March is the last month of winter in Alaska and as the sun comes back, the days get noticeably longer. The temperatures are still cool, but the snow is starting to melt and it feels more like spring every day. Alaskans celebrate the returning sun by enjoying all the fun in the snow before it melts away, or hitting the rainy trails as early as possible.
Across the state, there are exciting annual events in March that traditionally celebrate the end of the long, cold winter and bring people together again. Dog mushing races are popular this time of year and celebrations after the winter trapping season. Alaska is beautiful in March, where late winter and very early spring bring hope, sun, and even more opportunity for outdoor activities in the endless wilderness of Alaska.
There are fewer attractions available this time of year, but for travel within Alaska prices can be lower and places less crowded than at the height of summer. Events this time of year are focused on the unique attributes of the cold climate and For winter activities in Alaska, March is the perfect time of year when Spring temperatures warm the hills and encourage outdoor fun. Consider visiting Alaska in winter during February and March for the best of the winter, probably without the frigid temperatures. These winter activities are a great way to get out of the house after the hibernation of winter and celebrate the returning light.
When it comes to winter activities in Anchorage, "Fur Rondy" (as it is referred to locally) is the first and most popular event that comes to mind. A major celebration in downtown Anchorage, this 10-day winter festival usually runs from the last weekend of February through the first week of March. Traditionally celebrated as the end to the winter season, trappers bring their furs to town to trade, sell, and party in the city. Fur auctions are still a part of the event, but not all there is to offer.
The modern event includes family and community activities from scavenger hunts and raffles to contests for children. There are also vendors of many kinds of artisan handicrafts, clothing for Alaskan weather, a winter carnival set up with rides, and even a Ferris wheel. Youth hockey games and snowshoe softball are some of the fun and games. There is also a celebration of native Alaska culture and a snow sculpture competition adding to the spectacle and leaving a lasting impression in the Anchorage streets until everything melts away.
The Iditarod is a 1000-mile sled dog race through the snowy backcountry from Anchorage to Nome. Mushers usually kick the race off with a ceremonial start in the streets of downtown Anchorage. Dog teams streak down the snowy streets and the crowds cheer to show the mushers how much fans adore the sport. Alaskan children especially love dog mushing events and the special “Meet the Musher'' evening.
After the Anchorage start to the race, there is usually the actual start out in Willow. Watching crews prepare mushers and sleds for a 1000-mile journey fills the air with excitement. The media broadcasts updates on the trail throughout the race and Alaskans follow along, cheering for lead dogs and mushers to succeed in the brutal journey.
March is arguably the best month of the year to visit Alyeska, the famed ski resort located south of Anchorage in the small mountain town of Girdwood. With fresh powder and a high percentage of bluebird days, late winter skiing conditions can be perfect at Alyeska and the temperatures aren’t as cold as the deep winter months. Spring break usually attracts many skiers and snowboarders, and consequently a lot of nightlife and excellent entertainment options, as well as a town packed with excellent restaurants for hungry outdoor adventurers.
One of the biggest cross-country ski events, Tour of Anchorage is one of the only point-to-point ski marathons in North America that runs through a city. There are six Nordic ski events of various lengths and three fat bike races, all ending at Kincaid Park Stadium. Currently, there is an online “virtual ski” option for entrants to follow the course or map another 25K route. This long-standing Anchorage event is usually held on a Sunday in early March.
Find out how you can participate in this event by going to their website here.
Alaskans flock from across the state to Talkeetna in March for the Oosik Classic, a ski race in the pristine area near Mount Denali, North America’s largest peak. An annual major event weekend in Talkeetna, the Oosik Classic is a grueling race over 50K on the frozen rivers and flat stretches near Talkeetna. This event supports the Denali Nordic Ski Club and usually occurs the second weekend in March when clear, sunny skies are likely and the freshly-groomed trails are in peak condition.
For the winter months, the Alaska Railroad offers service from Anchorage on the weekends north through the center of the state up to the interior. Take the winter train to Talkeetna for the weekend on Saturday afternoon and go back to Anchorage on Sunday afternoon, just enough time for an overnight out of the city. Stay at one of the many hotels, inns, or bed and breakfasts and enjoy the clear air, sunny skies and good vibes Talkeetna has to offer. The train also continues north to Fairbanks past Denali National Park and offers the opportunity to watch aurora out the train window.
You can grab tickets for the Aurora Winter Train which runs from mid-September to mid-May. Ticket prices depend on time of year and where you are traveling from. You can choose your route from Anchorage to Fairbanks or Anchorage to Denali. There are 16 depots you can choose from, but keep in mind that any trip ending in Denali will prompt you with this warning:
In the winter, Denali National Park and Healy are remote areas without heated depots or public ground transportation. Don't get left in the cold: please ensure that you have transportation and lodging arranged in advance of your trip to Denali or Healy.
