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(ARA) - Think of Alaska in the winter, and most people envision white. Miles and miles of endless white and nothingness.
Think again. Winter in Alaska provides an array of events and activities that suit the adventurous or the refined traveler.
One of the most well-known Alaska winter attractions is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, also known as the "Last Great Race." The 1,100-mile dog sled race crosses the state from Anchorage to Nome beginning the first Saturday of March, and generally draws nearly 100 sled dog racers -- known as mushers -- from all over the world.
The Iditarod partly follows the route of the famous 1925 Serum Run, in which 20 teams of mushers carried lifesaving antitoxin serum from Fairbanks to Nome in 127 hours to stem a diphtheria outbreak that was threatening the town's children.
The Iditarod's 25-year history is full of tales of courage, perseverance, determination, and camaraderie -- and that's just the dog teams. The "Iditarod Fact Book," from Epicenter Press, covers every facet of the race, from the cost of running it to the famous one-second victory, to the vets who care for the dogs. For anyone considering a trip to see the race, the book provides the background, rules and various strategies mushers use to win, giving those on the sidelines a chance to get the most out of watching this famous contest.
Books looking at the race from different perspectives also are available: "Iditarod Country" looks at the remote villages along the race route; "Jon Van Zyle's Iditarod Memories" features color reproductions of the annual posters from more than 25 years of racing; "Iditarod Classics" offers hair-raising tales of mushers and their dogs who have faced danger and death on the trail, and "Iditarod Dreams" chronicles a year in the life of one of the race's most popular woman mushers.
Epicenter Press (www.epicenterpress.com) has a range of books about Alaska's history, wildlife, politics and humor. But for those who want to do more than just read about it, planning a wintertime trip to Alaska - or a summer trip -- is as easy as clicking your mouse.
Scott McMurren, an Alaska travel expert who lives in Anchorage, says winter in Alaska offers a wide variety of activities. And, he says, you don't need to buy all new winter gear for winter travel in Alaska. "If you know how to dress for a ski vacation, then you know how to pack for a trip to Alaska," he says.
"We have world-class skiing, both downhill and Nordic, great lodges, fabulous restaurants, cultural activities and museums," McMurren says. "And for those who really want to focus on the Iditarod, there are ski planes that chase the race, or rustic lodges along the trail that are open all winter, and novices can mush along the same trail as the racers."
Anchorage, where the Iditarod begins, has many cultural and social activities, as well as museums, shopping, fine restaurants and lodging, and is the starting point for travel to many other parts of the state.
South of Anchorage, the town of Homer on Kachemak Bay provides breathtaking scenery. The Land's End Resort in Homer sits at the end of a five-mile isthmus in the bay and has a beachfront spa, including hot tubs on the beach, where guests can watch sea birds, porpoises and, at times, whales in the bay, as well as grand views of glaciers across the bay.
In the interior of the state, the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge offers spectacular scenery few other places can: an uninterrupted view of Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, as well as frequent displays of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Lodge staff will even wake guests (who make the request) to watch the dancing lights.
Near Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs Resort offers dog sledding, "flight seeing" tours, even gold panning. And the Winterlake Lodge, 198 miles northwest of Anchorage on the Iditarod trail, offers dog mushing, snow machining, culinary weekends, and views of the Trimble Glacier and Rainy Pass.
The Web site www.toursaver.com offers an extensive list of special offers and two-for-one packages for resorts and activities across Alaska, and even free offers valued at $1,000. The site also offers a free newsletter, the Alaska Travelgram, and links to many other useful Web sites for information about traveling in Alaska.
To learn more about traveling to Alaska, some helpful Web sites to explore include www.dogsled.com, www.anchorage.net, www.withinthewild.com, www.lands-end-resort.com, www.chenahotsprings.com and nomealaska.org.
Courtesy ARA Content, www.ARAcontent.com, e-mail: info@ARAcontent.com