The Last Frontier is a land of extremes – we Alaskans set our sights on being the best anglers, hunters, outdoorsman we can be, and we love the opportunity to put our skills to the test. Alaska also home to some of the world’s most extreme challenges, so it’s not wonder we all fantasize about taking home a trophy of our own. Here are a few of the Alaskan challenges residents dreams of winning.
The mother of all Alaskan challenges and competitions, the Iditarod is steeped in history and lives on as a testament to our rugged spirit and penchant for the extreme. While most of us lack the time, resources, and special brand of adrenaline addiction necessary to win the Last Great Race on Earth, that doesn’t stop us from treating top mushers like celebrities and daydreaming about one day competing ourselves.
The Iditarod isn’t the only one of the Alaskan challenges that covers the distance from the Valley to Nome – if you don’t have a dog team, you could always suit up for the Iron Dog Snowmobile Race. Ok, it might err a little bit in the name department – but that doesn’t stop it from being the “longest, toughest” snowmachine race around. Alaska has plenty of avid snowmachiners, and everyone of them has dreamt of shredding it up over rivers, hills, and through extreme temperatures to be crowned winner of this 2000-mile course.
Halibut Jackpot Derby
While there are many fishing-based Alaskan challenges, the Halibut Jackpot Derby in Homer, Alaska, is near the top of the heap for many. Some claim the legendary big ones have been fished out, but that doesn’t stop Alaskans from heading to Homer in droves each summer to try their hand at the Jackpot Halibut Derby. Halibut may not be the most exciting of fishing and the big ones may be too wormy to eat, but the $25,000 prize is nothing to scoff at. Not mention, there are permanent bragging rights that come with catching a 250+ pounder.
Winter King Salmon Tournament
Homer may be known for halibut, but it also hosts the Winter King Salmon Tournament each March. And what better winter entertainment could there be than getting out on the water and trolling for kings? Many say the winter feeder kings are among the state’s tastiest fish with their a higher oil content and distinct flavor. Besides a great photo and a tasty meal, landing a big one during this derby could net you $50k or more.
Seward Silver Salmon Derby
Alaska has no shortage of fisherman, and there are fishing competitions to satisfy anglers of all stripes. Just as the summer season is winding down and the silvers start running, the Seward Silver Salmon Derby is on. Prizes go not only to the heftiest fish of the bunch – the derby also doles out Alaskan-approved gifts like Cabela’s cards, Chevy trucks, and Kaladi Bros coffee that anyone who reels up a tagged fish.
Nenana Ice Classic
The entry is dirt cheap at $2.50 a ticket, but this competition has paid out over $14 million dollars since its inception in 1917. A northern lottery with a very Alaskan twist, the Nenana Ice Classic tasks its entrants with guessing when the Tanana river ice will break up in Nenana, down to the minute. Each year hundred of thousands of entrants set their eyes on this jackpot, hoping a stroke of luck will bring them that big payout.
Since Safeway is a staple of many of Alaska’s small town’s, we get serious about Safeway monopoly. The store gets so many of our hard-earned dollars anyway, so we can only hope playing will give us a little kickback. After all, the odds of finding that million dollar ticket must be a little better in our far flung communities, right?
State Fair Weigh-in
Growing things…one of the Alaskan challenges that benefits from long summer days and LOTS of daylight! For the green-thumbed among us, the State Fair gives us the opportunity to showcase cabbage and pumpkins that have grown to monstrous sizes, thanks to the Midnight Sun. Alaska consistently produces the biggest specimens on earth, and besides blue-ribbons, ambitious growers have earned spots in the Guiness Book of World Records.
What began as a bet between two sourdoughs – could it be possible to summit Mt. Marathon and run back to town in an hour or less? – has has become a grueling race and a mainstay of Seward’s 4th of July festivities. Hundreds of fitness nuts and adrenaline junkies head to Seward each year to take on the US’s toughest 5k, and descend from the mountains with scrapes, bruises, and other battle scars to prove it. Excruciating as it may be, who among us wouldn’t want to win one of Alaska’s most physically demanding races?
Rare Draw Hunts
While not solely one of the Alaskan challenges per se, the odds of being picked for a rare hunting tag can be lottery-esque given the massive interest and few numbers of permits awarded each year. Getting the chance to hunt a Delta Bison or Tok Dall Sheep is up there on every Alaskan’s bucket list, and with the crazy odds, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip for any sportsman.
What hunter’s home is complete without a healthy collection of firearms? Alaskans have the top rate of firearm ownership in the states, so it’s only natural they would get excited about gun raffles. Luckily, plenty of organizations throughout the state provide Alaskans the chance to bring home a shiny new firearm.
Spanning the 400-mile distance from Anchorage to Fairbanks and crossing Alaska’s wild and rugged landscapes, the Fireweed 400 is the ultimate summer competition for cyclists. There’s something for everyone with Tandem, Relay, and Solo formats – and finishing all 400 miles qualifies cyclists for even more extreme Race Across America.
Mr. Fur Face
Beards are a popular look for Alaskans, and Fur Rondy provides a chance for those with facial hair to gain some well-deserved recognition. Entrants can compete by color and style, and the whole thing goes down at the Miner’s and Trapper’s Ball, with a “trophy, hugs, and kisses” for the best beard overall.
About the author: Kaitlin Armstrong grew up in Homer, and even though her globe-trotting has rendered her ineligible for the PFD, her heart is never far from her roots. When she’s not extolling the wonders of The Great Land, she enjoys getting into nature, travelling, and curling up with a good podcast.
Published June 13, 2018