Since returning from Fairbanks, I’ve heard a lot of questions about the trip and Alaska, so I figured I would drop a post with a few notes from the trip. This was my first time to Fairbanks. I’ve been to Anchorage three times.
ANCHORAGE VS. FAIRBANKS
Anchorage (250,000) is a lot larger than Fairbanks (50,000). Anchorage doesn’t feel that it. It feels more like a Fargo type of city. Anchorage’s downtown is beautiful, located on Cook Inlet with the mountains appearing on the other side. Fairbanks reminds me of Bemidji, only with a river running through it instead of a lake. It was 9 degrees when I landed and snow is already on the ground there. Fairbanks does have some Grand Forks qualities. The town is run by the college and an air base.
It’s a long trip with a three-hour time change, but Anchorage is easier to get to because it has a direct flight from Minneapolis. You need to make two stops to get from Grand Forks to Fairbanks (Minneapolis and either Seattle or Anchorage). It adds four or five hours of travel and makes for a grueling trip. I was told that UAF typically flies out to road games on Tuesday nights. On the way home, I made the flight out of Alaska when it was light out and the view of the Alaskan mountains was outstanding.
Both are 20-30 years old. They are functional but certainly not the top rinks in the WCHA or CCHA. Fairbanks draws more fans. In Anchorage, the big thing is the Aces (the ECHL team in town). The Aces have been pretty good lately and they draw the hockey fans instead of the Seawolves, who have not been good lately. The goal horn in Fairbanks is unbelievably loud. The guy with the cowbell in Anchorage is out of control. Otherwise, the atmosphere isn’t anything like the area WCHA teams’ rinks.
As everyone knows, I love to find good local places to eat. In Anchorage, the Glacier Brewhouse is my favorite restaurant in the WCHA. I ate at a place called the Pump House in Fairbanks that was very good as well. You can’t go wrong with seafood in either Fairbanks or Anchorage. Only problem is that most good seafood places don’t open until 4 p.m., and I have to be at the rink shortly after that.
There are no future trips scheduled to go up to Alaska, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s on the list at some point. UND likes getting the exempt games and UND coach Dave Hakstol likes challenging his team by making the trip and playing a team that’s usually hard working and tough to play against. With an extra travel day and the ability to travel the whole roster, it’s also a great team-building trip at the start of the season.
Below, I posted pictures of trip highlights — 1. King crab legs from the Pump House; 2. On my flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City, our pilot buzzed Mt. Rainier. It was a remarkable sight (luckily, I had a window seat on the near side). The middle picture is the sight as he approaches the volcano; 3. The final picture is of the peak of Mt. Rainier as the pilot banked hard around it.