Within the deep coronary heart of a February winter, the huge and eye-watering large Chugach Mountain vary close to Palmer, Alaska is roofed, like all the things else in Alaska, in a thick layer of snow. Snow blankets the bushes, the roads, the craggy peaks, and the roofs of the homes within the space.
Close by, the Knik Glacier glows with its eerie blue lights, beckoning adventurers to courageous a stroll on its historic ice or take a look at their mettle by mountaineering its frozen waterfalls. That day, nevertheless, my journey photographer Lyle and I sped throughout an almost unspoiled panorama deep within the Chugach Mountain Vary.
I had by no means been on a snow machine (snowmobile) earlier than, however right here I used to be, navigating tight turns within the thick snow and roaring up steep hills. It doesn’t matter what you referred to as the motorized beast on skis and tracks that I used to be racing on, you couldn’t name it something however enjoyable.
Many guests eschew Alaska in winter, fearing excessive chilly or winter climate or citing that the state’s well-known bears are all in torpor for the winter. Nonetheless, Alaska in winter affords a complete completely different appear and feel than it does in the course of the busy summer season and fall months.
For many who search daring winter adventures, right here’s the excellent news. You don’t need to be a younger excessive athlete to take pleasure in these daring winter adventures. When you do have to be bodily cell and wholesome, these wild winter adventures — starting from snow machining to mountaineering — will be loved by vacationers of all expertise ranges and ages.
I’ve been to Alaska in summer season, fall, and winter. Whereas attractive at any time of 12 months, a two-week hosted journey by Journey Alaska in winter provided the boldest experiences of all three journeys and was my favourite time to go to.
For these of you able to expertise the extremes of Alaska, listed here are seven daring winter adventures to expertise in Alaska.
1. Fats Tire Biking In Anchorage
Biking in Alaska isn’t only a pastime for the milder months in Alaska. Due to the appearance of fats tire biking, which gives improved grip and traction on ice, snow, and different troublesome terrains, these bikes will will let you discover Anchorage and past on two wheels.
We determined to soak up the views of frozen coastal marshes and forested hills alongside Anchorage’s Tony Knowles Coastal Path alongside the shore of Prepare dinner Inlet from Downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park by bicycle. Due to Pablo’s Bicycle Leases, we have been geared up with two sturdy (and quick) e-bike fats tire bikes to navigate the snow and ice-packed strolling and biking path.
The Tony Knowles Coastal Path runs for 11 miles via Anchorage, passing a web site of the worst injury from the 1964 earthquake, Earthquake Park. It weaves previous Level Woronzof, public ice skating parks, and thru wooded areas, all of which have handy relaxation factors and nice views.
On clear days, you possibly can spot Dghelishla, the mountain in any other case often called Mount Susitna, Denali, and close by Mount Foraker.
Professional Tip: The path is usually paved with just a few tough, unpaved areas and a few inclines via tunnels, but it surely ought to be simply effective for anybody match to journey. I discovered the e-bikes simpler on the physique for going up hills or catching some pace, and the fats tires have been completely a necessity within the snow and ice.
2. Ice Climbing At The Knik Glacier
Some days are ceaselessly burned into my reminiscence. This was a kind of excellent days the place you had an journey like no different, days you’ll bear in mind in your deathbed. Our day of mountaineering within the Mat-Su Valley area outdoors of Palmer, Alaska, is one among them.
After a brief drive from Anchorage to the Knik River Lodge headquarters to begin our helicopter/mountaineering tour with Alaska Sundog Guiding, we have been fitted for boots and equipment, then loaded up on a helicopter flight over the Knik Glacier.
Alaska Sundog Guiding — a small journey firm owned by a very pleasant younger couple named Kate and Tom with a mixed 13 years of expertise guiding within the Knik River Valley — groups up with Alaska Helicopter Excursions to supply helicopter flights and mountaineering on the large glacier all 12 months round.
