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Above: The Dakhká Khwaán Dancers. Photo courtesy Simon Ager The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers from Whitehorse, Yukon, are the lead dance group at this month’s Celebration in Juneau, the region’s largest Alaska Native gathering. It’s the first time in the event’s 42-year history that the lead dancers hail from outside of southeast Alaska. “We are the first Interior Tlingit group to be given the honor,” says Marilyn Jensen-Yadułtin, the founder and leader of the group since 2007. “We are very humbled, honored, and excited.” As lead dancers, they will sing and drum as dozens of groups file onstage during Celebration’s opening and closing events. Jensen-Yadułtin says it takes “tremendous endurance,” as each performance requires three hours of non-stop singing and dancing. The group has practiced for months and will debut new regalia, songs, and masks. First formed in Carcross, Yukon, the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers have grown from six to 30 members…

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.

DIGENEGH (MCGRATH) “Over on the Kuskokwim River” in Deg Xinag, the Athabascan language of Shageluk, Anvik, and the Athabascans at Holy Cross. Of about 275 Deg Hit’an people, approximately 40 speak the language. McGrath is featured in Luc Mehl’s story in this month’s Community section. (source: Deg Xinag Learners’ Dictionary) SUYITNA (SUSITNA RIVER) Dena’ina for “sandy river,” referring to the river’s silt and many sandbars. The river begins at the Susitna Glacier in the Alaska Range and runs 313 miles to the ocean near Anchorage. It drains nearly 20,000 square miles, mostly within the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, home to this year’s Arctic Winter Games. Learn more about the games in this month’s Profile section by Tim Lydon. (source: Shem Pete’s Alaska) Above: Sandbars in the Susitna River as seen from the Denali Highway. Courtesy Bo Mertz

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.

Sometimes you get lucky, and that winning photo practically takes itself. Other times you have to work for it, angling for the best composition or waiting for perfect lighting. Either way, photographers create art that captures the viewer’s eye—and sometimes their heart, as is the casewith our grand prize winner. What we always look for when selecting finalists and then winning images from this contest is, first and foremost, an emotional reaction: Does the picture make us think Wow!? If so, then we look at technical merit such as whether the image is in focus, has a pleasing or surprising composition, or is overprocessed. Blurry, ho-hum, or fake coloring all get an automatic pass. While we appreciate those rare times when every aspect of a scene synchronizes and the photographer is paying attention enough to capture it on the fly, we know the thoughtfulness, time, and attention to detailit requires…

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.

March events bring sports and culture After 10 years abroad, the Arctic Winter Games return to Alaska this March 10-16. And for the first time, they will be held in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough north of Anchorage. “This is an amazing opportunity,” says Karen Lane, general manager of the 2024 Arctic Winter Games Host Society. “Alaskans can watch athletes competing from across the circumpolar north and experience cultural activities not often seen here.” Since 1968, the games have offered young athletes from northern and arctic nations a chance to compete on a global stage. Held every two years, they feature dozens of competitions, including skiing, hockey, and demanding Indigenous sports like the two-foot-high kick, kneel jump, and knuckle hop. An expected 2,000 athletes will compete this year from Alaska, Greenland, Scandinavia, Canada, and elsewhere. February is crunch-time for the host society, which for over a year has been planning a blizzard…