Skwentna, Alaska

Photo: Within The Wild Alaskan Adventure Lodges
Photo: Within The Wild Alaskan Adventure Lodges

You may not be ready to deal with winter at home yet—freezing temperatures and piles of snow can wait a few more months—but that doesn’t mean the thought of an eventual winter getaway hasn’t crossed your mind. You could take your usual ski trip. Or you could upgrade your cold-weather escape this time. How about Alaska?

Alaska has been one of your dream destinations for years. You thought about a cruise, but couldn’t commit to being stuck on a boat, albeit a big one, for an entire week. Then you heard whispers about a small lakeside lodge along the Iditarod Trail. It promises the usual winter activities, like cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and drinking cocoa by a roaring fireplace. But that’s just the beginning. Sled dog racing instructions, glacier hikes, and Northern Lights viewings are offered, as well. It sounds like you’re going to Alaska.

You arrive at the Winterlake Lodge on a flight from Anchorage. Your landing isn’t a normal one though. For the first time, you fly on a ski plane, which lands on frozen Finger Lake. The finger-shaped lake sits in between the Tordrillo Mountains and the Alaska Range in Southcentral Alaska. The lake, as well as the lodge, is remote, peaceful, and stunningly gorgeous.

Photo: Within The Wild Alaskan Adventure Lodges
Photo: Within The Wild Alaskan Adventure Lodges

The main lodge is just steps away from the airplane’s dock. It’s warm and cozy with a fireplace, comfy couches, and large picture windows overlooking the frozen lake and the snow-covered mountains. Meals are served in the dining room, unless you request a to-go lunch for your adventures. Cooking classes are offered each afternoon. While the wellness room features meditation, stretching, and yoga classes. Five cabins, hand-built out of knotty pine, spread out from the main lodge. Yours, the Happy River Cabin, sits beyond the kayak dock along the Red Lake Trail. It has an open living room, an artisan log bed, and, of course, an uninterrupted view of the lake. You feel right at home.

But enough relaxing. There’s a lot you want to do over the next few days. Meet the huskies who you’ll learn how to guide. They start barking with excitement as soon as you approach the pen. Hike the Wolverine Ridge Trail—by Frog Pond, a cottonwood forest, and currently snow-covered wildflower meadows and fern groves—for a gorgeous view of the snowy valley and Denali, the highest peak in North America, in the distance. Cross-country ski along the Red Lake Trail to the smaller nearby lake. Then follow part of the historic Iditarod Trail on snowshoes.

At the end of each day, return to the lodge for a quick shower before the wine and cheese tasting begins. Move outside to the wood-fired sauna to watch the Northern Lights waltz across the sky on clear nights. Then warm up in the main lodge again before a salmon dinner is served. It will be hard for you to go back to boring ski trips after this.

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