I had by no means been mountaineering earlier than and I’m definitely not skilled in common climbing, however I couldn’t move on the expertise of climbing a 200-foot frozen waterfall on prime of one of many prettiest and most putting glaciers in Alaska. Fortunately our guides have been affected person, detailed in directions, extraordinarily skilled, and inspiring on my first-time mountaineering.
Though I battled my concern of heights and had shaky legs the entire time, I truly thought mountaineering was a bit simpler than common climbing. The beautiful and weirdly blue panorama of ice from the glacier added a surreal and otherworldly really feel to the journey. After just a few climbs, Tom and Kate led us on a hike via this putting place.
As an adventurer over the age of fifty, I discovered the entire day mesmerizing and difficult, however not inconceivable for somebody my age.
It ranked as one among my favourite adventures of all the journey.
Professional Ideas: Like most excessive adventures, mountaineering does have its inherent threat of risks, so make sure you might be bodily in a position to deal with the problem. If not, Sundog Guiding affords paddling, climbing, and ridge working excursions all 12 months spherical on the Knik Glacier. One other beauty of Alaska Sundog Guiding is that they share 1 % of their income every month with a nonprofit group that helps the safety of this huge ol’ stunning planet.
3. Snowmachine Tour With Alaska Backcountry Journey Excursions
Our snowmachines roared up the peaks of the Chugach Mountains with the views of the snow-tipped mountains splayed out under us. Bundled up in heavy-duty winter driving gear, I didn’t really feel the bitter chilly due to the adrenaline racing via my blood.
I had been ATVing earlier than, however the snowmachine was new to me. Whereas fairly timid on this nice mechanical beast at first, quickly I used to be maintaining with the remainder of the group and taking the slick turns like a professional.
We signed up for a half-day journey journey with Alaska Backcountry Journey Excursions out of Palmer. Our educated (and humorous) guides took us deep into essentially the most stunning and distant areas of Alaska to see sights that the common vacationer by no means has the chance to see. Whereas in addition they supply glacier excursions, in addition they supply Alaska ATV & Snowmobile Excursions that make you are feeling as in case you are a part of this wild panorama itself. They even supply multi-day Alaska Snowmobile Excursions for many who wish to get misplaced within the mountains.
All in all, one among my favourite excursions stuffed with adrenaline, laughter, breathtaking sights, and enjoyable.
4. Flightseeing Experience In The Alaska Vary
Throughout our tiny little aircraft, nice shear partitions of grey and icy rose-like menacing sentinels surrounded us. I used to be dumb-struck, the one phrases I might type have been “Holy cow” and “Oh my god.” I felt like I used to be within the presence of one thing historic, mighty, and unbelievable.
Our K2 Aviation pilot calmly navigated the thrusts of wind that swirled round our little aircraft, diving deep between peaks within the Alaska Vary to present us an aerial view of some of the intimidating, attractive, and dramatic landscapes in Alaska.
As we made our technique to Talkeetna, the large mountain of Denali loomed above the city, although it was hidden behind the thick veil of winter clouds. As North America’s highest peak, hovering to twenty, 310 toes, Denali is the large king of the 600-mile Alaska vary in Denali Nationwide Park and Protect.
Whereas greater than 1,000 climbers attempt to conquer Denali’s summit annually, we opted for a scenic flight round Denali and the Alaska Mountain Vary. K2 affords quite a lot of excursions, however these flights hit essentially the most scenic factors of curiosity, together with Kahiltna Base Camp, Denali’s West Buttress, Denali’s North Face, Wickersham Wall, the Peters, Muldrow, Traleika Glaciers, and extra with expansive views into Inside Alaska.
We have been practically in tears with the wonder and majesty of the flight, so whereas flightseeing excursions could also be dear, they’re well worth the practically spiritual expertise of seeing this jaw-dropping view of dramatic Alaska.
