tour Company offers winter adventure tours that include aurora viewing in the Brooks Range and driving across the Arctic Circle. Northern lights viewing vacations from Fairbanks can also be combined with winter vacations in the Canadian Yukon.
Sources:Travel AlaskaAlaska Wildland Adventures