what winter is really like in interior alaska

what winter is really like in interior alaska

Is anyone else out there hibernating through this winter? No? Just me? Well, we’re here on the final day of February (thank goodness), and I felt compelled to sit in it today and just reflect on our first winter here in Fairbanks, Alaska. I think it’s safe to say by now that everyone knows that the transition to life in Alaska has been a hard one for our family, and I’ve really struggled with the emotional magnitude of it all. But we’re doing it. Is there another choice? Not really; so, we get it done. Today though, I’m sharing what winter is really like in interior Alaska, the things that have gotten us through thus far, and what we’re looking forward to in the months to come.

What Winter is Really Like in Interior Alaska

When we arrived in Alaska this past July, we knew we would be in for a big change. We knew that winters would be cold. But, I can honestly say that, after living in Alaska for more than seven months, there’s knowing it’ll be a change, and there’s knowing just how big those changes really are.

Winter in Alaska is all about extremes. I’m talking extreme cold. Extreme fog. Extreme darkness. Extreme hibernation. It’s gorgeous beyond belief, but never in my life have I experienced cold to the degree that I’ve experienced it here. I got my first ever true frostbite when I was taking photos of the Yukon Quest in Fairbanks. The cold zapped the sensors in my Subaru, knocking out its EyeSight and requiring recalibration. Neighbors disappear for the coldest months and only begin emerging after the coldest temps recede. We had almost three full weeks of -30F and below temperatures, and it was hard.

january in alaska

favorite amazon purchases winter in alaska

The Seasons in Fairbanks, Alaska

I had a lot of questions on my instagram whether things close down during those really, really cold weeks, and the answer is no. Almost everything runs as normal. Kids go to school. People go to work. Sports continue. If life stopped when the weather got extreme here, life in Fairbanks would cease. Honestly. They say that January and February in Fairbanks are the hardest months in terms of weather, and they were right.

sledding near fort wainwright

-40F fairbanks alaska

There’s a joke we’ve learned here, too. The seasons in Fairbanks, Alaska go something like this:

  • Summer
  • Fall (1 week)
  • Winter
  • Fool’s spring
  • Second Winter
  • Spring of deception
  • Breakup season
  • Mosquito season

Then, simply rinse and repeat. When we arrived in the summer, it was hot. The houses here are made to hold heat, and they do. So, we got used to the dry heat of summer and the smoke from the Canadian wildfires. Then, fall arrived and departed in a matter of two weeks, and winter was here by October.

what winter is really like in interior alaska

what winter is really like in interior alaska

What We’ve Learned Through the Coldest Months

I write this while it’s currently -27F outside, so take it all with a grain of salt, but I will say that Alaskans know what they’re talking about. It’s true that, even though it’s still freaking cold outside, we’re gaining daylight every day, and it’s such an emotional lift. While our nights are bitter cold this week, we see temps in the mid-teens next week (positive teens, that is), and it looks hopeful.

They weren’t lying when they said that 20s and 30s would feel downright warm after our first winter in Fairbanks, and they’re right. It’s not spring, but those 30-degree days last week felt heavenly, and they gave us hope. I get it now though. I get why everyone disappears all summer. I get why nobody is around, and that’s because I get what winter is really like in interior Alaska. You earn your summer, and I’m here for it.