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Winter Outdoor Activities Alaska
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage
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Winter Outdoor Recreation

Winter Outdoor Recreation

While most visitors are familiar with Alaska’s summer landscapes, there’s no getting around the fact that the snow-covered version of our surroundings stays with us a bit longer. Fortunately, Alaskans don’t just make peace with winter — we celebrate it! Many visitors would be surprised to discover that our winter temperatures are comparable to many places in the “Lower 48.” Alaska boasts near-limitless winter adventure options, with activities ranging from dog mushing, skiing, and winter festivals galore. So why not come up and experience Alaska the way the locals do — on skis, under the northern lights, soaking in an outdoor hot spring, or racing down a snowy trail behind a team of sled dogs.

Northern Lights Viewing

The aurora borealis, also known as northern lights, occur about 60 or 70 miles above the earth’s surface — about 10 times higher than a jet aircraft flies — and can extend hundreds of miles into space. The most common color displayed is a brilliant yellow-green, but the aurora borealis can also produce red, blue and purple patterns. You can view the northern lights on your own with the help of the statewide aurora forecast and you can increase your chances by joining a guided northern lights tour or overnight package

Learn more about northern lights viewing in Alaska.

Northern lights viewing in Wiseman, Alaska.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

Dog Mushing

Dog mushing is the official sport of Alaska. Visitors travel from around the world to witness Alaska’s famous sled dog races, including the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Many sled dog kennels offer tours, providing visitors an opportunity to learn about and experience dog mushing firsthand – on a sled dog excursion atop a glacier or along a groomed trail.

Learn more about dog mushing and dog sled tours in Alaska.

Dog sledding tour in Girdwood, Alaska.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

Skiing & Snowboarding

Alpine sports in Alaska are a way of life. Whether you’re simply looking for a good workout and beautiful surroundings, or you’re a thrill-seeking, deep-powder addict, Alaska has an experience for everyone. From backcountry heli-skiing to lift-assisted downhill skiing to cross-country skiing on groomed trails, Alaska is an outdoor recreationalist paradise.

Learn more about skiing and snowboarding in Alaska.

Cross country skiers at Independence Mine State Historical Park in Mat-Su Valley, Alaska.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

Snowmobiling

In Alaska, no wilderness is too far out of reach to explore, and a snowmobile is often the best way to get there. Numerous tour operators offer both guided and unguided treks into the backcountry for riders of all abilities. Some excellent snowmobiling locations include Fairbanks, Denali, Talkeetna, Valdez, Haines, the Mat-Su Valley, Girdwood, and the Kenai Peninsula. Oh, and if you do go snowmobiling in Alaska, don’t be confused if people start talking about snowmachines — that’s the local vernacular for the backcountry machines.

Two snowmobilers in Alaska.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

fat Biking

With extra wide tires (sometimes outfitted with studs) to keep you stable and increase traction on snow and ice, fat tire bikes are a fantastic way to get out and explore Alaska’s trails in the winter. Locals and visitors alike revel in pedaling along multi-use and singletrack trails year-round thanks to fat tire bikes. Many bike shops offer fat bike rentals complete with pogies – big mits that fit over the handlebars that you can slide your hands into to keep them toasty while biking. Tour operators lead fat bike rides of varying adventure levels, from leisurely in-town rides on wide multi-use trails to long rides out to glaciers along frozen rivers.

Learn more about biking in Alaska.

Two fat tire bikers bike in front a glacier in Alaska in winter.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

snowshoeing

A quintessentially classic winter activity, snowshoeing in Alaska allows you to enjoy hiking trails year-round, even when there’s too much snow for walking. Snowshoes spread your weight over a larger area, allowing you to stay on top of the snow and avoid the dreaded postholing, or sinking into the snow with each step. Ski poles add extra stability and distribute your weight even more. Outfitters throughout the state rent snowshoes and can recommend the best places to go based on recent snow conditions.

Two people snowshoe at Independence Mine State Historical Park in Alaska in winter.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

Ice Skating

For a family-friendly winter activity, rent some skates and venture out for some ice skating fun. In addition to groomed outdoor ice skating rinks in Southcentral and Interior Alaska, several communities groom lakes and lagoons in winter for a more unique skating experience. One of the best outdoor ice skating destinations is Westchester Lagoon near downtown Anchorage. Sections of this large lagoon are groomed into a network of ice skating trails, with warming barrels and free hot chocolate, and family-friendly events throughout the winter. Tanana Lakes in Fairbanks is another hot spot for groomed outdoor ice skating. Backcountry ice skating opportunities abound for those interested in an even bigger adventure, with popular spots including Nancy Lakes, Portage Lake, and Palmer Hay Flats. Always check with local parks & recreation offices on ice conditions before venturing out on backcountry ice skating.

A woman ice skates and Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage Alaska.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

Ice Fishing

Think that fishing is only a summer activity? Think again! Winter fishing charters out of Homer in Southcentral Alaska offer the unique thrill of targeting winter king salmon. You can also join a guided ice fishing trip from Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, and the Mat-Su Valley. These tours provide all the gear that you need and usually include access to a heated ice fishing hut to keep you comfortable for a day on the ice.

A family goes ice fishing on a lake in Mat-Su Valley, Alaska.
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

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