I’ve said it numerous times, that I’m reluctant to accept FAM tour invitations from destinations that I don’t have any business for. And so many assume that Alaska falls into this category. On the contract, I have booked four meetings in Anchorage prior to my most recent visit, and, as fate usually has it, I now have two active groups looking at Anchorage now since I’ve returned. The lesson of course, if you invite me on a FAM tour, the chances are good I’ll have a group looking at your city within one week of my return. I must apologize still to Knoxville, TN – the one and only FAM tour invitation I accepted on a whim and am yet to provide a return.Nevertheless, my clients have a need for Anchorage at least once each year and having never seen the city before and having had it on my bucket list for some time, I seized the opportunity when the bureau there, Visit Anchorage, invited me for a few days to enjoy their winter splendor. Now unlike most parts of the country this year where winter hardly existed, Alaskans are taking the brunt of it for all of us. With record snowfalls of nearly 600 inches in the resort areas south of Anchorage, and record snowfall in the city itself, I was about to see Alaska as I had imagined it in, not how my groups see it in the summertime.
The city was covered in snow and the roads leading in and out of the city had ten foot walls of snow on either side of it. The city enjoyed a muffled quiet with the permanence of the snow, and unlike the East Coast snow I’m accustomed to, which is wet and instantly scarred by tire tracks and tar and slush, the Anchorage snow remains a peaceful white. People and cars go about their business because the cold isn’t biting, it’s just unending.
During my four day stint, in addition to doing fairly thorough site tours of five downtown hotels, two convention centers, a theatre, and two cultural museums, we also had an opportunity to enjoy what Alaska is truly known for – outdoor recreation. And in March, outdoor recreation will center around snow since it’s everywhere. A lot of our activity took place in Girdwood, about 40 miles south of Anchorage, and connected to the largest city by the Seward Highway. This highway was named the second most scenic highway in North America and, were the days we traveled it less gray and snowy, I might have seconded that motion. For me, so far nothing beats Highway 1 in California near Big Sur. But the Seward Highway is bound by two mountain ranges and the Turnagin Arm of the Cook Inlet, the northernmost part of the Pacific Ocean. It surely has a lot going for it. Large chunks of frozen seawater bouncing jovially as the tide came in and out.
I enjoyed two incredible activities out here – Snowmobil—er, snowmachining as the locals call it, where we were able to scoot up to speeds of around 50mph though entirely white unadulterated masses of snow with no people for miles around us. And, as we were there anticipating the start of the Iditerod, we were also able to be pulled by ten Alaksan huskies, these incredible animals whose lives are spent and fulfilled pulling, pulling, and more pulling. They thrive in temperatures of ten to twenty below zero and all they want to do is take you for a ride. I obliged.
Alaskan hospitality was at its finest and I encourage many to consider bringing their meetings there even in their snowy months as the experience there will be far more authentic and might help your attendees scratch something off their bucket list too.