Fresh, powdery snow, exhilarating events and the otherworldly glow of the northern lights – there’s so much to love about winter in Alaska.
Alaska is amazing year-round but it’s especially beautiful in winter, when snowfall revives exciting activities and longer nights showcase the aurora borealis. Seasonal recreation options include downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, fat-tire biking and dog sledding. Some of the state’s biggest events, like the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, are held in winter. It's a magical time to venture out and explore at your own pace. See another side of the Great Land through sports, wellness experiences and celebrations unique to the snowy season.
Marvel at the Northern Lights
In Alaska, dark winter nights set the stage for the aurora borealis, the colorful phenomenon also known as the northern lights. Alaska is one of the top places in the USA to see the northern lights, and the months between August and April mark the peak viewing season for the state. The glowing bands are best observed from clear, dark places, though you can still see them above Alaska’s cities. The Southcentral, Interior and Arctic regions are known for their northern lights views. Experienced guides offer group trips and combination experiences in all three areas. In Fairbanks, tour companies host multi-day northern lights adventures with dog sledding, hot springs entry and aurora wake-up service. Some guides offer camera rentals and photography tips with their tours. For those interested in independent outings, the city of Fairbanks and the state of Alaska maintain aurora borealis tracking tools.
Gazing at the green glow of the northern lights in Fairbanks
Experience Thrilling Winter Sports
Alaska beckons with spectacular scenery and outings for all explorers. Whether you want to ski down a manicured slope or blaze a trail through the backcountry, you’ll find ample places to play in the snow. The towns of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Girdwood and Juneau are top spots for lift-serviced sports. Families, first-time riders and seasoned pros can ski or snowboard on fresh powder and enjoy modern amenities at mountain resorts. Adventurers can go backcountry skiing at spots like Turnagain Pass on the Kenai Peninsula or try heli-skiing through wilderness lodges across the state.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are accessible on virtually all snow-covered public lands. Tour operators and outfitters throughout the state offer small-group trips with local insight. If you prefer to exercise in town, rent a fat-tire bike from an independent shop in Anchorage, Talkeetna or Fairbanks. You can pedal around with a crowd or ride gentle trails on your own.
For an exhilarating winter experience, cruise over backcountry terrain on a snowmachine ride. Head out with a tour operator for a safe and enjoyable excursion. Top destinations for off-road activity include Girdwood, the Kenai Peninsula and Denali. If you’re seeking another way to speed across the snow, you can pack up and take a ride with dog sledding outfitters throughout the state. Dog sledding is a historic, efficient and fun way of getting around Alaska.
Downhill skiing amid breathtaking mountain scenery in Girdwood
Attend Famed Seasonal Events
Alaska’s winter calendar is filled with events that highlight its unique environments, communities and traditions. February and March are particularly festive, with sporting events and celebrations in abundant supply. February brings two exciting annual events to Fairbanks: The Festival of Native Arts and the World Ice Art Championship. The first takes place at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where communities gather in celebration of Alaska Native dance, music and crafts. The World Ice Art Championship attracts ice sculptors from around the globe for carving competitions and cold-weather fun.
In Anchorage, February signals the start of the Fur Rendezvous, Alaska’s oldest and largest winter festival. Known locally as the “Fur Rondy,” this gathering celebrates life in the Great Land through cultural programs and contests. It unfolds shortly before another iconic local event, March’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Cheer on elite athletes as they embark on an intense voyage from Anchorage to Nome. During this action-packed annual display, participants mush teams of sled dogs nearly 1,600 kilometers across demanding landscapes to honor an Alaska transportation tradition.
Dog sledding down a tree-lined trail in Fairbanks
Recharge and Restore
Winter is a wonderful time to unwind at Alaska’s wellness retreats. Special offers and seasonal treatments encourage relaxation. Soak in the state’s healing waters at the Chena Hot Springs Resort, a sustainable destination in Fairbanks. Its outdoor, natural pools provide thermal settings for stargazing beneath the northern lights. You can also pamper yourself with soothing treatments and mountain scenery at Alyeska Nordic Spa. The beautiful grounds of this Girdwood spa are peppered with cedar saunas and hydrotherapy pools.
When you’re ready to refuel, seek nourishing options and fresh local flavors from Alaska’s diverse dining scene. You’ll find foods to satisfy every craving at establishments from fine restaurants to food trucks, microbreweries and distilleries.
Soaking in a natural spring at Chena Hot Springs Resort in Fairbanks
Travel to Alaska often involves a stop in Seattle, Washington (SEA). From there, fly into Juneau (JNU), Ted Stevens Anchorage (ANC) or Fairbanks Alaska (FAI) and prepare for adventure. In-state transportation options vary by destination and arrival date.
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