Alaska’s Winter Fests

The unforgettable ‘Rides of March’

By: Christopher Batin

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The North American Sled Dog race
is held in downtown Fairbanks.
The magic of Fairbanks’ Winter Carnival transforms the Ides of March into the “Rides of March,” a boreal celebration of unrivaled proportions not to be missed by clients who appreciate winter recreation.

Also part of the carnival, the World Ice Art Championship features over 180 sculptures that eerily highlight the darkened, frost-covered woods that surround them. Each is a colorful fantasia that delights the eyes and mind.

The Kid’s Park includes an ice maze for families to explore, winding ice sleds and ice toys that are designed to slide, spin and twirl. There is ample time for both play and viewing. Average daylight hours in March are close to 12 hours, with the average temperature a comfortable 22 degrees. In my opinion, the park sculptures are best viewed at twilight and at night. Tell clients to take lots of hand warmers, a camera and tripod and, of course, dress warmly.

Ice Alaska offers ice-sculpting classes on weekends throughout early 2008, and other classes can be taught by special arrangement. A class fee of $75 includes hot drinks and all tools, and the fee will be refunded if the student enters the Amateur Open Exhibition.

The Limited North American Sled Dog Race features up to 80 dog teams from around the state, running a limited number of sled dogs. A week later, the GCI North American Championship Sled Dog Race takes place on the streets and surrounding trails of Fairbanks. This is the Indy 500 of sled dog racing, where mushers can use an unlimited number of dogs, which also creates the fastest sled dog race in the world. The event includes vendor booths, fur auctions and evening activities. During the same time, visit Chatanika Days, a winter festival held 30 miles north of Fairbanks in the historic mining town of Chatanika. It’s famous for its outhouse race on skis and snowmobile tug-of-war.

March Madness, Alaska Style
Called the Last Great Race, the 36th Annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will begin March 1 in Anchorage. It consists of over 100 mushers with 12 to 16 dogs covering 1,150 miles in 10 to 17 days of grueling travel. Most visitors experience the race at its start in Anchorage, at the finish line in Nome or at one of the checkpoints along the way.

For the client who wants a full dose of Iditarod, the “Chase the Race” tour starts in Anchorage. Clients fly to the remote checkpoints within the Alaska Range, at river checkpoints and in scenic Rainy Pass. Options include overnight stays at remote lodges to watch the mushers stream by. In between musher activity, or at night, activities include photographing the northern lights and winter wildlife, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

More sedate road-based side tours include watching the start or finish of the race, combined with highway tours that include winter sightseeing and winter activities along the Kenai Peninsula and the Dalton Highway. Flightseeing the Brooks Range in winter is an experience that can’t be missed.

UPCOMING EVENTS

World Ice Art Championship
Feb. 26-March 23
www.icealaska.com

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
March 1
www.iditarod.com

Chatanika Days
March 8-9
907-389-2164

Limited North American Sled Dog Race
March 8-10
www.sleddog.org

North American Championship Sled Dog Race
March 15-17
www.sleddog.org

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