FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- Some say it's when "the sky begins to dance,"
and dance it does, in streaks of greens, pinks, purples and whites
in the phenomenon called the aurora, or the northern lights.
Summer is the peak travel season for Alaska, but more than
250,000 people visit the state from October to April. Viewing the
northern lights is one of the top winter activities.
According to "aurora forecasters" at the University of Alaska's
Geophysical Institute, this year's lights are stronger over Alaska
than in previous years. Forecasts are available online at www.gi.alaska.edu.
In Alaska, the lights occur anywhere from 40% of the nights in
an average year to every night, depending on the location. But the
best viewing is in Fairbanks and points north on cold, clear winter
"I've certainly noticed that they are much more spectacular this
year, even from my bedroom window in Anchorage," said Susie Kiger,
sales manager for Alaska Railroad.
The rail company has a variety of commissionable aurora packages
(www.alaskarailroad.com) that include a train trip from
Anchorage to Fairbanks.
The basic rail and fly package (with a flight back to Anchorage)
starts at $239 per person. From there, several options can be
added, including a stay at several different hotels.
The packages "are always popular with the Japanese market, and
we're seeing an increase in ridership from the lower 48, although
we don't invest a lot of marketing dollars in [aurora packages],"
Matt Atkinson, marketing coordinator for Northern Alaska Tour
Co., is a native of Fairbanks who also says the lights seem
stronger this year.
Northern Alaska Tour Co. has a variety of tour packages (www.northernalaska.com), all commissionable. Some
include a stay in Cold Foot, a town 60 miles north of the Arctic
Circle, where viewing of the northern lights is particularly
spectacular, he said.
Visitors stay in a camp used by truckers and workers for the
construction of the Alaska pipeline.
The basic package is a two-night stay at Cold Foot Camp that
sells for $479 per person, double, and includes accommodations, the
van trip from Fairbanks to Cold Foot and a flight back to Fairbanks
by a twin-engine chartered plane.
Several add-ons are available, including dog-mushing excursions
and a trip to Wiseman, an old mining town.
For more information on packages and Alaska travel, contact the
Alaska Travel Industry Association at (800) 862-5275.
To contact reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].