Highlights: Fly in a Helicopter * Land on a Glacier * Mush an Iditarod Champion Dog Team * Cuddle Adorable Husky Puppies
There is only snow on the ground in Alaska from November to April, so we have to get adventurous to mush on sleds during the summer. This tour begins at the Girdwood Airport, where Alpine Air's experienced staff will help you get dressed up for winter and you'll meet your pilot. They fly Robinson 44 helicopters, and everyone has a window seat for the flight. It feels like you're entering another world as you take off during summer at sea level, fly over the Chugach National Forest, climb 3200 feet through the Pass and top out on Punchbowl Glacier and land in winter in the mountains.
Dog Camp is actually on the icefield above the glacier, so it's white snowy world with towering mountain peaks. 32 of Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey's elite sled dogs and a hearty staff of 4 'mushers' or dog trainers live in this remote environment with no cell phones or running water for months on end, and they're happy for company!
You'll meet the dogs, who despite being world class athletes still like their ears scratched, learn what it takes to complete and win the 1000 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, play with the puppies, and then watch the dogs excitement and enthusiasm as they're hitched to the sleds. Your guide will tailor your experience to your ability level: you can ride, drive with help, or drive on your own as we mush around the glacier, with plenty of stops for photos.
Then enjoy a mug of hot chocolate or cider and compare stories while you wait for the helicopter to take you back to earth. This is one of those bucket list trips that will make your vacation truly amazing.
The tour is 2 hours long, including 15 minutes flying and an hour and 45 minutes on the glacier. You'll need to arrive at least 30 minutes early to get dressed and safety briefing, so plan on close to 3 hours from the time you arrive until you leave.
The listed price is valid for all guests up to 250lbs (113kg). For guests 250 lbs or more, a comfort fee of $150 per seat will be added. Our aircraft have a max seat weight of 290 lbs. Passenger weights will be verified at check-in, and under-reporting the weights of any guest in the booking may result in an additional comfort fee and/or rescheduling of your tour.
Also, the combined weight of passengers on any flight may not exceed 580 lbs. Parties of three that exceed a combined weight of 580 lbs will require us to split the party into two separate helicopters for the tour.
We may be able to use a larger helicopter for guests over 290 pounds for an additional charge. Please call for information.
Our trail is 1.5 miles long. The duration varies with the temperature, snow conditions, weight in the sled, etc. but it generally takes 20-25 minutes. Please be aware the the glacier melts rapidly throughout the summer, and the trail often has to be rerouted or shortened towards the end of the season to avoid crevasses, etc. By the end of August, we're often on 'the best we can do' status. This applies to every glacier tour in Alaska.
A 25% deposit is required to book. The balance will automatically be charged to the card on file the night before departure. Cancel up to 7 days before the tour for a full refund; cancellations within 7 days are subject to a 50% fee, and within 24 hours are subject to no refund. If our staff cancels due to weather, no charges will apply and you will be refunded or rescheduled.
There is no predictable difference between departure times, there are not 'weather patterns' in our area, and the dogs don't get tired. However, as the weather can cause delays or cancellations, we recommend booking this tour as early in both your itinerary and the day as possible. If we do have to postpone or reschedule, booking early in your schedule gives you more time to potentially reschedule.
Typically we limit tours to 9 guests per departure. Our helicopters carry 3 passengers, and we fly three helicopters per tour. We are not able to promise seating arrangements, as weight is often the primary factor. For larger families, we can sometimes accommodate up to 12 guests per departure. Please call for info.
It's similar to being on the water, dress as if you were going on a boat. We recommend dressing in layers as temperatures on the glacier can vary from freezing to 70 degrees. You'll want long pants and a jacket, close toed shoes and hat and gloves if you have them. Sunglasses are also a must, and sunscreen is a good idea on sunny days. We can provide sunglasses, gloves, overboots, and jackets if you do not have your own. If you have your own boots wear them, otherwise any tennis shoes or similar will fit well inside our overboots.
We have multiple options based on your ability and comfort level. You can either ride in the sled, drive a sled with a guide (think student driver car) or when conditions allow, try driving your own team!
There is no age limit. You will have to take a large awkward step into and out of the helicopter, and then walk roughly 100 yards total on uneven and slippery surfaces on the glacier. Our guides are happy to assist at all points, but this tour can vary from an Activity Level 2 or Moderate if you chose to ride in the sled up to Activity Level 3 or Active if you chose to drive the sled.
You should arrive at least half an hour before your scheduled tour time, so that we may go over our safety briefing.
Girdwood is about 45 minutes south of Anchorage on the highway to Seward. It's sometimes called Alyeska, as the Alyeska ski resort is located there. If you have your own car it's a nice drive. Unfortunately there is no public transportation from Anchorage, nor does our shuttle pick up there. We do have arrangements with several Uber-type drivers who provide roundtrip transportation for roughly $250 per trip.
We rarely cancel tours, but it is flying in the mountains of Alaska, and we always error on the side of caution. The pilot always has the final call on whether or not we fly, the reservation staff and even managers are not able to change or even influence that call. If we do cancel a tour, we will do our best to reschedule your tour, but can't guarantee we'll be able to find a time that works for you. Any tours we have to cancel are refunded in full.
This is one of few tours that truly sells out for the season, as we're operating in a National Forest, and we have a hard limit on the number of trips we can make. Departures usually start filling by mid-March, so we recommend booking early.