If you loved making snowmen and angels as a kid, or if you sneak outside early in the morning after a fresh snowfall to take in the peaceful silence, or if you get excited at the first thought of a powder day, Alaska in the winter is for you. The magic of the season can be found all across the state, but it’s made especially brighter with loved ones. Try these epic winter vacations on for size — just add your family or friends into the picture:
Scene 1: You and your extended family have rented out a small, family owned, wilderness lodge. You spend the days with lodge staff leading the way through the epic winter wonderland on cross-country skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles. You’re so far out of range, your cell phone stopped buzzing the second you arrived, and you now happily forget it in your cabin during each outing, instead taking the time to contemplate if there’s anyone else within miles. As it grows dark, you and your family return to the main lodge for a hot cocoa or something a little stronger and settle in by the fire to recount your experiences. The chef calls you all to the dining table for a feast (yes, that’s Alaska king crab on the table) just as your stomach growls and you realize you’re ravenous. There’s nothing better than talking and laughing across the table with good food and family long into the night. When you can’t keep your eyes open any longer, you head back to your warm cabin stopping just long enough to stare at the sky full of bright stars. You smile and make a wish: please let tomorrow be just as perfect as today.
Scene 2: You and your family are waiting in the chilly morning when the train conductor calls you over and gives you the signal to step up into the Alaska Railroad car. You settle into window seats and watch as the light creeps into the sky and shapes sharpen into focus. A winter wonderland whizzes by just outside the window. You’re all so engrossed in watching for moose and losing yourself in the vast landscape that your family is surprised when the conductor announces the stop at Talkeetna. What a charming small town! Walking into the Talkeetna Roadhouse smells exactly like your grandmother’s kitchen during the holidays. You’re excited to whip up a pie with your kids just like you did with your grandmother, though this time it will be with the Roadhouse owner’s gentle guidance and encouraging smile. The hardest part is waiting for it to bake and cool, but the owner promises to keep an eye on your pie, and your family suits up and heads outdoors. It’s time to explore Denali State Park on snowshoe and see that winter wonderland that was outside your window up close. It’s so quiet as you work your way along the trail behind the guide, you simply hear your family’s coordinated breaths. You’ve fallen into a rhythm together. Without a word, the guide motions you all to stop and look up at the Alaska Range on the horizon. North America’s largest peak, Denali, stands tall and suddenly Mother Earth’s beauty hits you. You feel small and mighty all at the same time, standing there in sync with your family.
Scene 3: You and your friends arrived in Fairbanks two nights ago and so far you’ve gone dog mushing, snowmobiling and even soaked in hot springs with snow piled all around you. Tonight is your second attempt at spotting the aurora borealis and after an afternoon nap and a late dinner, you’re milling around a cozy lodge waiting for the cue. A little after midnight, you all decide to take a walk outside under the stars, bantering about who is the better dog musher and who really won that snowmobile race. When suddenly everyone goes quiet and you’re standing there staring up at the sky together. Green lights dance overhead and you can barely pull your eyes away from the sky long enough to look at your friends’ faces, mouths agape, but it’s worth it. Tears start streaming down your face and you’re not sure if it’s your emotions or the cold, but you’re pretty sure this is what a miracle feels like. When the colors disappear a few minutes later, you look at your friends and no one can say a word, so you walk back to the lodge holding hands. This is what togetherness feels like.
Scene 4: You and your partner have spent the past three days skiing at Alyeska Resort, riding the tram to the top and working your way down over and over again. You know where the nickname “steep and deep” comes from now, but you’ve also never felt more alive. This morning is different, because you’re taking the day off to go ice skating on the pond and then hit the indoor saltwater pool. You planned on curling up by the fire to read the novel you packed, but surprise, your partner booked a couple’s massage at the resort spa instead. You roll off the table feeling better than ever and find out there’s one more surprise: a cozy night in to round out a spectacularly cozy day, complete with room service from the resort’s Sakura Asian Bistro. After a delectable meal of fresh Alaska seafood, hand-crafted sushi and après cocktails, you and your partner look at the clock and realize it’s time to hit the hay. It was the perfect day off and now you’re ready to kick your partner’s you-know-what on the slopes again tomorrow.
If you’re ready to make any of these scenes a reality for you and yours this winter, go ahead and order an Alaska Vacation Planner here.
Editor’s note: The health and safety of Alaska’s visitors and residents, along with its member businesses, remains a top priority to the Alaska Travel Industry Association throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Alaska tourism businesses are open under the Reopen Alaska Responsibly plan and can help you decide if it’s right for you to travel now or in the future. We encourage you to stay in touch with your travel providers for the latest updates and travel requirements.