Welcome to the State of Alaska Travel News Bulletin. The tourism office sends this out periodically to keep media up-to-date on Alaska tourism and travel news. Media are invited to call (800) 327-9372 or visit www.TravelAlaska.com/media for more information.
February 1, 2012

In this February Travel News Bulletin you will find:

1. Come on up, the snow's fine!
2. Fairbanks tour companies purchase Warbelow's airline
3. Images of Denali on display at Anchorage Museum
Alaska facility updates for 2012

1.  Come on up, the snow's fine!

Alaska’s unusually snowy winter – attributable to a strong La Nina cycle that has spurned many North American ski resorts this winter – has been making national news. The silver lining? All that snow means winter recreation opportunities of historic proportions. At Alyeska Resort, 40 miles south of Anchorage, 462 inches has fallen since October 1, 2011, and the seasonal average snowfall (November to February) is 134 percent above average. Throughout the Southcentral region, communities are on track to record the heaviest snowfall in years – perhaps ever. The Prince William Sound communities of Valdez and Cordova have received 327.5 and 209.1 inches respectively this season. With its snowiest months still ahead, Valdez is on track to surmount the 1988-89 record of 561 inches (almost 47 feet). As of January 27, Anchorage had received 91 inches of snow, which is already above the 74.5-inch average total snowfall for the season. That’s good news for outdoor recreation of all kinds, from snowmobiling to snowshoeing and skiing. The snowiest winter on record for Anchorage was in 1954-55, when 132.8 inches were tallied for the season. To plan your Alaska winter adventure, visit www.travelalaska.com.
Media contact:
Contact: Amy Cockerham, State of Alaska Tourism
Phone: 907-561-4488
Twitter: @AlaskaTravlNews
Email: amy@thompsonpr.com
URL: www.TravelAlaska.com/media

2. Fairbanks tour companies purchase Warbelow’s airline
A group of Fairbanks-based tour companies has reached an agreement to purchase Warbelow’s Air Ventures, a company that offers freight and charter operations to Interior Alaska villages. The buyers currently own Fairbanks-based Northern Alaska Tour Company, Sukakpak and Air Arctic, which offer Arctic tour packages, charter flights and services along the Dalton Highway. The new partnership will allow the companies to increase tour operations by utilizing Warbelow’s existing scheduled passenger and mail flight routes to rural communities such as Beaver Village, Stevens Village and more. With the addition of Warbelow’s eight airplanes, passenger terminal and ground vehicles, travelers could eventually choose from a variety of new tour offerings, including polar bear viewing, trips to Manley Hot Springs, boat operations on the Yukon River and more frequent scheduled flights to rural villages. For more information about Northern Alaska Tour Company, visit www.northernalaska.com.
Media Contact:
Contact: Matt Atkinson, Northern Alaska Tour Company
Phone: 907-474-8600
Email: adventure@northernalaska.com
URL: www.northernalaska.com

3.  Images of Denali on display at Anchorage Museum
Mount McKinley has been a source of inspiration to artists, explorers, residents and visitors for centuries. The Anchorage Museum takes visitors to the heights of Alaska mountain ranges with four mountaineering exhibits opening in February and April 2012. Anchorage artist Tim Remick’s solo exhibition will feature large-scale photographs depicting emotionally and physically ravaged mountain climbers mere moments after they stumbled into Mount McKinley’s base camp. Also opening in February, “George Browne: Art of Altitude” features paintings created as a result of Browne’s expeditions to Alaska including the time he spent mountaineering on Mount McKinley. Both the Remick and Browne exhibitions run February to April 2012. The museum’s atrium will host a second pair of mountaineering exhibits for summer 2012. “The High One: Reaching the Top” looks at climbing Denali, including the gear, mountain routes, risks and rescues. While “Ascent: 20,320” chronicles the history of man’s exploration of McKinley with photographs through the years from the National Park Service. www.anchoragemuseum.org.
Media Contact:
Contact: Sarah Henning, Anchorage Museum
Phone: 907-929-9231
Twitter: @AnchorageMuseum
Email: shenning@anchoragemuseum.org
URL: www.anchoragemuseum.org

