The summer crowds are long gone.
Hotel rates are often lower and the entire state is an outdoor playground.
If you're wondering what to do in Alaska in the winter, here are some suggestions.
You Can Ski Almost Anywhere in the State
Alaska's backcountry provides an unparalled skiing experience. Pick up trail maps at a sporting goods store or though the local nordic ski association.
Pay close attention to the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Follow winter safety procedures.
If you are planning to ski in mountainous areas check the avalanche forecast. Make sure everyone has avalanche rescue equipment and knows how to use it.
Catch the Iditarod and Yukon Qust Sled Dog Races
They're Called Mushers but They Don't Say Mush
Dog mushing is a sport, a hobby and a way of life for some Alaskans. There are tour companies that specialize in dog sled excursions or ask around and see if there’s a local musher who provides that service. Most operators will provide you with warm clothing give you information on the care of the dogs. You’ll learn how to harness the dogs and commands like “gee” and “haw”.
The beauty, grace and power of the dog teams as they fly across the snow is something you’ll never forget.
Catch the start of the Iditarod in Anchorage in early March as the teams begin their 1,050 mile trek to Nome.
Travel to Fairbanks for the Yukon Quest in February. Each year teams travel 1,000 miles between Fairbanks and Whitehorse Yukon in what is known as the toughest race on earth.
Don't Miss the Spectacular Northern Lights
The lights, also known as Aurora Borealis are caused by solar ejections colliding with the Earth's magnetic field. They are more frequent and vibrant during high solar sunspot activities which run in 11 year cycle.
The best place to see the northern lights is in the northern and interior parts of Alaska. The Goephysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks provides a free online aurora forecast.
Enjoy the experience as you soak in one of the four hot springs in the Fairbanks area while gazing up into the winter sky.
Snowmobiles are a Great Way to Explore Alaska
They are many companies in Alaska that rent snowmobiles. They also offer day long and multi-day excursions. The excursions are a good bet if you're not familiar with driving a snowmobile. The guides offer expert instruction on the safe use of the machines.
If you choose to rent a snowmobile don't go out alone. Always let someone know where your group is going and when you are expected home.
As with cross-country skiing, if you are traveling in mountainous areas carry avalanche rescue gear and know how to use it.
Ride the Aurora Train
The route takes you through spectacular Denali National Park and offers a flag stop service between Talkeetna and Hurricane. It's a great way to meet Alaskans who live "off the grid".
Dining is available onboard. The cost of a one way fare is roughly $160.
The Fishing is Great on Many Alaska Lakes
Many of Alaska's land-locked lakes are stocked with fish.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources offers day use ice fishing huts for rent. They feature a wood burning stove and four ice holes. You'll have to supply your own fishing gear, ice auger and firewood. Ask what kind of gear and bait you'll need at the local sporting goods store.
The Quartz Lake State Recreational Area near Delta Junction offers excellent sport fishing for silver salmon, arctic char and rainbow trout.
You can also rent an ice hut at the Birch Lake State Recreation Site near Fairbanks. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, king and silver salmon, grayling and arctic char.
Snow and More Snow. The Skiing's Great
There are seven downhill ski facilities in Alaska. The largest and most prestigious is Alyeska, a 340 room resort located in Girdwood, 40 miles from Anchorage. It offers five new ski runs as well as one halfpipe and two terrain parks for snowboarders. The summit is almost 4,000 feet and there is 140,000 acres of skiable terrain.
Eaglecrest is the second largest ski hill in the state. It's located on Douglas Island, just 12 miles from downtown Juneau. Eaglecrest has four chair lifts, 640 acres of skiable terrain and spectacular views.
You can also ski at Alpenglow Arctic Village (Anchorage), Birch Hill (Fort Wainwright), Hilltop (Anchorage), Moose Mountain (Fairbanks) and Mount Aurora Skiland (Fairbanks)
If you are experienced and adventurous enough you can enjoy heli-skiing at many locations throughout the state.
Snowshoes are an Inexpensive and Fun Way to Get Around
Snowshoeing is growing in popularity and it's not surprising. The sport is fun, easy to master and provides a good workout. It's also relatively inexpensive.
You can pick up a decent pair of snowshoes and poles for about $100.
Anywhere you can cross-country ski you can snowshoe and there's plenty of places to choose from.
There are hundreds of multi-use trails in Anchorage along.
Alaska is a Shopper's Paradise
Every community has shops that feature work by local artisans and craftspeople. Look for Tlingit carvings, whalebone earrings , gold nugget jewellery, native footwear and Inuit art.
Local manufacturers create scarves and mitts and parkas. Alaska has a rich and vibrant arts community so your sure to find the perfect memento.
A Night Out to Remember
Take in concerts, dance and theatre. Eat in a unique Alaskan restaurant and try out the halibut, king crab or wild meat specials.