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Alaska Snow and Ski

Slopes and Slides
Alaska Snow and Ski
When termination dust falls (the first snowfall of the season, usually in August) on the back range of Alaska’s mountains, most of the state’s winter-loving residents start getting antsy for skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, winter biking!
Photo courtesy of Hage Photo/Alyeska
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    Slopes and Slides
    Slopes and Slides
    Alaska’s snowy peaks are a natural fit for ski and snowboard resorts, which often receive an incredible 52 feet of snow per season. The king of Alaskan slopes is Alyeska, nestled in a quiet valley of the Chugach Mountains, 40 miles south of Anchorage and attractive to more serious skiers on account of its high, rough terrain. But that shouldn’t discourage beginners from dipping their toes in Alaskan winter sports: Juneau’s Eaglecrest and Anchorage’s Hilltop resort are popular with locals and much more beginner-friendly.
    Photo courtesy of Hage Photo/Alyeska
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    Snowshoe Across the Frontier
    Snowshoe Across the Frontier
    Leave your footprint on Alaska’s winter landscape by snowshoeing across it. After a few steps, you’ll hit expert level. (Yes, it’s that easy.) Around Anchorage, visit Kincaid Park, Far North Bicentennial Park, and Powerline Pass; Independence Mine and Eklutna Lake, both within an hour’s drive of Anchorage, offer unbelievable vistas. In the Denali area midwinter? The winter visitor center loans out snowshoes for free.
    Photo courtesy of Daniel A. Leifheit/Denali NPS
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    Try Your Luck at Ice Fishing
    Try Your Luck at Ice Fishing
    Alaska has abundant fresh fish all year, but winter is the only season when you can safely stomp across frozen ice, carve out your own hole in the ground, and settle down with cocktail shrimp bait to wait for the fish to bite. South-Central Alaska is the state’s most popular fishing region, with over 180 frozen lakes full of landlocked salmon, arctic char, rainbow trout, and arctic grayling. If you’re an enthusiast, try to make it out in February for the Jewel Lake Ice Fishing Jamboree near Anchorage, or in March for the Mat-Su Valley Pike Derby.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Mush on a Dogsled Tour
    Mush on a Dogsled Tour
    Alaska is one of the few places on earth where you can take control of world-class dog racers by grabbing hold of traditional ropes and shouting, “Mush!” There are several authentic dogsled tours near Juneau and Anchorage, many of which are run by seasoned competitors of the notorious Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. One of Alaska’s landmark events, this 1,000-mile dogsled race—from Anchorage to Nome, in the far northwest—is held every March. Dogsledding is one of the most unique and beautiful ways to view gorgeous mountain ranges and herds of wandering caribou, wolves, and moose in the vastness of the Arctic tundra.
    Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan/State of Alaska Tourism Office
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    Zoom Over the Tundra on a Snowmobile
    Zoom Over the Tundra on a Snowmobile
    The quickest way to traverse Alaska’s spotless backwoods and frozen rivers is by renting a snow machine—or, as people in the Lower 48 call it, a snowmobile. There’s no shortage of companies offering independent rentals or guided tours through the mighty Chugach Mountains or across the scenic Skookum or Twentymile glaciers south of Anchorage. More ambitious travelers should consider a four- or five-day tundra safari tour, which covers serious distance from Denali National Park up to Shell Lake, with spectacular views of Denali and the wild wolves of the Talachulitna River.
    Photo courtesy of Robin Hood/State of Alaska Tourism Office
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    Snowy Mountain Hikes
    Snowy Mountain Hikes
    Much of south-central Alaska can be tackled in the winter, as long as you take layers and extra food along (safety first). Many of the popular trails around Anchorage get packed down quickly, so a good pair of warm boots alone should see you through the trails, but bringing snowshoes or cross-country skis is never a bad call. (You’ll warm up en route, don’t worry.) Drive up to the Arctic Valley Ski Area and head out on any trail to trek its fluffy white ridges. Glen Alps is a popular local favorite, known for its swooping panoramic views and its gentle incline. Up above Fairbanks, hike in good company at Running Reindeer Ranch.
    Photo courtesy of Brian Adams/State of Alaska Tourism Office
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    Chase the Northern Lights
    Chase the Northern Lights
    Indisputably the most iconic winter event near the Arctic Circle, the aurora borealis, commonly called the northern lights, is a must-see during any Alaskan winter vacation. Dazzling celestial rays of green, red, and blue dance across the sky almost every night—except they’re visible only on crisp, clear nights, so plan on taking them in on a number of evenings. Get away from Anchorage’s big-city glare and head north to Denali National Park; to Fairbanks, Alaska’s aurora capital; or even farther on a tour that stops in Coldfoot on the Dalton Highway.
    Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan/State of Alaska Tourism Office
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    Ice and Snow Festivals
    Ice and Snow Festivals
    Alaska has great winter festivals. If you’re visiting in January, coordinate your trip to coincide with the Anchorage Folk Festival, featuring the state’s top acoustic guitarists and singers, or shoot for February’s Fur Rondy Festival, which boasts uniquely Alaskan events like snowshoe softball and snowmobile parades. For the most beautiful ice art in the world, check out the World Ice Art Championships, which dominate Fairbanks in March. Dozens of artists from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and beyond carve out silky-smooth, emotionally powerful sculptures from pure transparent ice blocks. At night, the works are lit up beautifully in neon greens and reds.
    Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan/State of Alaska Tourism Office
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    Ride the Aurora Winter Train
    Ride the Aurora Winter Train
    Alaska’s trains have some of the most heroic names in the world: Hurricane Turn, Glacier Discovery, Denali Star. But winter belongs to the Aurora Winter train, a pounding yellow-and-black beast that chugs from Anchorage to Fairbanks in 12 hours on weekends only, blowing past 350 miles of incredible untouched wilderness. Exact schedules can be unpredictable, so give yourself leeway during your travels because the Aurora Winter stops for any bystander flagging it down from the side of the tracks, a remnant of its unforgotten roots as both a freight and passenger train.
    Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan/State of Alaska Tourism Office