It’s a verifiable fact that the Alaskan Winter is cold and dark. The average January low temperature in Valdez is cold and in the Copper River valley REALLY cold. If you don’t mind the cold, the dark might drive you crazy. No, I’m serious. Look up seasonal affective disorder. It’s no joke.
But the winter is awesome. Awesome get over used and probably cliche. But the Alaskan winter is ‘awesome’ – jaw dropping, spine tingling, mind blowing awe inspiring Alaskan Winter.
And, like most Alaskan stuff that’s awesome – it’s certainly not the man-made stuff. Although, a mid-winter house party or backyard bonfire or Bear Tooth Concert are pretty cool. They really don’t match up with the natural wonders the winter has in store.
Let’s see – Horefrost, the way headlines look in ice fog along the Richardson Highway, epic snowdays inside, snow shoveling for money, Sundogs, broadies in icy parking lots, late sunrises, early sunsets, long long nights, the list goes on…
And, the cool thing is that -different than the summer – the experiences are for you and your close friends. The whole state feels empty. It’s like you are in the amusement park after closing.
One of my favorite natural wonders of the Alaskan winter is the Aurora. What a crazy cool thing. It’s part science fiction, part storm chasers, part late night party.
I remember being awakened (awoken?) in the middle of the night. My brother is standing there with a big grin and a sleeping bag. “The lights are out” he says. Minutes later, I’m standing in the parking lot – damp sorels on my feet and sleeping bag draped over the shoulders of my heaviest coat. There is a green cloud shifting around on the northern horizon above the Valdez Town mountain.
It was the first time I’d seen the northern lights. Our small group wandered over to some other folks across the street – they were whistling and clapping to call up the show. In low voices you can hear things like “dead ancestors”, “solar wind”, “ionosphere”, and “H-A-R-R-P project”. A very cool Alaskan experience.
I went on to really enjoy the aurora and saw it many times. On the back poach at parties, driving over the pass at night, out in McCarthy, from the plane – that’s pretty cool.
So, Is the aurora happening tonight? Check the Geophysical Institute from Fairbanks: