This five-day itinerary is an introduction to all the fun Southcentral Alaska offers during the winter, from skiing to dog sledding, snowmachining (or snowmobiling), winter carnivals, sporting events like the Iditarod Trail sled dog race, and even a chance at viewing the aurora borealis.
Day 1 Anchorage
Break into the winter spirit with a visit to Anchorage, where temperatures are relatively mild and there are plenty of indoor attractions to keep you warm if the weather goes bad. On pretty winter days, Anchorage has hundreds of miles of trails and almost 11,000 acres of parkland you can enjoy on skis or snowshoes. Other popular winter activities include ice skating (both on hot-mopped lakes and frozen rivers), ice fishing, and riding “fat bikes,” specially made bicycles with extra-wide tires that make it easy to maneuver in the snow. You can rent gear for any of these pursuits from local outfitters. If you want a break from the cold, pay a visit to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, or the one-of-a-kind Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.
Day 2 Anchorage
Now that you have your “winter legs” under you, book an adventurous day tour of dog mushing, snowmobiling (or as they call it in Alaska, snowmachining) or even flightseeing far above the winter landscape in a small plane or helicopter. Flightseeing trips can go as far as 20,310’ Denali, where the winter light highlights the rugged contours of North America’s tallest peak. When you return to Anchorage, close the day by cozying up with some hot chocolate or a local microbrew and watching the snow fall, or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown’s snowy streets.
Day 3 Girdwood
Rent a car and drive to Girdwood, about 45 minutes south of Anchorage, for some quality time in the snow. Your choices include cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on flat, open meadows; skiing the rolling hills of a circuit that local racers use for training; hiring a guide for backcountry skiing; or hitting the slopes at Alaska’s only year-round, full-service destination resort. Even if you’re not a downhill skier, you can still take the pay-per-ride aerial tram to the top of Mount Alyeska for amazing mountain views and a couple of fun dining options. Spend the night in Girdwood.
Day 4 Girdwood
Spend the day enjoying the other day adventures available from Girdwood. Your options for adventure include ice climbing, another dog-sledding adventure, or snowmachining through nearby glacier-carved valleys. The aurora borealis isn’t quite as easy to see in Southcentral Alaska as it is in the Interior and Arctic, but it may still be visible; make sure you let the staff at your hotel or bed and breakfast know that you want a wake-up call if the northern lights come out.
Day 5 Anchorage
It’s time to head back to Anchorage. Consider timing your visit to coincide with one of Anchorage’s flagship winter events: Fur Rendezvous, nicknamed Fur Rondy, is a February carnival that celebrates the long-lived local tradition of fur trading. It features zany events like outhouse racing, a snow sculpture competition, and the “Running of the Reindeer” (think “Running of the Bulls,” but with reindeer).
Immediately after Fur Rondy is the start of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Actually, there are two starts: The ceremonial start takes place in downtown Anchorage on the first Saturday in March, then the official racing start takes place the following day in either Willow or Fairbanks, depending on snow conditions.