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A map and guide to best viewing sites The nonprofit Explore Fairbanks has published an Aurora Viewing Map & Guide to nine of the best spots in the area for viewing the northern lights. Places range from Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge just a couple of miles from downtown to farther-out locations such as Denali National Park or the community of Coldfoot, which are several hours away by car. A few locations are within a 30-minute drive, and all are well known for their excellent aurora viewing. The guide includes some basic aurora science, pro tips for photographers, and a QR code for accessing real time aurora predictions. Its centerfold map is designed to help visitors easily find the best views. Fairbanks’ aurora season stretches from August 21 to April 21. Several companies offer guided tours to see and photograph the lights. The guide is available for free at the…

Where the unparalleled meets the unexpected

Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior, and a well-known and commonly visited place within Alaska. While summertime is the most popular time for visiting, with at least 21 hours of sunlight each day, traveling to this area in the winter is a trip that has its fair share of benefits too.

The Alaska Railroad is taking summer train adventures to the next level by offering passengers a wide-ranging lineup of new and returning add-on experiences. From thrilling helicopter glacier adventures to educational historical tours, there’s something for everyone to enjoy; and all are available and customizable through the railroad’s reservations team. 

From May 10-12, Valdez welcomes pilots and their planes to celebrate aviation culture. The annual event features ven- dors, seminars, an air show, and a short-distance take-off/ landing competition. This comes on the tail of the May 4-5 Great Alaska Aviation Gathering in Palmer, the state’s largest aviation meet-up. valdezflyin.com.

Kyle Worl is an athlete and coach competing in the arctic sports category of this month’s Arctic Winter Games, being held in the Mat-Su valley. The arctic sports events, which originated over many generations in Indigenous communities across the circumpolar north, are a high- light of the games. They include the two-foot high kick, knuckle hop, and other sports linked to Indigenous hunting skills. The Arctic Winter Games also host com- petitions in hockey, skiing, skating, and other sports.

For the first time in a decade, the Arctic Winter Games will be held in Alaska this March. As arctic sports coach Kyle Worl explains in this issue, the games bring athletes and cultural celebrations from across the circumpolar north. 1970: first Arctic Winter Games were held in Yellowknife, Canada, with athletes from Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Alaska. Alaska Governor Walter Hickel was an early proponent. With Canadian officials, he felt northern athletes deserved access to more international competitions. By the 2000s, Greenland, Russia, Scandinavia, and additional Canadian provinces joined the games. Alaska has hosted the games four times: twice in Fairbanks and once each in the Kenai Peninsula Borough and in Eagle River/Chugiak. Winning athletes are given ulu medals. Photo courtesy Wood Buffalo AWG

The Iditarod is Alaska’s most famous sled dog race, but it’s not the only one. Here are some other races happening this winter. Yukon Quest The Yukon Quest, begins February 3. Formerly, a 1,000-mile odyssey between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon, this year’s three races range from 100 to 450 miles, all within Canada. Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship, Anchorage, February 23-March 3. Part of the “Fur Rondy” winter carnival, the races traverse Anchorage streets, forests,and parks. Annamaet Limited North American Championships Annamaet Limited North American Championships, Fairbanks, March 8-10.Features 4-, 6-, and 8-dog teams and 2-dog skijoring. Open North American Championship Open North American Championship, Fairbanks, March 15-17. This is the world’s oldest continuously held sled dog race. Communities and nonprofits host many other races between January and March, and of course mushing is about more than just racing.

Eielson’s epic mail flight On February 21, 1924, Carl Ben Eielson flew Alaska’s first official air mail service. The 280-mile flight from Fairbanks to McGrath took just a few hours, compared to 18 days or more by dog sled. Eielson used a de Havilland DH-4 open cockpit biplane to carry the 164 pounds of mail, and he bundled up in caribou-fur socks, moccasins, a reindeer parka, a marten-skin cap, a wolverine-skin hood, and multiple wool layers, as well as goggles. Born in North Dakota in 1897, Eielson flew in the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I. In 1922, he took a teaching job in Fairbanks but soon devoted his time to flying bush planes for miners and their cargo, quickly becoming one of Alaska’s most pioneering bush pilots. He died in 1929 while trying to rescue a ship full of furs that was mired in ice off the…

Good riddance to the days of film Very few people are nostalgic for the old days of photo processing: the interminable wait to see if you got even one decent image on a roll of 36 frames of film, the abject disappointment if you failed to, and the cost of prints and slides. If you had your own darkroom or worked in one, the routine included agitating film canisters by hand, mixing smelly chemicals, wielding tongs and washing trays, and the constant fear of light leaks. Wild horses couldn’t drag me back to those times, but I did have some interesting photo lab jobs over the years. My first was in a small Wasilla-based business. During that time, I also volunteered at a horse boarding stable and had lightly frostbitten my fingertips while wearing damp gloves. I quickly learned that peeling fingertips from winter’s nip does not go well with…