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  • Writer's pictureStephen Bugno

Why You Should Visit Alaska in Winter

Photo: Juno Kim

Guiding small groups around Alaska year-round for the past three years, I have learned to appreciate the subtleties between the months and the extremes of different seasons here. My advice for those who visit in summer: come back in the winter. It’s vastly different.

Not only does the landscape look different, but the activities in winter are distinct as well. A great example of that is our helicopter flights over Knik Glacier. You could do the exact same flight path at different times of the year and your experience would be unique each time.

The summer months are highlighted with blooming wildflowers and numerous edible berries. Not to mention mother moose with their calves, and black and brown bears roaming Alaska’s wilderness. The early summer displays the various green shades of the boreal forest with still snow-capped peaks looming above. At the end of summer, the tundra turns red and the leaves of the aspen and birch transform into yellow. By October or November, the landscape becomes dusted by a thin layer of snowfall. This is the start of a six-month winter in southcentral Alaska.

Nothing in Alaska is as sublime as winter. The landscape seems buried into hibernation, covered in white. Only the green of the spruce trees, grey of the mountain granite, and brown from the barren deciduous trees protrude from the snow cover. This unforgiving winter climate is the reason to visit Alaska in winter. To experience the extremes of the Great Land.

What can we do in Alaska in Winter?

Visiting Alaska in winter allows travelers to experience activities they’ve only dreamed about. Dog mushing over frozen ponds and wooded hills. Snowshoeing through the snow-covered boreal forest. Even ice climbing up glaciers or frozen waterfalls.

Cyclists trade their road and mountain bikes for fat bikes–specially developed bikes right here in Alaska for easy rolling on snow-packed trails. Hikers keep it real and do their regular hikes, packing down the most popular trails throughout the winter. Cross country skiers can ski on groomed trails in Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla, Talkeetna, and beyond. Downhill skiers come from around the world to attack the north face of Alyeska Resort.

Those who prefer motorized sports enjoy excellent snowmobiling (called snow-machining in Alaska). Visitors to Alaska can do all of these activities with various tour operators or simply by renting equipment and setting off on their own. Although, we always recommend going with a guide with local knowledge.

There’s also world-class heli-skiing in the Chugach Mountains, which features our favorite mode of transportation - helicopter. Speaking of winter and helicopters, we’ve added a little twist to an old standard. Enter winter heli snowshoeing. This includes a 20-minute scenic helicopter tour over the mountains to the astonishing Knik glacier. There you’ll spend the next 1.5 hours romping through a snow-covered wonderland. Perfect for beginners–all winter gear included.

Photo: Juno Kim

Another specialty is our guided ice climbing. Suit up and embrace the elements for 4-5 hours. Your guides will equip you with everything necessary to remain safe including a rope, harness, helmet, boots, crampons, and ice tools to ensure a successful ascent up the glacier wall.

At Alaska Helicopter Tours we continue flying throughout the winter. We love taking guests on both our signature Knik Glacier Landing tour and our epic Grand Knik Tour. Our daylight hours here in Alaska are shorter in the winter but our best-in-the-business pilots love showing off the snow-dusted glacier and the rest of the scenery here in the Knik River Valley.

Alaska Helicopter Tours in different seasons

The wonder of Alaska is witnessing this landscape change throughout the seasons. If you’ve flown with us in summer, come back and join us for a helicopter tour in winter.

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