Contrary to popular belief, Alaska —and Anchorage  in particular—does not go into hibernation for the long months of winter. Instead, many locals look forward to the cold and snow because of the wonderful outdoor activities they bring. Anchorage is a national center for cross-country skiing, dogsledding, skijoring (skiing behind a dog), hockey, and all sorts of other winter fun.
Visitors soon discover what the residents already know—the city is blessed with excellent facilities for all of these. There are dogsled race tracks; dozens of miles of free groomed ski trails; several excellent ice rinks; and three downhill ski areas, including the state’s best resort, Alyeska . Add in such events as the Iditarod , Fur Rendezvous , and the college and semipro hockey games, and it’s easy to see why more and more visitors are coming to Anchorage in the winter.
Alpine skiers and snowboarders head 37 miles south of Anchorage  to Alyeska Resort  (907/754-1111 or 800/880-3880, www.alyeskaresort.com ) for the finest skiing to be found, and some of the deepest snow at any American resort.
Hilltop Ski Area (907/346-1407, www.hilltopskiarea.org ) is right on the edge of town at Abbott Road near Hillside Drive, and consists of a small chairlift and a rope tow. It has lights for night skiing, plus a small lodge with rentals and a snack bar, and it’s a favorite place to learn skiing and boarding or to play around without having to suffer the 45-minute drive to Alyeska. Tickets cost $28 on weekends ($30 with night skiing) for adults, $26 students, free for kids under age 8 skiing with an adult. Call 907/346-2167 for the ski hotline.
A bit farther afield is Alpenglow at Arctic Valley (907/428-1208, www.skiarctic.net ). All-day rates are $35 adults, $30 students, $25 ages 8–13 and seniors, and free for kids under age 8. There are two chairlifts and a T-bar, providing a wide range of slopes and conditions. Arctic Valley is only open weekends and holidays, generally early November–mid-April. Downhill skis and snowboards can be rented from several places in Anchorage, including REI and the ski areas. In the fall, Alpenglow is perfect for blueberries and other wild berries.
Sledders of all ages play on the steep power-line slope that cuts along the road up to Arctic Valley, with parents taking kids back uphill in their cars. Another great sledding hill, with a 600-foot run, is in Centennial Park. Popular short sledding hills are at Kincaid Park and Service High School.
Any Anchorageite over the age of four seems to be involved in cross-country skiing in one form or another. The city is laced with trails that serve as summertime cycling and jogging paths and wintertime ski routes. Most of these are groomed, with set tracks for traditional cross-country skiers and a wider surface for the skate-skiing crowd. Skijorers are also often seen on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail  in this dog-happy town (dogs aren’t allowed on most ski trails).
The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (907/276-7609, www.anchoragenordicski.com ) is Alaska’s largest cross-country association, and its website has all sorts of information on the sport. Pick up The Alaska Nordic Skier at local ski shops and newsstands; it’s published October–April each year.
The best-known cross-country area is Kincaid Park, where a convoluted maze of paths cover the rolling terrain, offering fun for all levels of ability. One of the top three competitive ski venues in the United States, Kincaid often hosts national meets. You can warm up inside the Kincaid chalet and enjoy the vistas of Sleeping Lady and Mt. McKinley.
Russian Jack Springs Park, near Debarr Road and Boniface Parkway, has many more groomed ski trails, as well as a small rope tow and a warming house. Several more miles of groomed trails await at Hillside Park off Abbot Road next to Hilltop Ski Area; watch out for the moose here. All these trails are groomed for both traditional cross-country and the faster skate skis, which are becoming increasingly popular. Rent cross-country skis from REI or AMH .
If you’re more ambitious—and have the wheels to get there—you’ll find incredible backcountry skiing all around Anchorage . The Chugach Mountains offer an endless choice of skiing options that last from mid-October all the way into late June in some places. Note, however, that these areas are not for novices, so don’t head out without knowing about and being prepared for such dangers as avalanches  and hypothermia. Quite a number of skiers (and more snowmobilers) have died in mountain avalanches near Anchorage. Even such favorites as the nearby summit of Flattop Mountain have taken a high human toll over the years.
The best-known backcountry areas are in Chugach State Park  and at Turnagain Pass and Hatcher Pass. Pick up a winter routes map for Chugach State Park  from the state park office. Turnagain Pass is 60 miles southwest of Anchorage on the way to Seward . The west side of the road is open to snowmobilers, but tele-skiers avoid them by heading to the east side. There’s a big parking lot, and from here you can continue into the open meadows or high into the mountains for deep untracked powder.
Located 70 miles northeast of Anchorage, Hatcher Pass  is a favorite backcountry area and serves as a training area for the U.S. National Cross-Country Ski Team. The road can sometimes be a bit treacherous if you don’t have studded tires, so be sure to call the park for road conditions (907/745-2827). REI in Anchorage  offers cross-country and telemark clinics.
Anchorage  is wild about ice-skating and hockey. The UAA Seawolves (907/786-1293, www.uaa.alaska.edu ) and the semi-pro Alaska Aces (907/258-2237, www.alaskaaces.com ) attract crowds all season, and the area has five indoor rinks. All are open year-round and offer skate rentals as well as instruction: Ben Boeke Ice Arena (334 E. 16th Ave., 907/274-5715, www.benboeke.com ) in the Sullivan Arena, Dempsey Anderson Ice Arena (1741 W. Northern Lights Blvd., 907/277-7571, www.sullivanarena.com ), UAA Sports Center (2801 Providence Dr., 907/786-1233), and Dimond Ice Chalet (800 E. Dimond Blvd., 907/344-1212, www.dimondicechalet.com ) in the Dimond Mall. Ben Boeke is an Olympic-size hockey rink.