Winter is a time when Alaska sparkles and shines, when much of the land is covered by a blanket of soft snow - crystalline shapes glistening in the sun. Northern lights span the skies in the evening dazzling the eye and the snow invites the child in everyone to come out and play - you'll find plenty of friendly company to show you how and where to have the best winter fun.

For those looking for downhill skiing opportunities, Alyeska Ski Resort, located 40 miles south of Anchorage, offers three double chairs, two fixed quads, one high-speed detachable quad and a 60-passenger tram to whisk you 2,800 vertical feet above scenic Turnagain Arm. Other world-class downhill skiing opportunities can be found at Anchorage's Hilltop Ski Area, Alpenglow at Arctic Valley, Juneau's Eaglecrest Ski Area, Fairbanks' Moose Mountain and Mt. Aurora Skiland.

Alaska has produced two winter Olympic Medalists, 1994 gold medal winner Tommy Moe and 1992 silver medal winner Hilary Lindh, both of whom grew up skiing on these exciting Alaskan slopes.

If cross-country skiing is what you're after, Alaska's many trails offer opportunities to trek through mountain valleys, ski beside the sea, or even take advantage of groomed and lighted trails. Cozy mountain lodges, throughout the Interior and Southcentral, are idyllic cross-country retreats - accessible by highway or by ski plane for more remote locations.

Near Fairbanks, ski to a hot mineral bath at Chena Hot Springs. Or try Anchorage's Kincaid Park, site of the 1994 Olympic Trials. Other favorite Southcentral cross-country areas include Chugach State Park, Hatcher Pass Recreational Area and Turnagain Pass.

For skiers visiting the Inside Passage area, the Tongass National Forest provides terrain for all abilities and Eaglecrest Ski Area's trackset trails are great for limbering up.

Dog mushing is Alaska's official sport - annual sled dog races show off the extensive training the dogs and drivers endure to prepare themselves for the racing season. The first Saturday in March marks the start of the 1,049-mile (1,678-km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that runs from Anchorage to Nome. The Last Great Race on Earth grips the entire world for those nine days as racers vie for the championship title.

Other incredible races include the Open North American Championship held in Fairbanks every March and the Yukon Quest International - considered by many to be the most difficult sled dog race - also held each year in Fairbanks. Throughout the winter season, many communities host winter carnivals and festivals. Take in the Tent City Winter Festival in Wrangell, the Iceworm Festival in Cordova or the Winterfest in Valdez in the third week of February. Fur Rendzvous, also know as the "Mardi Gras of the North," is a 16-day celebration in Anchorage that attracts thousands of celebrants to more than 120 events that include snowshoe softball, a carnival with rides and the World Championship Sled Dog Races. Fairbanks is home to the renowned World Ice Art Competition where stunning sculptures are carved from massive squares of ice.

Wildlife viewing also offers an exciting dimension to winter, as many animals are easier to spot against a backdrop of white snow. At the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines, an estimated 3,000 bald eagles feed on salmon from late October through February - these eagles are easily seen from the highway. Arrange a photo safari with a wilderness guide, or look for caribou, moose and wolves while enjoying a flightseeing tour.

Other Possibilities

  • Cross country ski on either groomed trails or backcountry terrain.
  • Ice skate on frozen lakes and ponds in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.
  • Ride in a dog sled on short tours or longer, overnight adventures.
  • Power your way through the snow in designated snowmobile areas
  • Ice fish for trout and char on area lakes and rivers.
  • Watch the beginning or end of any number of sled dog races, including the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, sprint and mid-distance sled dog races statewide and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
  • See amazing works of ice art at ice sculpture competitions.

For more information on winter in Alaska, visit the Winter Activities section of the site.

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