Why should you visit Alaska in the winter? Well, the answer is really quite simple—you love freezing weather. Okay, so many of you probably don’t, but there are still many reasons you should visit Alaska in the winter. Considering it was 10 degrees when I landed in Anchorage, Alaska (doesn’t that sound great?) there had to be a reason for placing myself in such a cold environment. I know I am doing a fabulous job selling you on Alaska in the winter; anyway here are my reasons for venturing to the freezing Alaska this winter.
Depending on where you live in the United States, getting to Alaska is not really a state hop over, unless you live in Washington state. Living in Illinois, it will take me three planes each way to get to Anchorage and back. Now that doesn’t seem too bad, but when I compared the winter flights to summer flights the costs were extremely different. And I mean like hundreds of dollars of a difference. However, this all depends on where you live and the size of your airport.
Alaska is still well-known for its beautiful hiking in the summer and into the fall. Even when you go onto Pinterest and search “Alaska travel” most of the pins are beautiful pictures of Alaska in the summer/fall. This is great and all, but winter in Alaska is truly a magical time.
With the whole global warming talk, visiting Alaska in the winter you get to see the mountains covered in blankets of snow. Not to mention that you can walk on glaciers in their natural habitat with snow surrounding them. In the summer, the areas I walked become water and are unsafe to walk on. This means that glacier tours are lead a different path, around where I had walked, but it does depend on the glacier you hike. Plus, cool caves like the one below, form in the winter. The one in particular that I saw was 10x larger than any ice cave they had seen in the last 50 years.
The glaciers are constantly moving and changing, and so if you visit them one year the next time you go they will not look the same. In the summer, the glaciers move at a much faster past, but in the winter they are still moving as well. When I was standing out on the Matanuska Glacier, if the whole group stood still you could hearing the creaking of the glacier as it moved slowly, even in the winter.
During the later months of the year aka winter, the northern lights are at their prime for viewing. While they are never guaranteed to be seen since the conditions must be just right for them to appear, your chances are higher during this time. You must remember in Alaska the days get shorter to the point that the number of daylight hours is in the single digits.
It is often said that March is the best time to see the Northern Lights. But many individuals have seen amazing shows of the Northern Lights during the deep winter months, so there is no “perfect” time, just depends on the conditions. You must remember in the summer Alaska barely has any dark hours, and in the winter it runs short on daylight hours. Keep this in mind as you are planning a trip because you do need at least a couple of hours of darkness to see them. Typically though, Fairbanks has a higher chance of seeing the Northern Lights overhead, but Anchorage still has its fair share of Northern Lights views. This is why it is good to keep track of predictions by visiting: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/auroraforecast.
If you grew up watching the Snow Dogs movie, then you probably had dog sledding on your bucket list for a long time like me. I loved the idea of being in the wilderness with just a pack of dogs and sled. I love in the movie the bond between a musher and their pack and you can definitely see that in-person as well. I literally felt like I stepped into the Snow Dogs movie.
I do want to put in here that dog sledding has been a long-standing tradition in Alaska and I am against animal cruelty; however, dog sledding is not animal cruelty in my eyes. While I was a little unsure how I felt about the dogs being outside dogs in below freezing temperatures, I learned that they love this. Alaskan Malamutes are made to thrive in below freezing weather, and the thick fur they have to keep them warm would overheat them indoors. If you want to learn more about the history of dog sledding and what I learned that made me come to respect the sport a lot more click here.
In my opinion, nothing is more beautiful to photograph than beautiful nature, and in Alaska there is a lot of it. In the winter, the mountains are covered in snow creating a picturesque background, and don’t forget the city lights. While some of nature’s creatures hibernate in the winter there are still many that can be found running across the white wonderland. Plus with sunrise in the late morning you can eat sleep-in past 6am, eat breakfast, and still get out there for the sunrise.
The beauty of Alaska truly is amazing to me, and it has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I am glad I finally had the opportunity to venture there and see the many wonders it holds in the winter. Also, it might be cold but as long as you come prepared with the right gear you won’t have a problem. Check out my suggestions about what to pack when heading to Alaska in the winter.
While Alaska was stunning in the winter I hope to return in the summer and see why so many travel in the spring/summer to Alaska, till then you’ve been great Alaska!