In early May avalanches had become a danger in the mountains, so in an attempt to salvage the last of winter, I drove about 200 miles north while gaining two degrees of latitude. Recent snowfalls in the Alaska Range had blanketed the mountains and lowlands near the Denali Highway in pure white satin. On May 7th skies were mostly clear and there was hardly a breath of wind. But at mid-day, the temperature was in the high 40s. Was this winter?
As summer was winding down and we moved into August, it occurred to me…winter is coming. The initial panic was quickly replaced with determined resolve. I decided that this winter, I would have a good time. In recent years, it has been all too easy for me to get bogged down with various mundane responsibilities, causing the winter to slip by in a dark, unenthusiastic blur. Most uniquely-winter activities take planning, preparing, layering, driving and money, all things I feel hesitant to budget for when things are calling from left and right. This year I decided - enough is enough. It’s time to have some fun.
Ski 4 Kids – it’s a fun, festive and free family event! The annual event at Kincaid Park provides local children up to 14 years old the opportunity to explore and enjoy various winter recreational experiences.
People with higher credentials than those possessed by this writer have certified that there actually is a disease related to winter cabin fever. They call it “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or, very appropriately by its initials: SAD.
These days you hear people at the post office and grocery store: “I hate this! No skiing or snowshoeing. No fat-tire biking. It’s dangerous just to walk on my driveway. I would take Fairbanks’ cold or Ketchikan’s rain over this!” Actually, I lied. I haven’t encountered anyone who said this except me. This tenacious advance of ice has finally gotten to me. According to The Alaska Almanac by Nancy Gates, ice covers about three percent of Alaska’s landmass. But with recent weeks of rain-freeze-thaw-rain caused by a stationary jet stream bringing warm air from farther south in the Pacific, I estimate that ice now covers about 3.4 percent of the state. It cakes our driveways, it’s on our roads, it covers our parking lots and glazes our trails. It’s as if 500 people got on Zamboni machines and drove around in the cover of darkness and fiendishly coated every space they could find with ice!
The first snowfall of the year brings a rash of ditch divers and car crashes. My kids and I used to have a game of rating the wrecks when we drove between Eagle River and Anchorage. The ditch divers that managed to cross four lanes of traffic, clear the guardrail, do a complete roll or somersault, and land on their wheels without hitting another car scored a ten. You can come up with your own system for scoring these esoteric accomplishments. Planning for safe(er) winter driving.