Alaskans' favorite winter pastime celebrates 75 years

Today Anchorage is a busy city of over 280,000 people with a plethora of winter recreation options. But in the 1930s, the town's 3,000 residents were looking to add a little spice to the winter season. Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, or Rondy as the locals call it, is the brainchild of a group of friends who began a three-day sporting event to coincide with the time that the miners and trappers came to town to sell their furs. Since then, Rondy has grown into a 10-day soirée earning international attention and drawing visitors from around the world. In February 2010, Rondy will celebrate its 75th anniversary, making it one of North America's longest running winter festivals.

Although Rondy has evolved over the past 75 years, many of the events date back to the festival's roots. The official Fur Auction has been a staple of the event since its beginning and – along with the name of the festival – pays tribute to the importance of the fur trade on Alaska's history. The blanket toss is also one of the original main events and Native Alaskans come from as far away as Nome and Little Diomede Island to participate, as well as demonstrate their tribal dances. The cornerstone event, the Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race, brings teams of sled dogs and mushers from across the state and the world to compete in one of the most competitive sprint-distance dog sled races in the world. This year, four-time Iditarod winner Jeff King, who normally runs long-distance races, will be competing in the sprint on Feb. 26, in downtown Anchorage. Among the other extremely rare and very wide-ranging festivities are the snowshoe-softball tournament, outhouse races, ice bowling and the Miners and Trappers Ball, the wackiest costume ball of the year. Visitors also have the chance to run with Rudolf (and a herd of his closest friends) in the Running of the Reindeer. The 75th Anchorage Fur Rendezvous festival runs from Feb. 26 through March 7, 2010.

Anchorage is centrally located with hundreds of domestic and international flights landing daily. A mild winter climate, an award-winning trial system and miles of untracked snow create ideal conditions for winter activities, such as alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing and more.

For more information on visiting Anchorage this winter, click here.

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