We turned the corner from summer to fall. There is snow on the hills. Winter is coming.
For some, “termination dust” is the signal they need to book tickets somewhere south of here. But for many of us who live in Alaska, it’s time to dust off our winter clothes. Maybe this week you can pour yourself a double dose of adventure – and see what there is to see and do.
“It’s been a great week for the Northern Lights,” said Annie Hopper, who heads the Lodge at Black Rapids.
The lodge is approximately two hours north of Glennallen on the Richardson Highway. It’s closer to Fairbanks, located near a few glaciers and the Denali Highway.
“We have a great Nordic sky to see the lights,” Hopper said.
Since the lodge is right up the road, they welcome the walk-in guest who needs a place to stay overnight. But Hopper offers several packages for winter adventurers.
“We have several three to five day packages,” Hopper said. Whether you’re looking to chase the Northern Lights or explore the nearby Black Rapids Glacier ice caves, the lodge can help you discover a slice of winter paradise.
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She and her husband, Mike, built the lodge on a hill overlooking the highway and the Delta River. “Customers can snow machine, dog sled or ski,” she said. New upgrades include a sauna and hot tub.
If you really like snowmobiles, contact Derek Ruckel at Wild Guides of Alaska. During the summer, his guides take jet skis from Whittier Harbor to see the glaciers. But in the winter, Ruckel and his team return to snowmobile tours.
“I started guiding in 2000,” said Ruckel. “So I have about 2,500 miles of trails on my GPS. “
In addition to day trips from their head office in Girdwood, Alaska Wild Guides organize lodge-to-lodge adventures from two to 14 days.
“First, I question the runners and ask them what they want to see. Then I build a personalized itinerary, ”he said.
Ruckel really likes the four-day route which he calls “Alaska Explorer II”.
“This tour offers the best value for money,” he said.
The journey begins in Lake Louise. On the first day, he tows the sleds from Girdwood, arriving in time for everyone to sit down and have dinner.
“Then we get up the next day and drive 78 miles,” he said.
Runners meet at the MacLaren River Lodge on the Denali Highway.
“The Denali Freeway is closed in the winter, so the only way to get in or out is on snowmobiles,” Ruckel said.
The remainder of the route includes exploring nearby glaciers, mountains and river valleys.
“We buy brand new machines every season,” said Ruckel. On tour, riders spend a lot of time on the machine, 50 to 100 miles per day. “You won’t see anyone else on the trails,” Ruckel said. “The food is at the top. The beds in the lodges are comfortable, so everyone sleeps well and eats well.
Tours take place between January 20 and March 30. The four-day, three-night Alaska Explorer II tour costs $ 3,650 per person.
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It is not uncommon to see the Northern Lights right here in Anchorage. But to get a really good look, consider bringing in a pro.
I woke up Steve Busby a recent afternoon. He had been out with people late, looking for the Northern Lights.
“The best time to see the Northern Lights is around the equinox,” said Busby, who heads Adventures in Grande-Terre. “So now is the perfect time to see the Northern Lights.”
Greatland Adventures specializes in day – or rather, night – trips to see the Northern Lights outside of Anchorage.
“We include all the necessary winter equipment,” he said.
“Boots, snow pants, hooded parkas, mittens and warm hats are included,” he said. “Plus hand warmers and boot warmers too.”
Depending on the weather and the forecasted Northern Lights, tours depart every evening between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. The cost is $ 275 per person. “The length of the tour depends on where we’re going,” Busby said. “It usually takes an hour to get away from the city lights.
Mandy Garcia is one of the owners of Salmonberry Tours, which runs tours throughout Alaska year round. As she calls her Anchorage home, she recommends heading north to see the Northern Lights.
“I like our Northern Lights Getaway Package, “she said.” We’ve refined the package over 10 years. We’ve got it at the bottom.
Customers leave Anchorage on day one in one of Salmonberry’s vans. Destination: Talkeetna. “In Talkeetna, you can ride your own dog team,” Garcia said. The dogs are part of the Dallas Seavey Racing team, and there is a 5 mile course through the forest. Next, Salmonberry Tours hosts a tasting at the Denali Brewing Co., followed by dinner.
From Talkeetna, customers travel north to Fairbanks on the Alaska Railroad. After arriving in Fairbanks, you will have time to check into the hotel and get ready to see the Northern Lights.
The next day includes a visit to Chena Hot Springs to visit the Ice Museum and Hot Springs. It’s a great way to warm up before chasing the aurora that night.
The next day, you can explore Fairbanks at your leisure or join one of the optional tours, such as a flight north from the airport to cross the Arctic Circle. Go back in time for more aurora hunting until 2 to 3 a.m.
The package costs $ 1,958 per person, based on double occupancy.
If you arrive alone in Fairbanks and want to chase the Northern Lights, contact Aaron Lojewski. He owns Fairbanks Aurora Tours.
Lojewski doesn’t have a particular place he frequents. Rather, he carefully studies the weather and the dawn forecast to determine the best place to see the lights.
Maybe it is a mystery where you go for the day tour. But there’s a good chance you’ll bring home some great footage from your trip. That’s because Lojewski is an exceptional photographer – and he can guide you on how to get the most out of your camera.
Lojewski concedes that there are places further north, like Coldfoot, that are even better than Fairbanks for viewing the Northern Lights. “But I like Fairbanks better,” he said. “It’s because we have four roads in all directions. It is easier to drive to the traffic lights from Fairbanks.
Tours with Fairbanks Aurora Tours cost $ 195 per person. Cameras and tripods are available for hire.
Scott McCrea of Explore Fairbanks confirms what many Alaskans suspect: “The bright lights of winter are the Northern Lights. This is the main reason people come to visit us, ”he said. “But even when Mother Nature is not cooperating, there is no shortage of winter activities.”
In fact, there is a long list of attractions to bring visitors to Fairbanks: mushing, museums, festivals and breweries. Explore Fairbanks publishes a winter visitors guide with an event calendar and pro planning tips.
These ideas are just to help you start planning for the winter. By the time the snow covers the deckchairs you haven’t packed yet, you’ll be ready to have some winter fun.