Three winter day trips

Winter can be a hard time for Alaskans. After all the holidays feasts, many of us hit a wall. It’s around this time that we begin to daydream about summer camping trips.

In spite of how it can feel sometimes, Alaska does not shut down in the winter. Although it takes a lot more planning and packing, winter travel can be done safely. Here are three trips that you can make in a single day from Anchorage.

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The Talkeetna Mountains from the hay flats. Photo credit: Abigail Slater

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Many people don’t know that the conservation center remains open during the winter. If you go during this time, you can skip the lines and crowds and get great photos of wildlife in winter. From midtown, it takes less than an hour to get there, and the journey is relatively easy. You should pack warm gear in the unlikely event of your car going off the road, but there’s no need for hardcore survival gear with this trip.

Don’t forget to stop at The Bake Shop in Girdwood for a giant cinnamon roll.

Ice skating in Eklutna

There are plenty of indoor skating options in Anchorage, but none of them offers up a view like Eklutna. With wide-open spaces and views of beautiful mountain ranges, ice skating on Eklutna Lake is a perfect getaway.

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Rentals aren’t offered on site, but you can rent skates for the day at Play It Again Sports, Alaska Outdoor Gear Rental and the Gear Room in the Student Union. You can check skate conditions at www.anchorageskates.org. If conditions aren’t right for ice skating, bring ice cleats and take advantage of good hiking. The drive can take over an hour from Anchorage. Visitors should pack warm gear and a basic first aid kit, as driving conditions in Eklutna can be rough during the winter.

Snowshoeing at Alyeska

Snowshoe rentals are available at the Alyeska Hotel for $15 all day. Rentals are open to the public, and you do not need a reservation in order to rent a pair. Snowshoes allow hikers to trek in areas of high snow. Be sure to take someone knowledgeable of the trails or have a GPS tracker.

Alyeska is about 40 minutes south of Anchorage, but wrecks are common in the winter along the Seward Highway and can slow traffic down. Plan to leave early to avoid any hiccups on the road. Pack a heavy coat, wool base layers and a good first aid kit in case you get into a wreck or get lost while snowshoeing.

Honorable mention: Dog sledding in Denali

Though this is technically an overnight excursion, it deserves mentioning since Fur Rondy is right around the corner. For those wanting a lesson in dog sledding, Earthsong Lodge and Denali Dog Sled Expeditions offer overnight tours by dog sled, including a full day of training. Excursions require a reservation, which can be made online.

Earthsong Lodge is a little less than five hours away by car, and it passes through some treacherous driving conditions. Pack as much wool gear as possible, a first aid kit, a spare tire, enough extra food to get you through at least 24 hours and a full gas can. Some of these areas are far away from the next town, and if you break down in one of them you’ll be thankful for the extra supplies.

Winter doesn’t have to be a depressing time of year. Getting out of the city can help alleviate that cooped-up feeling that tends to accompany seasonal affective disorder. With these three day trips, you’ll stay busy until spring hits.