Alaska is rife with untamed wilderness and is the ideal location for climbers, hunters, and fisherman alike. Much of its appeal lies in the fact that there are still areas yet unexplored, offering the chance to walk where no one before you ever has. Whether you’re seeking the calm of a perpetually dark winter or the energizing vibes of 24-hour summer sunlight, Alaska is the escapist’s dream.
Yet even beyond its breathtaking landscapes, the Land of the Midnight Sun holds a rich cultural history filled with tradition. At no time of year is this more apparent than during Fur Rondy, the largest winter festival on the continent. For those who don’t have the time to travel Alaska at their own pace, Fur Rondy offers the best sample of what Alaskans are most proud of.
Fur Rendezvous has been taking place in Anchorage in late February and early March since 1935, when the celebration was first added to annual swap meets held by fur trappers. To date, the festival still hosts some of the city’s largest actions of fur, hide, and horns, as well as a three-day Native Arts market featuring hundreds of vendors & artists from the local tribes, including the Athabaskan, Eskimo, and Aleut cultures.
If fur & handicrafts don’t pique your interest, Fur Rondy is host to well over one hundred separate events, including winter sports tournaments—you can plan ahead to take part in pond hockey, snowshoe-softball, ice-bowling, and even cornhole competitions! For the more daring adventurer, the Running of the Reindeer is definitely a prime event. Much like Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls but mellowed out for the laid-back Alaskan lifestyle, this footrace through downtown Anchorage presents the challenge of outrunning a herd of reindeer all while raising funds for Toys for Tots.
Naturally, the competitive spirit has carried over into less-traditional events as well, with one of the most popular events being the Outhouse Races—participants take their favorite outhouse, dress it to the nines, put skis on the bottom, and race them in the streets! That essence of foolishness carries over into many light-hearted evens, including the “Mr. Fur Face” beard competition at the Miners & Trappers Ball, and the giant blanket-toss used to send revelers flying high into the air!
By far, the biggest event of the 10-day festival is the 3-day, 75-mile World Championship Sled Dog Race, which has brought together mushers from all over the world since 1946. The timing of the event is instrumental in getting residents pumped up in anticipation of the 1,150-mile Iditarod, which begins at Fur Rondy’s end.
Of course, Fur Rondy holds your fair staples as well, including carnival rides, ice & snow sculptures, skating, and fireworks—so there’s definitely something for everyone.