Before Spring, a Last Look at Winter Travel

PHOTO: A snow-covered Mt. McKinley.
Serena Marshall/ABC

Though it's been unseasonably warm in much of the country, as of March 3, Alaska had its third-snowiest winter on record. Known primarily as a summer destination -- the high season runs May through September -- winter in Alaska is far more affordable than a summer visit. The U.S. state hosting the tallest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley, offers a variety of activities in the winter that cannot be experienced many other places in lower 48. Ice fishing anyone?

As the winter chill gives way to spring's sun, a look back at a winter destination for the hearty. Click through the next few pages and get planning next winter's vacation.

PHOTO: The Aurora Borealis are best viewed December to March.
Serena Marshall/ABC
Aurora

The 358-mile drive from anchorage to the interior city of Fairbanks offers picturesque snow covered trees and an open road that feels like you are driving back in time.

The city known as "the Golden Heart of Alaska," is best known for their spectacular views of the northern lights, due to the close location--only 188 miles south—to the Arctic Circle. Kory Eberhardt, A Taste of Alaska lodge owner, says his 10-room lodge caters to those who hope to catch a glimpse of the "natural beauty, green lights in the sky."

Eberhardt adds that although summer is their busiest travel season, he likes to refer to the winter as the "opportunity season."

"In the winter time it's a complete 180-degree turn from the summertime," he said. "You can do all kinds of different things that are completely different from summer."

The Aurora Borealis, as the Northern Lights are also known, are best viewed December to March.

PHOTO: The Iditarod is known as "last great race."
Serena Marshall/ABC
Iditarod

Every March, the historic "last great race" is run. The Iditarod takes approximately 65 teams of 12-15 sled dogs on a journey across the state, traveling nearly 1050 miles.

Erin McLarnon, Communications Director for the Iditarod told ABC News, "the Iditarod is one of those AHHHHH! Moments you never forget."

"Where in one place can you see over 1,000 amazing athletes about ready to embark on an trek across Alaska?" McLarnon said. "Many say it's a once in a lifetime event, but many end up returning year after year."

More than 5,000 people come from across the globe to witness the races ceremonial start in Anchorage. McLarnon said more than one-third of those are from other countries, such as Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom. The official start in Willow, Alaska can be experienced the next day. Both starts are free and open to the public.

PHOTO: Try your hand at dog mushing on a winter vacation in Alaska.
Serena Marshall / ABC
Dog Sledding

Not one to simply watch? Many regional kennels offer the opportunity to get back to the days when dogs transported supplies and learn to mush.

Iditaride, a sled dog touring company in Seward, Alaska owned by the same three generation family who run the Iditarod, gives tourists and locals alike the chance to drive a six-dog team to Exit Glacier in the Kenai Mountains.

The road normally reserved for summer drives is closed in the winter, so dog team is one of the only ways to see the glacier that served as the exit for the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield in the winter.

PHOTO: No casting required for ice fishing, just a hole drilled in the ice.
Serena Marshall/ ABC
Ice Fishing

Alaska may be best-known for their delicious fish and crab. You may never have fresher seafood than the kind you catch yourself for dinner. Luckily, fishing isn't just for the summer months. Alaskan winters offer the ideal time to try your hand at ice fishing.

"Most of my guests have never ice fished before," Keith C. Koontz, owner Qayu's Sport Fishing said. "(It's) kind of a challenge to get people to catch fish for the first time."

Although salmon dominates the fishing scene in the summer, winters offer the chance to catch Arctic char, rainbow trout, and silver salmon, among others.

"It's really pretty simple," he added. "You drill a hole in the ice and the fish are right under. You don't have to cast or anything but you do have to make the hole in the right place."

PHOTO: Alaska offers many opportunities you can't access by road.
Serena Marshall/ABC
Snowmobile tours

The vast state of Alaska offers many opportunities you can't access by road. Snowmobiles provide the access to beautiful hidden treasures like tiny villages or hidden glaciers and icebergs.

Glacier City Snowmobile Tours offer guided tours to Spencer Glacier in the Chugach Mountains, which is only available in the winter by snowmobile.

For Colby and Davy Woodward, newlyweds spending their honeymoon in Alaska, the experience was "absolutely" worth it.

"It was amazing to just be in Alaska, playing in the winter paradise on these machines," Colby said. "We both wanted to kind of get off the beaten path and see the wilderness aspect of Alaska."

His wife, Davy, added that seeing the glaciers and ice caves were by far her favorite part.

For the honeymooners their a-typical post-vow adventure received lots of odd looks when inquiring wedding guests asked them where they would be going.

But they both said they would do it again "in a heartbeat."

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