A chance conversation with six-time Iditarod finisher Justin Savidis helped spark a new Alaska tour by Access Trips, and guests will lunch with him atop Colony Glacier during the eight-day culinary experiences that launch in May.
After meeting Savidis and one of his dogs at a conference, Access Trips CEO Tamar Lowell recognized an opportunity to create the kind of experience she considers her company's sweet spot: experiencing local culture through the lens of food.
In Alaska, that unfolds in the form of a helicopter tour that lands on a glacier. Guests then take a dogsled ride and sample a musher's meal of moose or caribou stew, as Savidis shares his stories from the trail.
"It would be an incredible experience even without a culinary component," Lowell said. "But we incorporate lunch out on the glacier so guests can explore that aspect of life in Alaska."
When the Seattle-area tour operator turned its focus from adventure to food excursions a few years ago, Lowell and her team prioritized exotic destinations with rich culture and unique culinary experiences. In places like Cuba, Peru, Japan and Morocco, Access Trips arranges cooking classes, farmers market visits and conversations with local producers and craftspeople. Sightseeing and immersive outings are also woven into each itinerary.
Alaska presents a compelling landscape for this combination of activities.
Culinary experiences on the tour will include brunch at the century-old Talkeetna Roadhouse. Pictured, one of the restaurant’s offerings. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Access Trips
"In addition to being culturally significant and stunningly beautiful, Alaska has an interesting culinary scene," Lowell said. "With the big game and fresh seafood, along with the farms that have figured out how to operate in a short growing season with almost 24 hours of sunlight, we saw opportunities to offer a really great experience."
Tours begin in Fairbanks and travel to Denali National Park, where two-time James Beard Award-nominated chef Laura Cole of 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern teaches a cooking class.
Elsewhere, a tapping demonstration and syrup tasting at Kahiltna Birchworks facility follows brunch at the century-old Talkeetna Roadhouse.
Guests also tour an oyster farm on Kachemak Bay, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and take a cooking class from Le Cordon Bleu chef Kirsten Dixon. An afternoon in Homer and an overnight at the Alyeska Resort round out the tour, which ends in Anchorage.
Rates include seven nights of accommodations, tour transportation within Alaska, group airport transfers at the beginning and end of the tour, all breakfasts, four lunches and two dinners, including meals prepared in the cooking classes.
While building the itinerary, Lowell and her team aimed for an excursion that falls somewhere between the high-end wilderness lodge experience and the different-stop-each-day route of a cruise.
"In a place as big as Alaska, it is a balance," she said. "Geographically, you can't do everything. But what we do have on this tour is fun and exciting, and it's a great way to see Alaska from the inside."
Alaska tour packages from Access Trips start at $5,790 per person. For dates and more information, visit www.accesstrips.com or call (800) 567-9400.