Anchorage operator lets clients mix and match By Rebecca Tobin / October 27, 2004 Share 1 -- ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- An FIT trip to Alaska can be complicated and time-consuming to put together -- especially if an agents knowledge of Alaska is limited. Thats where Xtremely Alaska comes in.Rebecca McKee, the tour companys general manager, saw an opportunity to create an unusual tour company. Xtremely Alaska offers six different tours, ranging from a three-day trip to a 14-day expedition.Clients can modify dates, add stops and change tours to fit whatever suits their needs and interests.Call it a packaged FIT, a concept that McKee said she picked up after she started offering hiking trips about five years ago.Everyone would call us and say, What else can we do out there? McKee said.Clients start with one of several itineraries listed on the tour companys Web site, www.xtremelyalaska.com. Its then up to the client to buy the package as is or customize it.They can subtract rafting and add fishing, tack on an extra day of bear-watching, spend more time in Denali or opt for a drive itinerary instead of a fly itinerary. Xtremely Alaska advises clients about what is possible and what isnt.People come to Alaska and dont realize how big it is, said McKee. One client planned to visit Denali, then drive to Homer for a day of fishing. Well, thats a 14-hour drive. Youre not going to make that, she said.Xtremely Alaskas staff pays attention to the details: What do clients most want to see and do in Alaska, and in how many days? They also want to know the clients age, weight and athletic ability. Then they send out a draft itinerary.The tour companys staff will counsel people if the month they picked isnt the right time to fish for salmon or see bears. The resulting package, McKee said, is a customized, day-by-day itinerary.Bed-and-breakfasts figure prominently in McKees tours. And the company will give suggestions on where to eat -- and where not to eat.Those are the things we do as locals, McKee said. Everybody we work with is Alaska-based. Theyre Alaskans that live here. And were focused on a real Alaska experience.Theres usually one day of hiking around Anchorage, which is the cornerstone of Xtremely Alaskas business.McKee has six in-house guides, including herself, who lead the hiking tours. She is enthusiastic about leading hikes, and her vocabulary is sprinkled with exclamations like awesome and no worries.She contracts other arrangements. McKee said she was so picky about partners that it took her more than six months to put together Xtremely Alaskas latest package, Fish On, a 14-day fishing-focused foray.Individuals who are part of a group also have the ability to customize their experiences.Clients on an Xtremely Alaska tour may hike with a couple one day, fish by themselves another day, go ice-climbing with a small group and then meet up with the first couple for kayaking.McKee said Xtremely Alaska prefers small groups. It never takes more than 12 hikers out at a time.I want them to have a connection, she said. Plus, McKee doesnt want hikers to scare the wildlife.Of course, it takes a little bit of work to get peoples schedules to gel. McKee said they try to match groups by skill level, although not necessarily by age.McKee told a story about sending out two couples, one in their 60s, the other in their 70s, on a hike with a couple in their 20s.And those people [the 70-somethings] kicked those kids butts, she said. I was jazzed.Agents can make about 10% commission on packages, or they can mark up a net price. To reserve an Xtremely Alaska tour, call (877) 914-2735 or e-mail email@example.com.To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.The perfect itinerary: ALASKAHiking, biking, flying and more in 49th stateDonna Benjamin has been a travel agent in the Anchorage area for 20 years. For the last five, she has worked for Alaska Wilderness Travel, which specializes in inbound travel, such as fishing packages and hunting-lodge stays in western Alaska and eastern Russia. The agency, in business since 1985, works with Xtremely Alaska in creating adventures.Clients arrive in Anchorage and check in at the Oscar Gill Bed and Breakfast, which will be their home for most of the trip. Tours depart after breakfast and return in time for dinner in Anchorage.Day 1Clients depart Anchorage via the Alaska Railroad at 6 a.m. and arrive in Seward at 11:45 a.m. They cruise Kenai Fjords National Park with a National Park ranger. The 110-mile cruise takes them into the Chiswell Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where they view Holgate Glacier up close. The tour also includes a salmon and prime rib buffet lunch. Clients return to Anchorage at 10 p.m. A suggested dinner location is Humpys Great Alaska Ale House, which has 40 beers on tap, seafood and live entertainment.Day 2Clients take a 10-hour seaplane tour of Lake Illiamna, Katmai National Park and Lake Clark. During this 200-mile tour, bears can be spotted from the air as they fish streams teeming with salmon. Clients enjoy a picnic lunch. Back at Anchorage, a suggested dinner location is Mooses Tooth Pub & Pizzeria, which has the best salads in Anchorage and a delicious white pizza.Day 3Clients leave at 9 a.m. for a guided hiking adventure into the backcountry trails of south-central Alaska, where bald eagles, Dall sheep and moose can be spotted. For dinner, Simon & Seaforts is a good place for crab dishes and clam chowder, although its a little more expensive than other restaurants. Reservations are recommended. Call (907) 274-3502.Day 4An eight- to nine-hour ice-climbing adventure puts clients on the Matanuska Glacier, two hours north of Anchorage. They get instruction in ice-climbing. Ropes, harnesses and climbing gear are provided, and clients pack a lunch and snacks. The overnight is at Sheep Mountain Lodge, along the scenic Glenn Highway between Palmer and Glennallen. Guests enjoy cabins with private baths and showers and home-cooked meals. They can watch Dall sheep through a telescope or relax in the sauna or hot tub. Lodge hosts Zack and Anjanette Steer welcome guests to their home. Zack Steer has twice completed the 1,049-mile Iditarod. The lodge serves dinner.Day 5Travelers head south for a 14-mile rafting trip. Its an excellent experience for first-timers or experienced rafters. Dry suits and all gear are provided. After rafting, clients stop by the Musk Ox Farm outside of Palmer.Day 6A mountain bike adventure takes clients along Eklutna Lake. A trail offers opportunities for wildlife viewing and excellent riding. Lunch, a keepsake water bottle and all gear are provided.Day 7Clients depart by 9 a.m. for kayaking on Prince William Sound. They glide past waterfalls, visit a bird rookery and view breathtaking scenery while making their way to a protected beach, where they eat a hearty shore lunch. Clients can watch for marine wildlife while kayaking back to Whittier, the point of origin. Paddling instruction and safety orientation are provided.