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There is no shortage of seasonal tours and activities in Alaska, making winter tourism a possibility for agents. Winter is perhaps one of the best times of the year to visit the 49th state, which actually has temperatures comparable to many places farther south.
Here are my picks for Alaska’s top winter destinations and attractions for 2012.
Adventure for EveryoneThe Iditarod Sled Dog Race, which departs Anchorage on March 3 for a 1,150-mile endurance race to Nome, is a nationally covered event that can be enjoyed as little or as much as clients choose. More casual observers can take in the celebrations and activities from Anchorage with day trips that cost about $200 per person, while race aficionados can enjoy the race start and celebratory events at the finish line in Nome on a 12-day expedition trek for $14,500. Alaska Tours offers a variety of packages.
The 1,000-mile Yukon Quest is another endurance race that draws spectators from around the world. This year, the race begins in Fairbanks and ends in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Quest tours range from starting-line activities in Fairbanks to air and ground tours at select checkpoint areas. Early reservations are advised.
In early March, the Open North American Championships Race out of Fairbanks and the Open World Championship Race, held Feb. 24-25 during the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous celebration, are great for visitors who want to enjoy dogsledding action in comfort. During race time, clients can stay in local hotels and enjoy a variety of winter tourism activities from sightseeing to northern lights viewing.
After the races, the World Ice Arts Championship is held in Fairbanks from Feb. 28 to March 25. The festivities include exhibitions and displays that are lit with colored lights, ice-carving competitions and a kids’ park and ice slide. The ice maze and the train provide additional entertainment for young and old alike.
Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Area and Girdwood’s Alyeska Ski Resort are two of Alaska’s main ski facilities — however, excellent winter programs, events and ski packages tip the scales in favor of Alyeska for most visitors. In addition, both Alyeska and Orca Adventure Lodge, in Cordova, serve as a base of operations for clients seeking heli-skiing opportunities in the Alaska backcountry. These wilderness mountain ranges are only accessible via helicopter, and they draw skiers and snowboarders from around the world. The season is best from February through April when the weather is warming up, and there is an increased amount of daylight. Each resort includes runs for all experience levels, from beginners to extreme skiers.
Snowmobiling tours are also popular for those who prefer to enjoy wintertime in Alaska at their own pace. Alaska Snow Safaris offers a variety of backcountry ridge-riding events that visit secluded cabins, lodges and remote areas of Alaska not traveled to during any other time of the year. The season for these activities runs from November through May. Guided tours and unguided rentals are available, including the company’s five-day Alaska Safari, which covers 50 to 100 miles of snowmobiling per day.
Open North American Championships Race / Anchorage Fur Rendezvous:www.sleddog.orgwww.furrondy.net
World Ice Arts Championship:www.icealaska.com