Sockeye Cycle Klondike Bicycle Tour – Skagway, Alaska
Have you ever wanted to escape the typical motor coach tour that is offered as an excursion while on a cruise ship? Do you dream about getting outside and really seeing the port, especially in a place like Alaska? We did just that last summer while in port at Skagway, Alaska. Prior to our cruise I researched mountain bikes and found a company that offered guided 6-hour mountain bike tours and signed the family up. The price was about $200. per person.
Once we disembarked from the cruise ship we met our fellow cyclists inside the Sockeye Cycle Store in downtown Skagway. This is a professional cycling store that offers different types of biking tours including bike repair and sales. There were about 10 of us in the group and we were fitted for bikes, helmets and whisked off in a van to the Yukon Train, about 5 minutes away. The guides then gave us a train ticket and told us they would meet us later in Canada.
We boarded the historic White Pass & Yukon Route Train, which travels on a narrow-gauge railroad for a scenic hour and a half trip through the Alaskan mountains into British Columbia, Canada. A guide on the train provided narration on life during the Gold Rush and pointed out important sites along the way. The train ride was a fascinating experience through wildflower fields, gold rush sites, raging rivers, waterfalls and mountain ranges. Most of the people on this train were there to simply enjoy the train ride but we were going on a 15 miles bike ride
After departing the train, we were met by our guides and a driver in a van hauling a trailer with about 12 mountain bikes. We were then transported thru the U.S. Canadian border crossing and arrived at our starting point on the Klondike Highway. This is a real highway with trucks speeding by and the bikes were so tall that my feet couldn’t reach the ground and I am 5’9”. This is not an adventure for the timid or those afraid of heights.
We were given a few minutes to practice with our bikes on the highway and then headed down the historic Klondike Highway for a thrilling 15-mile ride downhill. We were told to keep our speeds between 15 and 25 miles an hour. Yikes.
During our ride, we rode past glaciers, rivers, mountain ridges and cascading waterfalls. We saw bald eagles and sheep along the way and at one point we stopped at a large waterfall just off the street and enjoyed some delicious spring water. It was a magnificent experience that I will never forget.
Once we completed the downhill ride we then cycled our bikes thru the Alaskan countryside for a total of 15 miles and returned to the Cycle store. We were all exhausted but exhilarated by our mountain bike ride in Alaska. I am so grateful I did not do the typical cruise ship excursion and did something off the grid.
This trip would be perfect for families, groups or singles looking for an outdoor cycling adventure.
Sugarloaf USA Ski Resort
My extended family enjoys all types of adventure travel. Our group of 20 people includes about 10 young men who seem to want a bigger, faster, tougher travel experience. What thrills them is to surf/board giant waves, to ride fast bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, and horses and to jump off cliffs to go for a swim. If there is a ski slope that is considered double black diamond my crazy nephews & brothers will be first in line. Not me, I like peaceful glide down an easy blue/ green ski slope with my nervous daughter in tow. It is never easy to please everyone on a large family vacation.
In 2017, during school vacation week we traveled from Massachusetts up to Sugarloaf Ski Resort in the Carrabassett Valley of Maine. It took us about 5 long hours to drive to Sugarloaf but you could also get there by bus, train or plane by flying into Portland, Bangor or Boston and then using a transfer service or rental car. We stayed at a rental house a few miles away from the resort but Sugarloaf has plenty of lodging options such as hotels, condos, and house rentals.
Sugarloaf is considered one of the East Coast’s Big Ski Mountains along with Killington and Sunday River. It has Maine’s 2nd highest peak at 4, 237 feet and the only chairlift that services above-treeline skiing on the East Coast. It has a vertical drop of 2, 830 feet, with 160 trails and 12 lifts.
2017 was a terrific year for snow accumulations and all the trails were open with great conditions. The snow was magnificent and I observed drifts up to the roofs on many of the condos roofs. It actually took us 5 adults an hour to dig out a path from the car to the rental house we stayed at when we first arrived. There was easily 4 plus feet of snow on the ground from the previous night.
Skiing is such an expensive sport and I don’t know how families do it. For a 2-day lift ticket with no add-ons, like rentals, the price is about $173. each. I found that because my daughter and I don’t ski the more difficult slopes that it is much more economical to buy a Mid Mountain Pass, which costs about $110 dollars each. With the Mid Mountain, you won’t be allowed on the black slopes but we wouldn’t be there anyway and I receive a significant price reduction. My nephews roll their eyes at these passes because of their cool, but that’s ok at least I have some money left over for a hot chocolate and some lunch.
We all enjoyed skiing Sugarloaf because there is something for everyone. Lots of trail options available with varying degrees of difficulty. I like riding on trails that provide a nice view or ride through forests, over bridges and rivers. Sugarloaf even has a tunnel that you can ski into which is under a small road and at the end you come out the other side. Very cool. The rest of the family likes to race down steep vertical drops and over moguls. We usually meet in the base lodge every few hours to discuss the slopes, the abundance of corduroy and to warm up.
Something you will notice right away is that the slope workers are nice folks. They appreciate families making the long drive to ski/ride and it shows. You will hear a lot of “Grateful Dead” and “Yes” blasting from the restaurants, bars, and chairlift speakers so if you like techno or rap you might need your own music device close by.
I skied Sugarloaf a lot as a child and all I remember is the cold and my clothes literally freezing to the chairlift but now, because of the high-tech clothing, we were able to stay much more comfortable. This mountain is no joke and some days the temperature is well below zero, so if you want to try it out make sure you pack accordingly.
The parking lots are well thought out and the shuttle buses stop and pick people up even if they are not a standing at the bus stop, again an example of the incredible positive attitudes the workers possess. Also, there is plenty of room on the outside of the shuttle for your gear.
While we were there they announced that the Sugarloaf Snow Fields were opened for the first time in 2 years. This rarely opened ski area is an all-natural ski terrane that is not groomed. Its entrance is located at the 4,237-foot summit at the top of Sugarloaf. We all took the chairlift to the top to see what the fuss was all about. The chairlift was pretty amazing because it was above the tree line on the mountain. It was windy and stunning but a bit scary. At the top, you have a 360-degree panorama view of Vermont, NH and Canada . You then have a choice try the powder-filled Snowfields or ride down a long, leisurely green slope. My brother chose the Snow Fields but was exhausted when he returned to the lodge.
Sugarloaf has great stores for winter clothing and ski/board shopping. It was not overpriced and they had a lot of unique items to choose from. The restaurants are plentiful with lots of options and the servers apparently work there so they can ski/board when they get off work.
The highlight after a strenuous & exhausting day of riding the slopes is always a visit to the Widow Maker Pub. This bar is loud, proud, has live music and serves Shock Top beer, what else could you want? And oh yeah, they play a lot of Jerry Garcia tunes because they know what makes their customers happy. We are going to try the Reggae Festival next winter.
Keep on Truckin!