Winter is a spectacular season in Alaska. Festivals, sports, and the miracle of the northern lights offer action and adventure for everyone.
Winter is Alaska's quiet time, when much of the land is blanketed by soft pastels, and crystalline shapes sparkle in the sun. Soft, powdery snow invites the child in everyone to come outside and play. And you'll find plenty of friendly company to show you how and where to have the best winter fun.
At the end of the day, enjoy a sauna at your lodge or hotel. Then settle back in front of a frontier-size fire and relax. Alaska is a winter paradise, filled with visual delights, indoor comforts, and outdoor adventures.
At Alyeska Ski Resort, 40 miles south of downtown Anchorage, two high-speed quads and a 60-passenger tram whisk you 2,800 vertical feet above scenic Turnagain Arm. Try Anchorage's Hilltop Ski Area, Aplenglow at Arctic Valley, Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau, and Cleary Summit in Fairbanks. Alaska has produced two Winter Olympic medalists, 1994 gold medal winner Tommy Moe and 1992 silver medal winner Hilary Lindh.
Track through mountain valleys, ski beside the sea, or take advantage of groomed and lighted trails. Cozy mountain lodges throughout Interior and Southcentral are idyllic cross-country retreats, accessible by highway or ski plane. Near Fairbanks, ski to a hot mineral bath at Chena Hot Springs. Or try Anchorage's Kincaid Park, site of the 1994 Olympic Trials.
Other favorite Southcentral cross-country ski areas are Chugach State Park, Hatcher Pass Recreation Area, and Turnagain Pass. In the Inside Passage, the Tongass National Forest provides variable terrain, and Eaglecrest Ski Area's track-set trails are great for limbering up.
Dog mushing is the official sport of Alaska. Take your turn with a team of spirited huskies on a sled dog tour. You can mush for an hour, or several days.
Annual sled dog races show off the extensive training of dogs and drivers. The 1,049-mile (1,678-km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome, The Last Great Race on Earth, grips the entire world in March. Other spectacular events include the Open North America Championship, and Yukon Quest International in Fairbanks, which is considered by many to be the most difficult sled dog race.
Many animals are easier to spot against a backdrop of snow. Arrange a photo safari with a wilderness guide, or look for caribou, moose, and wolves while enjoying a flightseeing tour. At the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines an estimated 3,500 bald eagles feed on salmon from late October through January. The eagles are easily seen from the highway.
Throughout the season, communities host winter carnivals and festivals. You can take in the Tent City Winter Festival in Wrangell, or the Iceworm Festival in Cordova. The Anchorage Fur Rendevous, "Mardi Gras of the North," attracts thousands of celebrants for a fur auction, costume ball, and the World Championship Sled Dog Races. Other exciting winter events include the Taku Rondy in Juneau, Ice Festival in Fairbanks, and Winter Carnival in Valdez. See the Calendar of Events for other listings.