We planned our trip 6 months in advance, emailing the owner several times. She told us the northern lights can be seen September through mid-April, and that in the winter there would be "dog-sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing. cross-country skiing, "village" tours, and flight seeing." She sent us a long list of activities and prices. She mentioned their "Aurora Viewing Cabin," gave us a choice of their "new Aurora Lodge or the rustic Bettles Lodge, which is a national historic site," and said "Our staff will be available to point out trails and also guide your activities along the Koyukuk river and lakes in our area.”
We asked if Oct. was a good time to come, and she said yes. When we got there, EVERY SINGLE person said to us "why are you here in Oct?" Everyone knew that Oct. was a "transition" month (where because of the change in weather, you can't do either summer OR winter activities).
The "rustic" historical lodge was closed for the winter, and half the staff had been laid off (including the maid!). The remaining staff, though very friendly, were completely unprepared for us, had no idea what to do with us, and not a single suggestion for what we should do with our time. So as a result we spent our ENTIRE vacation sitting in a 70's style "rec" room watching videos (that WE brought) and playing cards. At night, the staff left-we had no idea what to do if we needed anything, or if there was an emergency. We were just left on our own!
NONE of the winter activities we were told about were available, and since it was snowing, we didn't see a single star, let alone the aurora borealis. The "modern" facility was a dorm room building with communal bathrooms, and a tiny living room window blocked by a giant moosehead so we couldn't even enjoy the scenery outside.
We did get the "Village Tour," which was a 5min drive where our guide said "that's where Joe lives, that's where Sally lives, I think that house is vacant." And in bored desperation, we hitched a ride with the handyman to the "Aurora Viewing Cabin" which we didn't go inside, and which consisted of a shack with an outhouse on the lake.
On our last day we decided to bring up our disappointment with the owner. We had to do it over the phone since she made no appearance during our stay (and the only reason we even MET her was because she found us at Fairbanks airport and asked us to bring equipment to the Lodge). She instantly started screaming her head off at my friend who couldn't get a word in after the first sentence. Then she tried to tack on $20 ea. for the "Village Tour" and $60 ea. for the "Viewing Cabin" tour!!
We could have had the same experience (minus the nasty owner) for FREE if we had just gone to my friend's cabin in the mountains at home. Instead we spend $2000 for nothing and to be treated horribly on top of it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- We offer food, aircraft fuel, and lodging 365 days a year. We still harbor wayward pilots just like when we opened in 1951 as a Wien Alaska Airlines Lodge. We offer world class Aurora viewing (235 nights a year possible here/weather dependent) during the Fall and Winter season, National Park Collecting & Flight seeing, fishing charters, and camping / hiking drop off and pick up in the Gates of the Arctic & Kobuk Valley National Park flights with our full service Air Taxi operation based in Bettles. We have officially the best weather in Alaska, here at Bettles Field. Come see the REAL, Arctic, Bush, Alaska! ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Bettles Hotel Bettles