4. Alaska facility updates for 2012
  • The Rose Ridge Vacation Chalets in the Mat-Su Valley has added a second vacation home to their location at the base of Hatcher Pass. The 1,000-square-foot cabin has a full, modern kitchen, two bedrooms and upgraded amenities as well as sweeping views of the Chugach Mountains. www.alaskavacationchalet.com
  • The Bridge Restaurant in Anchorage reopened as a special event and catering company this winter and will open as a family-style salmon bake open daily in the summer of 2012. The building is named for its location on a bridge spanning Ship Creek, the location of a popular sport fishery in downtown Anchorage. www.bridgeseafood.com
  • The Whales Tail bistro and wine bar located at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage just reopened with new menu features and a deluxe wine dispensing system. Crafted by Enomatic, the wine system allows guests to select and pour their own wine from a wide selection of bottles. http://captaincook.com
  • After 36 years of bringing business to Anchorage, the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau is now doing business as Visit Anchorage. The city’s brand — Big Wild Life — remains central to all Visit Anchorage’s marketing campaigns, sharing the city’s mix of wild adventures and metropolitan amenities. http://www.anchorage.net
  • The Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation is in the early stages of developing a visitor center near the southern end of Denali State Park, a project that has been in discussion since 1970. Ground-breaking on the project will occur in spring 2012 and once complete (estimated for 2016), will include a transportation center and campground as well as the South Denali Visitor Center, accessible via the George Parks Highway near Milepost 135. www.southdenali.alaska.gov
  • The Kodiak Brown Bear Center is launching into its introductory season in summer 2012. Located in the heart of the 1.9-million acre Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, the new destination presents unsurpassed bear viewing opportunities from viewing platforms along a lake. A maximum of eight guests are housed in six double-occupancy villas with private baths and wireless Internet on four-day, five-day or eight-day stays between May and October. www.koniag.com
  • The Museum of the Aleutians, located in Unalaska, recently unveiled a new exhibit, “History of the Pribilof Islands 1890-1925.” A collection of photographs from the U.S. National Archives, the exhibit will be on display through the beginning of 2012. The museum hosts several shows and exhibits per year and serves as a place for education programs and community meetings. www.aleutians.org
  • The World Ice Art Championships have a new home in Fairbanks. The new George Horner Ice Park will not only feature world-class ice sculptures, but will also have a kids play park, mazes, concessions and an Ice Park Train that tours the event grounds. The 2012 event takes place Feb. 28 through March 25. www.icealaska.com
  • Paws for Adventure is offering sled dog tours to the historic Tolovana Roadhouse in 2012. Tolovana was the first transfer point on the lifesaving serum run to Nome on which the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is based. The four-day adventure starts with a mushing lesson before heading out for 20-30 miles of trail mushing per day with nights spent at a trail camp and Tolovana Lodge. http://pawsforadventure.com
Inside Passage
  • The City of Ketchikan Ports and Harbors department began renovating Ketchikan’s oldest and most central cruise ship dock in 2011. The first phase (estimated to take around three years) will replace half of the wooden dock and pilings with more durable materials and additional phases will complete upgrades to the dock, including renovation of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau facility, and improve vehicle and pedestrian flow on the busy port. www.city.ketchikan.ak.us/
  • InnerSea Discoveries recently acquired the 76-guest Wilderness Explorer, formerly the Spirit of Discovery. After significant renovations, the ship will sail active, adventure expeditions between Juneau and Sitka beginning summer 2012. The 86-guest Safari Endeavour, formerly the Spirit of Endeavour will join sister company American Safari Cruises’ fleet of three yachts offering inclusive adventure cruises. The Safari Endeavour will undergo major renovation to transform it into an upscale vessel ready to sail in Southeast Alaska in summer 2012. www.innerseadiscoveries.com
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Social Media Spotlight 

If you haven’t heard, the northern lights displays thus far in 2012 have been keeping residents and visitors with their eyes — and cameras — pointed toward the skies. Due to an increase in sunspot activity, some scientists are predicting 2012 and 2013 will have the biggest aurora displays in 50 years, and so far, it has lived up to the hype.

Here are a few of the reader/viewer-submitted photo galleries up around Alaska:
And here, a time-lapse video of the aurora over Fairbanks http://www.alaskadispatch.com/video/video-northern-lights-over-fairbanks
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