Anchorage

Anchorage    

THE SELL: Easy-access wilderness
There's a reason the phrase "I [heart] the Chugach National Forest" adorns the bumpers of so many cars in Anchorage. With this 5.4-million-acre playground (the least-roaded national forest in the nation) in their backyard, trophy king salmon fishing on the Kenai Peninsula's Russian River, just a few hours south (watch out; it's a zoo in July), and some of the best skiing on the planet just a 35-minute heli-flight away, the 60 percent of Alaskans who live in this "urban" area are happy to leave the rest of the state to the bears.

OUTFITTED: Valdez Heli-Ski Guides have been making ski-porn fantasies come true for 17 years. The season is short—late February through early May—but if you're an advanced-to-expert skier and want to ski like the pros, this trip's for you. Guests are guaranteed 30 heli-accessed runs in the heart of the Chugach Mountains, each one averaging 4,000 feet of vertical. All of this is just a 35-minute flight or a five-hour drive from Anchorage. At $7,640, it's not cheap, but the price tag includes seven nights at the waterfront Valdez Harbor Inn, breakfast, lunch, a four-to-one client-to-guide ratio, and avalanche safety gear. There are three-day trips for $3,310 (valdezheliskiguides.com).

DIY: Hop on the Alaska Railroad's brand-new, low-emission, diesel-propelled rail car in downtown Anchorage and ride the train a few hours south along the Turnagain Arm to a new hike-in campground, with a close-up view of Spencer Glacier. Paddle a native-style dugout canoe out to the calving ice or take a whitewater raft ride down the Placer River with Chugach Adventure Guides ($202, train tickets and picnic lunch included; alaskanrafting.com). Back in town, crash at the Historic Anchorage Hotel (doubles from $119; historicanchoragehotel.com).

WILD CARD: In July and August, close to 50,000 salmon sharks swarm to Prince William Sound, near Valdez, in search of kings, silvers, and pinks. Seven to eleven feet long, weighing up to 400 pounds, and with the ability to swim up to 50 miles per hour, the salmon shark is in the same family as the great white, fights like a marlin, and tastes like swordfish. Go catch one with Swifty's Alaskan Adventures, whose $600 daily rate includes lodging at the only B&B in Valdez, meals, and your guide (swiftys.net).

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