Last Updated: February 14, 2022
So, you’ve decided to move to Alaska? (Or maybe you’re just seriously considering it…) Well, let us be the first to offer our congratulations! We love it here, and we hope you do, too. You’ll soon be one of the lucky residents who call this extraordinary wilderness your home.
You’ve probably already done some research on how to move to Alaska, as well as whether or not to do a DIY move to the Frontier State. And, if you’re committed to making the 49th state your home, you’re probably one of those people who loves cold weather and all the fun that comes along with it.
That being said, not everyone is quite prepared for their first winter in Alaska. Sure, you’ve probably got a sturdy winter coat, a warm set of mittens and a balaclava, but are you really ready for all the effects that an intense winter in Alaska can bring?
As our way to welcome you to the state, we’re going to share our team’s insider tips on how to not just survive your first winter in Alaska but actually enjoy it. Let’s get started!
Get a Sunlamp
Don’t laugh. There’s a reason why many Alaska residents call these “happy lights.” In the heart of the Alaskan winter, if you’re in Anchorage, you may see as little as 5 hours and 28 minutes of sunlight on the shortest day of the year. Up in Fairbanks, you’ll get as little as 3 hours and 42 minutes. The darker days of winter can cause some seasonal depression or wintery blues in even the hardiest Alaskan. That’s where a sunlamp comes in handy.
Just a little daily exposure to a light therapy box can cause chemical changes in your brain that provide an instant mood booster. The optimal dosage is 5,000 lux hours per day, which could take the form of sitting in front of a 10,000 lux lamp for 30 minutes each morning. If you can get your dose in the early morning, you’ll experience the greatest benefits.
So if a sunlamp isn’t already on your list of Alaska winter supplies, maybe it should be. It’s also important to get out an enjoy the real thing, too.
Pick a Sport and Love the Winter You’re In
Rather than just “dealing with” the Alaska winter, why not find a way to love it? Pick an outdoor activity that you enjoy during the colder months. Getting outdoors can not only improve your mood and expose you to some real sunshine, but it can also remind you why you chose to live in Alaska.
Grab a set of snowshoes and take a hike in a pristine landscape. Fire up a snowmachine and speed through Alaska’s backcountry. And if snowshoeing or snowmachining aren’t your thing, you’ll still find plenty of other activities to make the winter fun: skiing, ice skating, hockey, snowboarding, ice climbing, ice fishing, curling and more. Even popping outdoors for a nighttime view of the northern lights can put a smile on your face and make a winter night a magical experience.
Now, if it’s just too cold to even consider getting outdoors, we’ve got an idea for you.
Make It a Movie Night
Owning a movie collection used to mean carting a bunch of DVDs around, but, today, all you need is an Internet connection to turn any night into movie night.
Although you may be tempted to pass a cold, wintry night with a classic like Titanic or Citizen Kane, in our experience, these movies may not be the best ones to help you through an Alaskan winter. We’ve found that the lack of light and the extreme cold can intensify sad feelings.
So, instead, opt for a movie that will make you laugh. Our team loves the classic comedies Dumb and Dumber, Caddyshack and Airplane!, but any movie that raises the corners of your mouth will work. And, just in case the Internet goes down, you might want to buy a few of these so you have them saved in your digital library, ready to go when you need a chuckle.
Next, there’s nothing like sharing a chuckle with a few friends…
Get Out and Meet People
During the winter months, make sure you find excuses to get out of your house as much as you can. Become a regular at your nearest coffee shop. Schedule dinner parties with friends. Meet a group for a hike through the woods. Anything that will get you out of the house and focused on something other than the cold, dark, Alaskan winter will help it pass more quickly.
Now, when you first move to Alaska, as with any new place, it can feel tough to make new friends. Here’s our tip for making it easier: At some point during your first Alaska winter, you’ll see someone who needs a hand. Maybe they need help shoveling their driveway, carrying groceries up a set of stairs or navigating a stroller across a snowy parking lot. Offer assistance, and you’ll find yourself making friends faster than you think.
In addition to spending time with friends, there’s another great way to pass the time during the winter in Alaska, one that will make you proud to show off the results in the spring.
Pick Up a Project (or a Hobby!)
During summers in Alaska, spending time indoors working on an hobby feels like a waste of the precious sunlight and glorious weather. However, in the winter time, having a focused project can give you a sense of purpose—and a sense of accomplishment when it’s finished. We’ve got a couple of ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- If you’re crafty, consider sewing a quilt. Many people enjoy making memory quilts out of old t-shirts, which offer plenty of fabric as well as an opportunity to keep the memories surrounding your shirts while cutting clutter.
- Take an online class in something you’re interested in. The market has exploded in recent years, so you’ll find classes on just about every topic conceivable. Google will point you in the right direction, or you can stop by the popular site Udemy.com.
- Start that remodeling or building project you’ve been eyeing, as long as it doesn’t require you to break ground and it allows you to work in a heated area.
- Organize old photographs into albums—or digitize them so they’re safe in the cloud for your entire family to enjoy for generations to come.
- Research your family history. With so many archives having gone digital in recent years, you can learn a ton about your ancestors right from the comfort of your home. Try logging on to Ancestry.com, and see what you discover.
By picking up a project, you’ll give your free time a new focus, one that can keep you inspired through those dark, wintry nights.
Finally, one tip from us on dressing for winter—and this is one we learned the hard way.
It’s Not Just About Staying Warm
People who are new to Alaska—and to areas where winter temperatures regularly hover well below freezing—often think that dressing to stay warm is the key to surviving winter. However, that’s not always the case. Depending on what you’re doing—and how you layer your clothing—you may actually find yourself overheating. Sweat will make your clothing damp, which reduces its effectiveness for keeping you warm, and you may find yourself shivering unexpectedly.
The key lies in layers. If you’re standing and watching a curling match, you may need every single one of them. But if you’re taking a hike, you may need to peel off a layer or two once you get going to keep yourself the right temperature.
Just remember: It’s not just about staying warm. It’s also about staying dry. If you’re doing something active, it’s okay to be a little cold when you start out. Your body heat will soon make up the difference.
Oh, and one more tip: Don’t neglect your feet! Invest in a good pair of boots that are built for the conditions you’ll be using them in. And stock up on wool or synthetic socks. Cotton socks will be your worst enemy in the Alaskan winter. They hold in moisture, which can cause blisters and make your feet cold.
Keep Hope Alive: Spring Is Coming!
As you get to the tail end of an Alaskan winter, you might start to lose faith that spring will ever arrive. We’re here to tell you that the snow DOES eventually melt and pave the way for spring (and summer!) in Alaska. Keep your chin up, use these tips, and you’ll be enjoying 24-hour sunshine before you even know it.
Just know that every winter in Alaska is different. If your first winter was a piece of cake, not to worry. You’re pretty much guaranteed to be tested next year. But the opposite is also true! If your first winter was an absolute bear, the next one will be better, if only because you’ll know what to expect.
Final Bonus: If you’re looking for even more adventure in Alaska, check out this article from the Alaska Wilderness League on How to Survive in the Alaskan Wilderness.
Looking for help with your Alaska move? We’d love to help you get you settled in the Frontier State so you can enjoy the wonders, quirks and fun of all four of its seasons. Just reach out to us for a free quote to get started.
Tell us about your move!