Action-packed and truly beautiful, Fairbanks’ winter season is guaranteed. At 64 degrees north latitude, Fairbanks is one of the best places on earth to see the captivating light of the aurora borealis (aka the Northern Lights), view larger-than-life outdoor ice sculptures and experience the exhilarating sport of dog mushing. This surprising trio of events makes the winter season a traveler’s snowy paradise and one you should start planning for now.
Winter brings a multitude of winter activities, cultural celebrations, art exhibitions and sporting events. Skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, curling, tubing and ice hockey abound. Challenge the snow-capped hills or birch-laden trails or mush a team of huskies across the wilderness. Behold two-ton pieces of ice being turned into works of art. Journey above the Arctic Circle, visit Santa in North Pole or discover the incredible warmth of an Alaska hot spring at the end of an adventure-filled day.
View Captivating Northern Lights
Fairbanks lures people from all over the world during the “Aurora Season,” which runs from August 21 to April 21. The city’s location directly under the “Auroral Oval” – a ring-shaped region hovering over the far north – combined with a good balance of clear nights, occurrence frequency and solar activity allows for excellent aurora viewing opportunities.
You can take a drive to a nearby vantage point and simply wait for the northern lights to appear. Or you can arrange to view them from a heated “aurorium” cabin or lodge, on an overnight dog sled adventure, by snow cat tour or on a flight above the Arctic Circle. If you stay a minimum of three nights and are actively out during the evening hours, your chances of seeing the aurora increase to more than 90%. No guarantees, but the longer you visit, the better your chances are of seeing a great show!
Two-Ton Works of Art
In Fairbanks, ice art is not only remarkable, but commonplace during winter months with sculptures found all around town. The making of ice art culminates late February through March, when Ice Alaska hosts the World Ice Art Championships at the George Horner Ice Park. Watch beautiful artworks emerge from 2-ton blocks of ice as the sculptors work around the clock. More than 70 teams and 100 artists from around the globe carve more than 3 million pounds of ice.
The ice harvested and moved by forklift from a local pond in Fairbanks is called “Arctic Diamond.” It’s renowned for its sparkling, translucent quality. Ice art sculptures rival those wrought in stone and never cease to capture both the mind and the imagination. At the kids’ ice playground, you can climb atop a polar bear, slide down a dragon’s neck, skate in the ice rink or crawl through a giant maze.
Howl With the Dogs
Alaska’s four-legged athletes love to run and accessing Alaska’s state sport of dog mushing has never been easier. By combining “man’s best friend” with a skinless kayak frame on runners, Alaska Natives established the practical use of dog sleds centuries before explorers, prospectors and missionaries made mushing their mode of winter transportation. Those dog days of yore can be a part of your adventure today.
Tour a working kennel where you can meet the dogs and hear captivating tales from veteran mushers; try a 30-minute ride in a dog sled basket; learn to drive your own team at a half-day mushing school; or, for the ultimate mushing adventure, fly to a remote lodge and “mush” your team on an extended guided tour.
If it’s spectating you prefer, catch the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race—an epic 1,000-mile marathon along the Gold Rush Trail between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. In March, watch the “granddaddy of all sprint races,” the Open North American Championship Sled Dog Race.
Plan an incredible winter expedition in this sparkling land of aurora, ice and snow. To learn more about winter in Fairbanks, request a free 2017-18 Fairbanks Winter Guide or the year-round Visitors Guide, at www.explorefairbanks.com/guide.