Alaska in January and February: Things to Do, Places to Go & What to Pack

If you’re up for a full-on winter experience, Alaska in January and February can be otherworldly. The spectacle of white mountains against azure skies make it a photographer’s dream, while festivals and sporting events rock communities just about every week.

Is it cold? Yes. And though January starts out pretty dark, the days grow continually longer, going from about eight hours of light in early January to more than 12 hours by February’s end. During that window, you can experience amazing winter sports like dogsledding and skiing, and at night you'll have the chance to check out the famous northern lights. Of course, off-season prices can make this time pretty enjoyable as well!

Key Details

  • January and February have a bright, bracing and wide-open feel. Every weekend seems to anchor a race or a festival, with spectators and athletes (and howling dogs.) Cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks host a full range of concerts and performances. There’s so much to do that deep winter can seem busier than summer.
  • These months are usually snowy and cold across Alaska, just like you’d expect, with more snow in coastal mountains and deeper cold in interior valleys. If you want to venture outdoors, be comfortable with the possibility of serious winter.
  • This is a time of austere beauty, with the sun rising earlier and setting later, adding about five minutes of daylight every day. Frigid snaps deliver stunning blue-sky conditions that last for days. The white mass of Denali shimmers on the horizon, visible from Anchorage and Fairbanks about twice as often as during the summer.

Getting Outdoors

  • Cross-country ski systems and downhill ski areas max out with full coverage. The extensive multi-use trails inside Anchorage (and other communities) grow busy with skiers, snow-bikers, joggers, and skijoring enthusiasts.
  • Dog mushing—Alaska’s official state sport—hits full stride, with extensive wilderness trails and in-town loops. Many of the classic distance dogsledding races occur in January and February.
  • People start traveling into the country on full-day adventures on snowmachines, skis, bikes and dog sled. It’s also the season of winter festivals, climaxing with the Anchorage Fur Rondy, a carnival of spring mushing, ice carvings, and more.

Seeing Wildlife

Winter is not the best time to see most of Alaska’s iconic animals. Still, moose remain remarkably visible, especially once deep snow has driven them into cities. Natural areas like the windswept Palmer Hay Flats and Potter Marsh also concentrate moose. Gobs of ravens converge on urban settings—it’s not uncommon to see a half-dozen cavorting in parking lots—and resident forest birds like chickadees and redpolls flutter through the trees. Visiting the Alaska Zoo and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center can be a great way to see Alaskan animals in their thick winter coats.

What to Pack

Bring winter clothing that allows you to dress in layers. Including a warm parka with a hood, combined with insulated boots and a hat-buff-glove ensemble. Alaska’s low winter humidity can take the edge off frigid temperatures, making it seem warmer than the same temperature elsewhere. But winter sports may require extra layers or specialized winter gear. Get more tips in our winter clothing guide.

Things to Do during January and February

Jump to: Anchorage | Seward | Girdwood | Portage | Talkeetna | Denaii | Fairbanks | Homer | Juneau


Go Outdoors

Get Cultural

Other Cool Stuff

  • Ride the rails. Board the Aurora Winter Train to see the snowy backcountry on a weekend trip to Talkeetna or Fairbanks. The train heads north on Saturday and returns to Anchorage Sunday. (Or you can ride one way to Fairbanks, spend a few days, and fly back with RavnAir).
  • See local wildlife. Check out local critters at The Alaska Zoo; come Thursday to Saturday to enjoy Zoo Lights, where the zoo is lit up with colorful light displays.
  • Watch local hockey. Take in a University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves hockey game. Wear yellow and green if you’ve got 'em!
  • Art Workshops Wild Starr Creations is not only a place to discover gorgeous creations from Alaskan artists—it’s also a community gathering space that hosts fun events focused on creating your own works of art.



  • Explore dining hot spots. Head to The Double Musky for Cajun Alaskan, Jack Sprat for “fat & lean world cuisine,” and Chair 5 for pizza and pub food.
  • Go downhill skiing. Depending on snowfall, downhill skiing spreads throughout all 1,600 acres at Alyeska Resort, with one of North America’s biggest verticals and a full range of trails from beginning to expert.




  • Go snowshoeing. Explore the trails in a unique way. You can borrow a pair of snowshoes at the Murie Science & Learning Center for free!
  • Enjoy other activities. There are things to do near the visitor center every winter day. Many people bring their own equipment for snow biking or cross-country skiing. Anybody can take a winter hike and then eat lunch in the indoor picnic center.
  • Meet locals at a weekend carnival. Sponsored by the National Park Service in late February, Denali Winterfest features four days of activities, in late February. Events include bingo, stargazing, an art workshop, an outdoor ice hockey tournament, fat-tire bike rides, snowshoe walks, and cross-country ski races.
  • Take multi-day winter adventures. Traverse Alaska offers adventures from Tonglen Lake Lodge. Try winter hiking, ice bowling, or dogsledding with a local musher. The northern lights can be outstanding from the lodge.
  • Chill out at a free campground. Riley Creek campground is about 1.5 miles from the Science Center; just come prepared, as the average low is a chilly minus-3 degrees!


Check Out an Event

  • Catch the world’s “toughest” sled dog race. The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race starts on the first Saturday of February—a 1,000-mile epic mush between Fairbanks and Whitehorse that traverses the snowbound terrain of the classic pioneer Gold Rush.
  • See sprint dog sledding. At least five different sprint mushing races take place in the Fairbanks area during January and February. They're a great way to meet locals immersed in Alaska’s state sport. Check Sled Dog Central for dates and venues.
  • Get dazzled by ice. The World Ice Art Championships runs from mid-February to April at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds, attracting carvers from all over the world. Come admire more than 100 competition sculptures and playful ice attractions for kids.

Enjoy Fun Winter Stuff



  • Learn the history. Stop at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum for a better understanding of Juneau's cultural heritage and visit the Alaska State Museum.
  • Visit Mendenhall Glacier. One of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers becomes even easier to view once its lake freezes solid and winter trails get packed. The visitor center is open winter weekends.
  • Downhill ski with an ocean view. Just 25 minutes from downtown Juneau on Douglas Island, the Eaglecrest Ski Area generally opens by early December.
  • Find solitude and inspiration. Visit the Shrine of St. Therese, north of Juneau. Stroll peaceful trails and even stay the night in a cabin.


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