Anchorage operator lets clients mix and match

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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 Alaska offers kayaking, hiking, fishing and bear-watching on its tours, which range from three to 14 days.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 protected].

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

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