Since early days in Nome, residents have learned how to work and recreate in extreme conditions. Winter lasts several months, creating an icy realm that invites all kinds of sliding fun over the frozen Bering Sea and snowbound tundra.
In the early 1900s, downhill skiing and ski jumping near Anvil Mountain were popular, along with ice skating and dog racing. Indoor pursuits included running, baseball and basketball, with Nome’s team doing well even on a national level.
Cross-country skiing, ski biathlon, ice skating, hockey, sled dog racing, and snowmachining are top options for Nome-ites these days. And when it’s time to warm up indoors, the Nome Recreation Center (open 7 days a week in winter) is the place to be: with soccer, basketball, zumba, yoga, and bowling.
The Nome Winter Sports Association hosts pick-up hockey from November to May, operating a rink near downtown next to the VFW center. It is maintained all season long, with dedicated volunteers getting the rink back into shape within 24 hours after a storm. Watch a fast and feisty game on Fridays and Sundays. Wednesdays too, if the weather is good.
When a pick-up hockey game isn’t in progress, the ice rink is a popular spot for recreational skaters. Join the fun yourself, even if you didn’t pack your skates. There’s a supply of different sizes at the ice rink you can borrow. Just ask at the Nome Visitors Center and they can open the storage shed for you.
Cross country skiing
Explore the Bering Sea coastline on skis, or head out for an excursion on the arctic tundra. The best time is in March or April, as the days are lengthening. This is a great chance to spot wildlife – reindeer or musk ox – as you glide along in their natural habitat.
Sled Dog Racing
Sled dogs have played a critical role in this part of the world for centuries, as Native peoples and then gold miners used them for transportation, hauling, hunting, fishing and racing. The mail even used to be delivered by sled dog. Today’s most famous sled dog race is the 1,049-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which finishes in Nome each March. More than a thousand visitors descend on this small community to be a part of the excitement, when Nome celebrates its history and mushing culture. If you’re in town for the end of the race, you’ll hear the sirens calling everyone to Front Street with each musher that arrives. You can also inquire in town about sled dog rides and tours of local kennels for a glimpse into this unique lifestyle.
In the 1960s and 70s snowmachining replaced dog sledding as the prime method of moving people and goods across the wintry landscape. Recreational snowmachining allows people to easily get out in the wilderness for longer excursions. Ask about local snowmachine tours, or time your visit to include the major snowmachine races that start, end, or go through Nome.
- Late February – Rub elbows with racers at the Iron Dog community dinner as racers take a break at this halfway point before heading on to Fairbanks.
- March (second Saturday) – The 200-mile Nome-Golovin Race takes just a few hours, so you can catch the start and the finish – and maybe even the Awards Banquet (usually held a few days later).
- April – Cannonball Run Snowmachine Race – Plant yourself at Beam Road to watch racers tear up the trail on multiple laps around Nome and the surrounding countryside.
When you need to get out of the cold but want to stay active, you can warm up at the Nome Recreation Center (206 E. 6th Ave), open 7 days a week in winter. There’s pick-up basketball or open gym nearly every morning if you’re an early bird. Try out the rock wall, buff up in the weight room or relax with some yoga. Or rent some shoes and perfect your form at the six-lane Golden Strike Bowling Alley, open only in winter.
Nome’s saltwater swimming pool is located at 2920B Nome-Teller Hwy, near the Jr./Sr. High School. Locals challenge themselves in the winter with Idita-swim (completing 1,049 laps or minutes). Check out the schedule for open swim time, aerobics, lap swim and more.
Tee off in the ice and snow of the frozen Bering Sea in this 6‑hole charity golf classic that includes a mandatory stop-off at a local bar after the first three holes. Parka, fur hat, and heavy boats are advisable for one of the most unique golf outings you’ll ever experience.
Snowmachines are part of the fabric of life in places like Nome, where snowfall closes the roads to cars and trucks for months on end. Snowmachines serve a practical role, transporting people and supplies. They also allow for backcountry exploration in winter — and are sure fun to race!
March madness descends on Nome for two weeks, with a huge basketball tourney, a snowmachine race, local competitions, arts events – and the ultimate excitement, as thousands cheer Iditarod mushers and their dogs on to the finish line. Plan to stay awhile for this crazy arctic party, known here as “The Mardi Gras of the North”!