Ask someone who has been to Alaska and ask them what their first
impressions were and more than likely you’ll hear something to the effect,
“It’s so big,” or “It’s bigger than life.”
is big. Big to the tune of about two
and a half times the size of Texas.
And just about all of that land mass is covered with snow
during the winter months (and summer months as well, depending on where you
There are a handful of spots in The Last Frontier where you
can’t or shouldn’t ride a snowmobile but for the most part, the state is wide
open to snowmobiling.
As big as Alaska
as and as much opportunity there is to ride a snowmachine over its vast white
expanses, it’s the sheer variety of riding that’s available that is the most
appealing. It’s a given there’s snow in Alaska—usually
measured in feet, not inches. And when you’ve got a state so big and so
diverse, well, the scenery is described with oohs and aahhs. We’re not sure if
anyone keeps track of things like this but we’re pretty sure more pictures are
shot in Alaska than probably any other state
in the Union.
When you’re not gawking at Alaska’s amazing beauty, most likely you’re
enjoying deep powder, wide open riding and challenging mountains that beckon
even the hardiest hillclimbers with the biggest horsepower. There’s a mix of
every kind of snowmobiling you can imagine in Alaska. Throw in the fact that the season is
very long—sledding starts as early as October and can go well into May, June
and even July—and a lack of crowds and you can see why Alaska is such a coveted
Few places in North America have the mountains and ranges
you’ll find so far north and so close to the ocean as is found in Alaska. And there aren’t
many places where you can sled right from sea level (practically from the
ocean’s edge) and shoot up several thousand feet into the mountains.
There are places in Alaska
with small, developed trail systems as well as locations that attract more
snowmachiners than others, but it’s still pretty wide open with sometimes you
only limits being the amount of gas you can carry and your reliability on a
No doubt, the sheer vastness of Alaska can be an intimidating experience.
But that is part of the experience.
Other features that make Alaska so appealing include glaciers,
mountain ranges (39 in the state) for as far as the eye can see, imposing
20,320-foot Mt. McKinley (tallest mountain in North America), wild rivers,
frozen lakes, above-the-treeline riding, riding at sea level, two oceans,
Aurora Borealis and the list goes on.
Some of the more popular local sledding spots include Hatcher Pass,
Nancy Lake State Recreation Area/Willow and Big
Lake, north of Anchorage,
the White Mountains, Summit and Cantwell near Fairbanks, Tok, Delta Junction, Valdez
and Eureka. Of
course, these riding areas are just a portion of what is actually available.
Other riding options include selected Alaska
state parks, which includes the already mentioned Nancy Lake.
A handful of others where snowmaching is allowed include Birch Lake State
Recreation Site, Chena River State Recreation Area, Denali State Park and
Chugach State Park. For more information on these parks and others, log on to www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks and click
on the individual parks section.
Riding is also popular and allowed in Alaska’s
two state forests—Tanana Valley (near Fairbanks)
and Haines (near Haines).
One snowmobile rental outfit near Girdwood even offers
snowmobile tours during the summer.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless.
One of the best ways to get around on a snowmobile is to
take a local along with you. Someone who knows the area, especially when it’s
as big as what you’ll find in Alaska,
and the associated hazards, such as crevasses in glaciers or avalanche danger,
can be invaluable on a snowmachine trip in the Final Frontier. Even advanced
riders should have people with them who know the area.
Contact the Alaska State Snowmobile Association for
information on riding in the state by logging on to the ASSA website at www.aksnow.org. The state association’s
website has good information on several trail systems and what awaits you when
you ride there. The state’s volunteer leadership is also listed on the site so
you’ll be able to maybe find a riding buddy or two for your dream trip.
Travel Alaska www.travelalaska.com
Road Conditions 866-282-7577
Alaska State Snowmobile Association www.aksnow.org
Number of Registered Snowmobiles 53,400
Highest Point Mount McKinley (20,320 ft)
Record Winter Snowfall Thompson Pass 974.5 in.
Coldest Recorded Temperature Prospect Creek Camp minus-80 degrees