Alaska Snow and Ski

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Alaska Snow and Ski
Pristine snowfall blankets Alaska in the winter, making it one of the state's quintessential tourist seasons. The trade-offs for shorter days are dozens of winter activities you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in North America.
Photo courtesy of Hage Photo/Alyeska
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    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 equally famous and much more beginner-friendly.
    Photo courtesy of Hage Photo/Alyeska
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    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. Southcentral Alaska is the state's most popular fishing region, with over 180 frozen lakes full of land-locked 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
    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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    Snowshoe across the Frontier
    Leave your footprint on Alaska's winter landscape by snowshoeing across it. This unique form of transportation is truly as easy as walking, and you can rent a pair of snowshoes near any of Alaska's gorgeous multi-use nature trails. Kincaid Park, Far North Bicentennial Park, and Powerline Pass are all easily reachable from downtown Anchorage, while bigger destinations like Eklutna Lake and Eagle River can offer unbelievable vistas if you're prepared to invest the time and energy in getting to them. Just don't expect the traditional wooden netted snowshoes, since most modern snowshoes are sleek aluminum and feel pretty high-tech.
    Photo courtesy of Daniel A. Leifheit/Denali NPS
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    Zoom over the Tundra on a Snowmobile
    The quickest way to traverse Alaska's spotless backwoods and frozen rivers is by renting a snowmobile—or, as Alaskans call them, a snowmachine. 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
    Much of Southcentral Alaska can be tackled in the winter, as long as you're headed out in thermodynamic shirts and breathable pants. Few of the popular summer summits near Anchorage see deep snowfall, 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 resort 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.
    Photo courtesy of Brian Adams/State of Alaska Tourism Office
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    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 only visible 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 the outskirts of Fairbanks, Alaska's aurora capital, just below the Arctic Circle itself; or shoot even farther towards Deadhorse, on the northern edge of the world.
    Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan/State of Alaska Tourism Office
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    Ice and Snow Festivals
    Alaska has great winter festivals. 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. If you're visiting in January, coordinate your trip to coincide with 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.
    Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan/State of Alaska Tourism Office
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    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