New options for winter travel with John Hall's Alaska

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The Winter Wonders tour includes two nights in Talkeetna for aurora borealis viewing.
The Winter Wonders tour includes two nights in Talkeetna for aurora borealis viewing. Photo Credit: Todd Salat/John Hall's Alaska

With updates to its eight- and 11-day winter itineraries, John Hall's Alaska now offers travelers more time for aurora viewing and outdoor adventure.

In 2019, the company's refreshed Alaska's Winter Wonders and Iditarod & Aurora Adventure experiences will each include two nights at Borealis Basecamp. The remote resort, which opened late last winter approximately 25 miles north of Fairbanks, is dotted with private fiberglass domes designed for aurora viewing.

Heated and outfitted with kitchenettes, full bathrooms and simple, chic furnishings, the high-ceilinged domes feature 16-foot windows that let guests view the northern lights from their beds.

"I think the location of Borealis Basecamp has a lot of appeal," said Joe Hall, vice president of operations for John Hall's Alaska. "There is something very exciting about getting away from the lights of the city, being in a very remote yet comfortable place, and being able to see the aurora."

The revamped itineraries also include two flexible adventure days. And, when the skies are clear, tours will stop at the new Aurora Pointe Activity Center outside of Fairbanks for an additional night of northern lights viewing.

"People are sometimes a little hesitant to visit Alaska in the winter, and it's the kind of thing they might only do once. We're trying to offer an experience that wows them, whatever the weather is on a given night," said Hall.

The updated, eight-day Alaska's Winter Wonders tour (from $4,489 per person, double occupancy) opens in Fairbanks, where guests visit David Monson's Trail Breaker Kennels. Monson offers tours and dog sled rides at the facility he established with his late wife, four-time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher.

From there, travelers meet with local aurora photographer Frank Stelges. He shares tips on capturing the northern lights during a dinner presentation, and participants can put those photo skills into practice over two nights at Borealis Basecamp. Optional daytime activities include snow machining, forest snowshoeing and additional dog mushing adventures.

After departing Fairbanks, the Winter Wonders tour travels through Healy on the way to two nights in Talkeetna. In addition to dining at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, guests take a flightseeing tour with views of glaciers and Denali National Park peaks, stop for a tour and tasting at Denali Brewing Company, and have more chances to view the aurora borealis.

Two final tour days at Alyeska Resort include a tram ride and opportunities to ski, snowshoe or visit the resort spa. The journey ends in Anchorage.

The 11-day Iditarod & Aurora Adventure (from $5,839 per person, double occupancy) starts in Anchorage at the annual Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival. A visit to the Palmer Musk Ox Farm follows, and guests later meet race participants at the annual Iditarod Mushers Banquet. They'll also attend the ceremonial Iditarod start in downtown Anchorage, and continue on to optional glacier flightseeing tours, brewery visits and photo talks.

Like the Alaska's Winter Wonders tour, the Iditarod & Aurora itinerary includes optional outdoor activities and aurora viewing in Talkeetna and at Borealis Basecamp. Guests also take curling lessons, stop at Trail Breaker Kennels, and spend a day traveling across the Arctic Circle. A flightseeing trip to an Iditarod race checkpoint includes a behind-the-scenes look at life on the trail.

The adventure concludes in Fairbanks, with an optional trip to the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum.

Both winter tours from John Hall Alaska's include accommodations, attraction entrances, guide services and three daily meals, plus a sub-zero jacket (with additional cold weather gear available for rent or purchase). Tour transportation and airport transfers are also included.

The company is accepting reservations for 2019 winter tours, and a 2020 waitlist is now open. Visit www.kissalaska.com.

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