Professional Tip: If you’re vulnerable to air illness, undoubtedly take medication to assist. The flight bought a bit of tough in locations, however our pilot dealt with all of it like a professional. Of all of the adventures we had in Alaska, this one was essentially the most emotional in its magnificence. Remember to put on layers, as it will probably get fairly chilly on the aircraft.
5. Snowshoe Mountain climbing
Our enjoyable in Talkeetna continued with a guided snowshoe hike via thick, untouched snow with Go Hike Alaska and its founder, Matt Worden. Who says climbing is just for the milder months? Whereas difficult if you happen to’ve by no means used snowshoes earlier than, this hike took us deep into the forests round Talkeetna the place we noticed moose and different wildlife.
Matt, who’s ridiculously educated in regards to the ecosystem and wildlife, affords each newbie and superior snowshoeing excursions, heli-snowshoeing into extra distant areas, winter hikes, and hikes to view waterfalls all through Alaska.
He additionally affords multi-day backpacking excursions in the summertime and specialty excursions like foraging adventures that I’m dying to return to expertise.
Whereas we bought the hold of snowshoeing rapidly, we labored up a sweat and tackled just a few difficult terrains, however if you happen to can hike, you possibly can snowshoe. It’s an effective way to identify wildlife and luxuriate in that crisp Alaskan air.
6. Using The Dalton Freeway To The Arctic
Made well-known by the Discovery Channel present “Ice Street Truckers,” The Dalton Freeway is a 414-mile gravel stretch of desolate freeway that connects the city of Livengood to Prudhoe Bay via a few of Alaska’s most distant wilderness. Ice-covered and missing in service, this freeway is residence to truckers shuttling provides to and from Prudhoe Bay on the prime of the Arctic Circle alongside the Trans-Alaska pipeline.
Whereas harmful and difficult to drive in a personal car in the summertime months, it’s close to inconceivable to drive your self within the winter. As a substitute, go for a scenic tour to Coldfoot, Alaska, residence to essentially the most northern truck cease and saloon in North America.
Our tour with the Northern Alaska Tour Firm led us on an eight-hour bus journey beginning in Fairbanks that traveled via stark winter landscapes, throughout the mighty Yukon River, and previous the eerie and magical Enchanted Forest to the Arctic Circle. From there, we have been transferred into smaller tour vans for our two-day go to to Coldfoot.
Our information Tim was astonishing, relating details and tales about Alaska historical past, the freeway, and the Trans-Atlantic Freeway for eight hours straight! This was some of the academic and fascinating excursions we had, and it was simple to see why The Dalton Freeway is taken into account some of the harmful highways in North America.
Professional Tip: Deliver snacks. Though you’ll cease for lunch alongside the way in which, it’s a protracted drive. Fortunately, you possibly can go for a aircraft journey again to Fairbanks if you find yourself completed exploring Coldfoot.
7. Northern Lights And Canine Sledding Above The Arctic Circle
Coldfoot, Alaska is without doubt one of the few Alaskan communities accessible above the Arctic Circle. It serves as one of many solely service stations alongside The Dalton Freeway. Positioned roughly 174 miles north, it sits within the southern foothills of the Brooks Vary, residence of the Gates of the Arctic Nationwide Park and Protect and the Arctic Nationwide Wildlife Refuge.
Coldfoot can be residence to essentially the most northern “saloon” in North America, and whenever you aren’t sipping on Alaskan brews, additionally it is a spot to go on a wildlife safari, take a canine sledding journey, or buy an non-compulsory night Arctic Village Aurora tour at a historic cabin in close by Wiseman, Alaska, all of which will be organized via the Northern Alaska Tour Firm.
Professional Tip: Coldfoot Camp continues to be fairly rough-and-tumble in its simplicity and rustic nature. The bunkhouses have been designed for pipeline and freeway staff, so don’t count on fashionable luxurious. The meals on the restaurant and saloon, nevertheless, won’t go away you hungry.
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