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How Do Alaskans Prepare For Winter?

by ATJ Posted in A Day In The Life |
This photo by Doug Brown is used under Creative Commons License

This photo by Doug Brown is used under Creative Commons License

There’s cold, and then there’s “Alaska in the winter” cold. Just how cold are we talking? Interior Alaska often experiences temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit for days at a time. But despite the frigid temps, locals find ways to survive and thrive through every winter. In order to prepare for the long cold season, Alaska locals have more than a few ways to make sure they stay warm and toasty. Here are five sure-fire tips to help you prepare for an Alaska winter, straight from the people who live here.

1. Get Your Car Winter Ready

Whether you’re faced with an emergency or just need some food, odds are you won’t be going anywhere in Alaska’s freezing temperatures unless your vehicle is winter ready. Locals recommend outfitting your car with a: battery warmer, oil pan warmer, woolen hood cover, and a woolen engine cover. Double-glazed windshields are also recommended to prevent glass from freezing and cracking.

If you don’t feel like sitting inside a frozen vehicle while it warms up, install a remote starter. Once you drive to your destination, it’s common practice up here to leave your vehicle running to prevent it from freezing.

2. Get Yourself Winter Ready

A warm and winterized vehicle is absolutely necessary, but you’ll have a hard time getting anywhere unless you’re dressed appropriately. Locals recommend layering and ensuring your cold weather gear includes: warm winter boots or mukluks; a down winter coat with a fur-lined hood; a knit cap that covers your head, ears and face; mittens (as opposed to gloves); and long underwear.

Preparation is everything. Extra clothing should be stored in your car in case it stalls or stops. In addition to the clothes listed, drivers should also store snow pants, warm blankets, and a sleeping bag. Ensure your extra clothing is brightly colored, or has reflective tape attached to it, so that other motorists can spot you through darkness and ice fog.

3. Grab a “Happy Light”

A “happy light” is just a local expression for a sun lamp or a light box. A winter in Alaska means daylight is limited to about five hours at a time. These short spans of daylight can produce wintery blues, or a form of seasonal depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Don’t let the SAD sink in. Happy lights stimulate sunlight. Exposure to this light twice a day for a mere 20 minutes can do wonders to combat depression.

4. Get Outside!

Okay, it may seem crazy to excitedly want to leave a warm home when it’s below zero outside. However, spending excessive time indoors can once again bring about depression. Locals recommend fighting the blues by finding exciting activities that get them outside. Several of Alaska’s communities have much to offer during the winter months, including sled dog races, ice carving competitions and winter carnivals.

Locals do their best to become social butterflies when temperatures start to drop. Heading to a coffee shop and arranging weekly dinner parties with friends are two common activities. After all, nothing warms the heart like being with good friends.

5. Enjoy a Movie

A person braving Alaska’s winter months is by no means expected to spend every moment outside. Quality time spent indoors is perfectly acceptable. A good activity is to enjoy a movie. Once again, however, avoid any semblance of depression. This means opt for a classic comedy as opposed to Million Dollar Baby.

Many local residents consider winter as one of their preferred Alaskan seasons. There is an abundance of activities to participate in, unique beauty to view, and no mosquitoes. Don’t let the falling temperatures chill your sense of adventure. Listen to the locals and get yourself winter ready.

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