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Here is the news from the 10th annual Alaska Media Road Show, where official tourism bureaus and top Alaska tour and service vendors discussed their tours and what’s new for 2012. Look to TravelAge West for detailed reports throughout the year on these tourism offerings.
Alaska RailroadAscending Path and the Alaska Railroad have teamed up to offer a new guided glacier hike on Spencer Glacier, located south of Anchorage. Small groups of five or less ride the train from Anchorage, Girdwood or Portage to the Spencer Whistle Stop, then hike the three-mile route to the glacier before donning helmets and crampons and hitting the ice. Visitors can add ice climbing or a helicopter drop-off to the trip. The group returns to Anchorage or Girdwood via the Coastal Classic Train.
For the more adventurous, there is a self-guided hike to the face of Spencer Glacier (6.2 miles round trip). The site contains well-maintained, historically-themed shelters, interpretive kiosks, a campsite and restrooms. Chugach Adventure Guides offer a float-trip that starts at Spencer Glacier and continues down the Placer River. Raingear, rubber boots and deli-style lunch are provided.
Another option is exploring Spencer Lake in a modern version of an Alaska Native canoe. Clients explore the face of the glacier and explore the terminal moraine with detailed instruction on glaciology and the surrounding Kenai Mountains.www.alaskarailroad.com
Alaskan Wilderness SurvivalThis hands-on exploration is the newest tour out of Ketchikan that allows visitors to connect with the Alaska environment.
After a short cruise aboard an expedition catamaran, a wilderness skills instructor will guide clients through an old-growth rainforest and teach them how to build a debris shelter, collect wild edibles and start a fire. Back aboard the vessel, clients will help monitor a recent threat to the Alaska ecosystem: the invasive green crab. They’ll help pull crab traps in this project sponsored by the Smithsonian and the University of Alaska while discovering and handling a variety of marine life caught in the traps.www.allenmarinetours.com
Alyeska ResortAlyeska Resort is expanding its lift-assisted downhill mountain biking for intermediate to advanced bikers who feel brave enough to tackle the main ski slope trails. Rental bikes with full suspensions are available on site. This complements a variety of single-track nature trails perfect for hiking and cross-country biking. Their AAA Four Diamond-recognized Seven Glaciers Restaurant will introduce eight bi-monthly specialty menus designed around local seasonal ingredients. Visitors might want to time their visit to coincide with the popular Fungus Fair, or the Blueberry Festival in mid-to-late August.www.alyeskaresort.com
Denali Zipline ToursDenali Zipline Tours is building a world class zipline canopy tour on 40 acres of privately owned land just three miles from downtown Talkeetna and will be open for tours June, 2012. The site offers panoramic views of the Alaska Range and a vista dominated by Mt. McKinley. The three-hour tour will begin in Talkeetna with clients being transported via shuttles to the zipline. The tour will begin with a few short zips from tree to tree progressing to longer and faster rides. There will be numerous opportunities to glimpse the mountain vistas, as well as hiking on suspended sky bridges. The tour will conclude with the longest zipline down to the final platform and a short drive back to Talkeetna.www.denaliziplinetours.com
Glacier BayGlacier Bay Lodge will be offering new cultural programs, including Tlingit Fireside, which will showcase traditional Tlingit songs and stories of their ancestral homeland. The event will offer time for visitors to discuss traditional art, tools and regalia. Also new is The Waterway of Life, a presentation by a Tlingit cultural interpreter that details the history of the Huna people and their connection with Glacier Bay.www.visitglacierbay.com
HainesRainbow Glacier Adventures, a local Haines tour operator, has started a gold tour in the old Porcupine Creek area capitalizing on the success of Discovery Channel’s new reality series, “Gold Rush Alaska.” Guests to Porcupine will learn the history of the area, visit with real prospectors and pan for gold in the creek, where all gold found belongs to the visitors. The Klukwan Tribal Village is offering a fish-cutting demonstration and other activities at the cultural heritage centerwww.haines.ak.us/rainbow-glacier-adventures
Holland AmericaBeginning in May 2012, Holland America Line (HAL) will be offering seven ships sailing to Alaska on 130 departures, including a 14-day explorer cruise roundtrip from Seattle and seven-day itineraries departing from Seattle, Vancouver and Seward. HAL features four Alaska cruise itineraries on seven of its mid-sized vessels, totaling 130 departures from May 2 through Sept. 23. The extensive itinerary offerings will increase the line’s guest capacity in the region by nearly 6 percent.www.hollandamerica.com
Icy Strait PointThis destination continues to grow in 2012, with the addition of three new gift shops and a new restaurant menu featuring fresh Alaska seafood. Some of the dishes include caribou sliders, mini salmon burgers and Hoonah fish tacos. Zip Liner, the longest and highest zipline in the world, has been upgraded to increase its capacity by 15 percent.www.icystraitpoint.com
Inner Sea Discoveries/American Safari CruisesAmerican Safari Cruises (part of Inner Sea Discoveries) has announced the addition of an 86-guest ship to its fleet of three yachts. The Safari Endeavour, formerly the Spirit of Endeavour, will undergo major renovation to transform it into an upscale vessel ready to sail in Southeast Alaska in the summer of 2012.
The yacht-style ship will cruise in Southeast Alaska from May to September. Weeklong cruises roundtrip from Juneau, Alaska, follow similar itineraries with two days of exploration in Glacier Bay National Park and expedition cruising in Icy Strait, Frederick Sound, Thomas Bay, Chichagof Island, Ford’s Terror and Endicott Arm. Inclusive fares start at $4,795 per person. Two-week cruises from Seattle to Juneau, as well as the reverse, will be offered in spring and fall.www.innerseadiscoveries.com
Kenai Fjords Wilderness LodgeKenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge, located on Fox Island out of Seward, is slated to receive upgrades prior to opening in 2012, with additional future upgrades slated for 2013. The lodge is offering early-bird specials of up to 20 percent on select packages.www.kenaifjordslodge.comwww.alaskaheritagetours.com
Princess CruisesPrincess Cruises’ 2012 schedule includes a seven-ship deployment, including a fourth ship added to the Voyage of the Glaciers route and three ships sailing the Inside Passage.www.princess.com
K-2/Rust’s Flying ServiceK-2 is offering several new fly-out hiking and camping options to the foothills of Denali, as well as several different bear-viewing opportunities at Katmai and Redoubt areas. They also offer some spectacular fly-out fishing options through Rust’s Flying Service, with day cabins, for anglers who are experienced in wilderness fishing.www.flyk2.comwww.flyrusts.com
The Wild Alaska Stunt ShowClients will experience Ketchikan of the early 1900s in this new live-action comedy show for the entire family presented by the crew of the Wild Alaska Stunt Show. The cast reenacts several story lines, including, “The Legend of Dolly Arthur,” “The Legend of Soapy Smith” and “The Notorious Alaskan Fish Pirates and Bootleggers.” Each show lasts about 35 minutes with multiple shows each day. The shows are performed daily in an 8,000-square-foot tent located on the downtown waterfront of Ketchikan. The facility is equipped with play sets, a concession area and bleacher seating for 350 people.www.globalstuntshows.com
WrangellThe Wrangell Bearfest, held July 25-29, is an annual event held during the peak of the bear-viewing season, and is a fun, hands-on, small-town event with bear symposiums, photography workshops and a salmon toss for kids, featuring real salmon. A craft show, a community salmon bake and a marathon round out the festivities.www.wrangellalaska.org