Travel pages: Going extreme in Alaska

Marc Lester

The New York Times travel section offers readers a guide to "extreme" winter sports in Alaska -- though somehow ice golfing in Nome sneaked onto the list, and most Anchorage residents wouldn't call snow biking a daredevil pursuit unless done on busy city streets. Correspondent Ethan Todras-Whitehill offers first-person observations on snow kiting in Turnagain Pass, ice climbing near Portage Glacier and snow biking around Anchorage. Most amusing of all for Alaskans may be the Times' skull-and-crossbones ratings of various activities and who they're best for (skijoring is for "anyone who has ever fantasized about becoming a sled").

 Anchorage — unlike Interlaken, in Switzerland, Jackson Hole, Wyo., and other winter adventure capitals — has a robust sports scene in which tourists are almost an afterthought. The city is full of young, fit people whose garages are overflowing with snowshoes, ice axes, skis, snowmobiles and other adrenaline paraphernalia. And they play a lot of different sports. Skiing (backcountry, cross-country and alpine) and snowmobiling (called snowmachining in Alaska) are probably the most popular, followed by dog mushing. After that come ice climbing, skijoring (cross-country skiing pulled by a dog) and snow biking. Then you get into sports that no one in their right mind would do, like snow-kiting, winter surfing and scuba diving (in dry suits).

It’s true that these sports can be done elsewhere. Backcountry skiing is all the rage in the Northwest; ice climbing is popular from Colorado to Vermont. But Alaska has more snow, more ice, more wind, taller mountains and lower tree lines than pretty much anywhere else. When it comes to extreme sports in the winter, Alaska is as extreme as it gets.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post travel section focuses on Fairbanks with a report emphasizing tamer winter activities like soaking in Chena Hot Springs and riding the Alaska Railroad through the wilderness. Correspondent Kate Siber does, however, try her luck driving a 10-dog team through the Interior cold.