Due to the tilt of the Earth near the equinox of the year, the magnetic field and the solar wind are in sync, and aurora activity increases. Plan a northern lights trip in March, the warmest time of year to catch the colorful lights in the sky. Aurora tours are offered out of Anchorage and Fairbanks, and you can also see the aurora from any dark, remote place in Alaska’s north or interior as long as you are away from the city lights and the aurora are active at night. March is a great time to see the aurora and as the days are getting longer, this is the last chance for great aurora viewing until fall.
The first fishing contest of the year in this small seaside town brings Alaskans back to the water on the second to last Saturday in March. Contestants head out into the Kachemak Bay with twelve hours to find the biggest King Salmon and win the prize. Up to 1500 people compete each year to enjoy a day on the water, catch King Salmon and celebrate at the banquet. Visit Homer in March and beat the crowds and visitors that pack the town throughout the summer.
In Homer, the major ski race is the Homer Epic, a 50KM or 100KM race through the Caribou Hills near Homer. Ski, fat bike or run the second weekend in March, or show up and cheer on the athletes. Sponsored by the Homer Cycling Club, the winner receives cash prizes and everyone has a fun day in the snow.
The slopes of the ski slope in Douglass are at peak conditions in early March. Open from Wednesday to Sunday from 9 AM - 4 PM, don’t miss the bluebird days at the end of the season when in Juneau. As every skier knows, missing any of the last weekends of the season is a mistake as waiting for fall to come around again can feel endless. Eaglecrest is high on the mountains with 640 acres of mountain terrain to explore and 36 groomed trails with an even spread from beginner through expert.
Get directions to Eaglecrest - 3000 Fish Creek Rd, Juneau, AK 99801
Because the weather is warm enough and the nights are dark enough, Southeast Alaska can have outdoor movies in March. Check out local outdoor film showings in Juneau and Haines to experience this fun outdoor activity.
Although it may not be as popular in colder climates, curling is one of the sports that is popular in cold places across the world. Curling is a unique sport where players slide stones across the ice toward a bullseye under the ice, then use a broom to smooth bumpy ice and guide the stone.
Bonspiel is normally the major event of the curling year with a full weekend of curling championship matches and a party for curling club members and fans. Curling events occur all over Alaska, so look for a local chapter near you to find a curling event for spring fun if you aren't near Fairbanks.
Each winter the World Ice Art Championships are held at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds. The crystal-clear ice cut from deep within local lakes is ideal and the cold, late winter conditions make Fairbanks in March perfect for ice-carving and competition. Visit the park to see master ice carvers from across the globe compete in multiblock and single block categories. World quality ice sculptures appear to defy gravity and logic with their ethereal beauty, and at night the expertly placed colored lighting turns each piece into a work of art. There are also lots of activities for children from ice slides and spinning ice baskets to areas to see carvers working and learn about the craft of ice carving.
This intense race covers a one hundred-mile loop through the White Mountains, a range just north of Fairbanks in the interior. Entrants may fat-bike, ski, or run the course and over 150 people travel to the course and compete scrambling through the snow in the pristine mountains. Usually held on the third weekend of March, spend a day in the sun up the clear, cold air of the White Mountains.
This sled dog race is one of the longest-running events at over 75 years old. This celebration draws a large crowd on the third weekend in March and public events include a Parka Parade celebrating the region’s gorgeous arctic fashion, vendors of all manner, and a fur auction. The Parka Parade has locals model their parkas, usually handmade with arctic furs and displaying intricate beading work. Vendors sell everything from soap and handcrafts to handmade fur and leather clothing items. The Open North American is usually held at the Alaska Dog Mushers Fields and Hall in Fairbanks each year, but check for the current schedule and location.
You can find more information on their website here.
A one-hundred-mile race that follows the Iditarod trail for one hundred miles up to Golovin and returning to the finish line in Nome. This fun, family snowmachine race takes just over two hours for the fastest competitors. The fun event is a sprint with three different categories for prizes and the award ceremony usually happens a few days later. Since 1967, this event usually happens on the second Saturday in March.
Usually, the Iditarod race heads over 1000-miles from Willow through the Alaskan wilderness to the Finish Line in downtown Nome. One of the biggest celebrations in Alaska usually includes the winning teams cruising down Front Street, a banquet and party with bands playing all night. The Iditarod route is altered for 2021, but Iditarod mushers should be cruising back into Nome as soon as they can to continue this classic March celebration in Alaska.