Ten Things I Did Not Know About Winter Living in Alaska

Nearly every day is a day of discovery about winter living in Alaska, and cold climates in general. I’ve spent a lifetime avoiding the coldest weather in the country, and while I won’t say that’s been a mistake, I will say that I have been missing out on so much beauty in the world. Today, I’m trying to track new things that catch my attention, so here’s ten of some amazing discoveries I’ve made.

Ten Reasons Why Winter Living in Alaska is Not Horrible

I used to wonder why on earth anyone would live in a cold, snowy climate. Today, I just think, stare, and wonder. Each day there is something new to discover about the effects of winter, and all that you can (and cannot do) when the snow flies. I’m especially awestruck by things like:

When snow is falling at night, it sparkles like fairy dust.

night sky in Willow, Alaska
Night sky with twinkle snow

Ice can form into beautiful patterns on the inside of car and house windows when it gets cold enough.

Snowflake pattern inside our Dodge.
Snowflake pattern inside our Dodge.

Going running in zero-degree weather (or lower) is possible, and even tolerable, with the right gear.

A mid-day foot run in Willow.
A mid-day run in Willow.

Dark winter skies can be colorful.

MatSu Sunrise
Just before sunrise in January.

Musher dogs poop on the run!

Sled Dogs Morgan, Mina, and Burger ready to roll!
Morgan, Mina, and Burger ready to roll!

Only a fool doesn’t get outside on a sunny winter day in Alaska

Sunny winter day on Willow Lake
You don’t let days like this go without stepping outside.

Skiing and running with a dog pulling you along is a blast!

Skijoring on Willow Lake with Rally
Four-legged dogs like Rallycan be pretty fun!

Extreme cold weather is usually just a minor inconvenience. Life doesn’t stop up here.

Knik 200 dogs
What a lucky baby! Mama Iditarod racer raises rugged kids right.

Winter doesn’t mean you have an excuse to fall out of shape.

Body by Alaska

Living through an Alaska winter will test your physical and mental strength like few things can.

First mushing team
Thank you Morgan, Mina, and Burger (and you, crazy musher friends!)

“January is a hard month,” my dear musher friend mentioned the other day as we wrapped up my first day as a dog musher in training. She is right. With so many weeks of morning and afternoon darkness behind us and many more to go, it’s getting harder to wake up at a decent hour and get the day started. But each day I try to remind myself about all that is out there just waiting to be discovered. Like learning how to drive my first dog team! That’s a story for another day.

By the time we are packing up, I’ll have a discovery list ten times this long. These are things I will not see again once the snow melts and winter living in Alaska comes to an end. Big and small, subtle and in-your face, each discovery is something I will never, ever forget no matter where we head to next.

7 thoughts on “Ten Things I Did Not Know About Winter Living in Alaska”

  1. This is awesome, and I appreciate the photos that’s so concisely Express what you are saying. I had a somewhat similar experience when I moved to Washington State a decade or so ago and discovered that, like snow and coldness doesn’t stop life where you are now, rain doesn’t stop life in Seattle! People would still be out walking, riding their bikes, playing frisbee, whatever. It turns out we are actually waterproof.;-)

    • “We are actually waterproof” … I LOVE that saying! Gonna steal it from you. And it’s so true. I grew up in Southern California thinking that if moisture fell from the sky we would melt. Well, turns out that is so not true! When we lived in Humboldt County, people didn’t stop living either. You do what you gotta do, including have fun to keep your sanity during the less than desirable weather. Amazing how getting outside your bubble can open your eyes the the possibilities.

  2. Good for you! You’d be able to handle a Wisconsin winter with ease after your Alaskan winter! I notice in some pics, the dogs aren’t wearing boots – how do they manage that? My 3 are picking their feet up after about 2 minutes with the arctic blast we’ve had all week.

    • Paula you know, it really has opened my eyes to the possibilities of where we could live. I fell in love with Wisco long ago when we visited family there, but got discouraged about living there thinking that we could never handle winter. Now, who knows! It could happen. As for the doggos. I have seen some dogs hold up feet, shake them really hard, and then keep on going. Some days they need coverage, usually when the snow gets chunky and a little icy, which sticks to paws as you know. Nellie has done the paw lift sometimes too. Occasionally she wears all 4 Ruffwear boots on her feet, but only in sub-zero temps past -10. The musher dogs sometimes wear booties too.

      • Living in Wisconsin would be a piece of cake compared to living in the weather you are now! In fact, this year, we’ve had only 6 days of sub-zero temperatures in the month of January – and now are headed for 30’s and 40’s.

    • Hey Paula!
      Alaskan huskies (aka “musher dogs”) have genetically evolved over generations of cold weather living and working to be highly efficient at keeping warm in cold temperatures. The UC Davis veterinary school has done a number of studies on their amazing adaptations, including increased circulation to their paws, and extra fat storage that helps prevent their paws from freezing. The booties they sometimes wear are really protection from getting raw spots from the snow and ice, not really for warmth. Depending on the snow conditions, length of the run, and particular dog’s feet, they may or may not wear booties. They really are adapted to their environment and their work!
      ~Crazy Musher Friend


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