The legendary, brutal Alaskan winters scare away most of the tourists and the summer seasonal employees. By November, those serious about Alaska are hunkering down for the winter and the snow is falling in earnest. Follow these tips and you may not freeze to death or get the blues this winter.
1. Sunlight is key!
Get outside and play and you will feel 1,000 times better. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects many people in Alaska, making them moody and listless in the dark winter months. Beat back the winter blahs with a healthy dose of sunshine every day and you will have a much more enjoyable winter. Of course, you can purchase full spectrum lights for your home or office, but there is no real substitute for the sun.
2. Moonlight is beautiful, too.
Winter has the most beautiful, long sunsets on the short winter days, but don't discount outside fun just because the sun is about to set. Skiing, sledding, running, and long walks in the woods can be magical in the moonlit starry evenings and mornings.
3. Get the gear.
It makes EVERYTHING a whole lot easier if you have the proper gear to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable while outdoors in the harsh winter. It will seriously change your desire to leave the house. Get the gear you need, whether it's layers of warmth for the cold northern winters or waterproof everything for southern rain.
4. Wear the gear.
You actually have to put the warm gear on to reap the benefits of ownership. Even on a warm, sunny afternoon, remember to fill the car and backpack with all your warm clothes for when the temperatures drop. It can happen quickly and drastically.
5. Get out a little.
Whether you head across the globe or just down the road, plan an adventure at some point this winter. A change of scenery can break up the long months of darkness. Hawaii is a popular winter destination for Alaskans and international traveling is common, but seeing a new part of the state can be just as refreshing.
6. Drive during the day.
When you head out on a trip, try to do so during the daylight hours for ease of travel. Roads that are dizzying with blowing snow late at night can be completely clear by the time the sun is high in the sky. Temperatures aren't as frigid, either, which cuts down on misery if you should break down or slide into a ditch.
7. A winter sport will change your attitude.
Getting out in the wilderness is one of the wonderful benefits of living in Alaska. Taking advantage of the mountains and oceans will make the winter a lot more fun. Try snowshoeing, the different types of skiing, ice skating, hockey, snowboarding, ice climbing, curling, or just walking in the woods.
8. Plan for possible weather.
Don't be absolute about plans in the winter months. Be flexible and accommodating, taking into account the regularity of flight delays, road closures, and storm warnings. It'll make everything easier if you accept that the conditions are extreme and tight schedules can't always be kept.
9. Be prepared for walking.
You never know when a motorized vehicle is going to break down in the cold and you will have to walk to safety. Being caught unprepared has negative consequences ranging from uncomfortable to fatal. Always assume you need to be ready to walk a couple miles in the cold, and night temperatures can drop significantly.
10. You almost always have to go to work.
Even if it's bitterly cold, icy, foggy, slippery, and snowing like crazy, you still probably have to go to work. Prepare yourself and your vehicle for the winter with winter tires, flares, a tow strap, gravel or kitty litter for traction, gloves and extra warm gear for driving in stormy conditions because that is just the way of life the north. Check local websites to make sure the roads and businesses are open.
11. Autostart is real, and it can change your life.
Before you leave to go somewhere, it is customary to start the car and wait a few minutes for it to warm up. This reduces strain on the engine and gets the heater going in the cab, making the trip easier on you and the car. Autostart is an upgrade you can purchase that allows you to start the car from 20-50 feet away, through a window. It's the best invention ever.
12. Hibernation is only healthy in bears.
It's easy to hole up in your home and workplace and become lonely and isolated. Make sure you get some human interaction from friends, clubs, sports or activities once in a while. It's good for the soul.
13. Spring can be cruel.
The hardest time for the mind can be when the light comes back in spring. Be careful not to get hopeless at this time of year. Reach out to your friends who have been hibernating, too.
14. Help your neighbor.
Throughout the winter, you will inevitably find people in need. No matter if it's shoveling a driveway, chopping wood, or carrying something up an icy path, take the extra time help someone out. Winter can be very hard on those in a weakened condition. Lend a helping hand when you can, for it may be you that needs help next time.
Winter can be rough, but Alaskans make it through together.
Anything else to add to the list? Tell us your suggestions in the comments below.