Trio of winter events bring Anchorage alive
Three. There’s something magical about that number, and strangely enough, it factors into a lot of fun in Alaska later this month and in early March.
Anchorage has a classic trio of winter events: Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the Tour of Anchorage. The whole city seems a little more exciting, a little more fun as the crowds build for each event.
Things get going in late February with a long-running favorite: 2014 marks the 79th year of Anchorage Fur Rendezvous. It started in the 1930s as a few days of fun, mainly in the form of sporting events. Over the decades, it has snowballed into a celebration that rolls together the frenetic Running of the Reindeer, snowshoe softball, team snowball fights and outhouses races. There’s plenty of fun in the snow, but the Jim Beam Jam, Miners & Trappers Charity Ball and the Charlotte Jensen Alaska Native Arts Market prove that Alaska at this time of year isn’t just about the outdoors. www.furrondy.net
Few events are as synonymous with Alaska as the Iditarod. Anchorage hosts the ceremonial start on the first Saturday of March every year. Dogs, sleds and handlers take over for the morning. No description does it justice, so come Downtown and get swept up in the excitement of the start at the start line at Fourth Avenue and D Street. Those dogs are amped up and ready to run. And the booming countdown – 3, 2, 1, Go! – will echo in your memory.
For a different take on Iditarod, duck into the woods farther along the trail. Once racers leave the start line, the day takes on a different tone, with people staking out a spot from which to wish racers luck, and catching up with neighbors in between sleds. There are few places where the connection between racers and their fans is so direct. www.iditarod.com
The Iditarod is barely down the trail when skiers take over for one of the biggest events in cross-country. The Tour of Anchorage is on March 2. It has been going strong since 1988, the winter after the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail was finished. With 25-, 40- and 50-kilometer courses, this is a tour of Anchorage in the truest sense. The longer races start at Service High, slide through Russian Jack Park, and down the Coastal Trail into Kincaid Park. It’s also one of the largest ski events in the country by number of participants. Elite skiers will duke it out for top times, but you don’t need to be a pro for the Tour. It is the perfect place to work on a personal goal, or arrange a casual competition with friends or family. This year, the tour dovetails with the 2014 National Masters, a national ski. Races for the Masters start Feb. 27 in Kincaid Park, and culminate in the Tour of Anchorage itself, which serves as the National Masters 2014 distance freestyle championship race. www.anchoragenordicski.com/tour_of_anchorage.html