Most visitors come to Alaska in the summertime- seeing the land of the midnight sun, enjoying temperate climates, perhaps catching salmon.  It is a beautiful country- but the beauty doesn’t end with fall – it just begins.

Perhaps it is the attitude of the “locals” where snowfall doesn’t mean clogged streets with impossible parking – but a chance to ski, or snowmobile, or snowshoe. In Alaska the elements don’t provide a hindrance from living but brings a whole new dimension.

My brother Ron and I along the Copper River in Alaska


Sledding in Ketchikan - Jimmy, Ron, Me

Dressing for winter is essential. But don’t think you need to buy your Alaska winter clothes in your hometown- buy them in Alaska. From what you will save in hotel bills, you could purchase a great coat, boots, and long-handles and still be lots of money ahead.  Retail prices in Alaska are now comparable with the lower 48. It will save you a suitcase, and no one knows how to dress in Alaska like Alaskans.

While the Northern Lights can be seen all year long- it is the winter time that the “fire in the sky” is most often seen. Tourists from Japan come to Alaska in the winter just so they can see and experience the Aurora Borealis (and some believe that being married under them is good luck). The North Pole and South Pole, because of the magnetic fields, are the most common places to see these spectacular displays of solar charged particles. You won’t see these during the summer- as it is too light during the night to see them. The best months are September and March – and the best time is between midnight and 5 am. You can hear them crackle in the sky.  Get out of Anchorage to see them – as the city lights can obscure them.

Winter is the best time to see the Northern Lights


If you are not opposed to fur, fur will provide the best protection against the elements, with the lightest weight.  Still the preferred clothing of Alaska Natives, fur is used because it is needed – and no one in Alaska will throw paint on your fur.  The finest furriers are in Alaska- being close to the product, and – in the case of David Green furs – three generations of Alaskan furriers.  While shoes and boots are critical for the outside – don’t wear them inside- instead change into fur slippers.  The fur slippers will be so comfortable you will look forward to wearing them in your home in the lower 48.

Fur lined jacket keeps you warm in Alaskan winters


But if fur is not what you want – there are plenty of non-fur ways to protect yourself from the outside. From boots to sweaters and coats to socks- finding the right combination is essential.  Alaska can be comfortable in the winter, even at 40 below zero.  It is all about how you dress for the cold.

A great hat is part of the gear you need for winter- and sunglasses


Hotels in Alaska cost less in winter – room rates drop dramatically, and it is easier to get a suite or upgraded.  Typical Anchorage room rates go from $225 per night in the summer to $90 per night in the winter.


The grill might go unused in the wintertime in Alaska

But if you find yourself in Copper Center you will find that the Princess Cruise Lodge has closed for the winter.  So it will be the local- Copper River Depot where you will find a clean, spacious, comfortable, and warm. Not to mention one of the finer bars in Alaska – locally owned with the operator on the premise.  And if you are hungry- he will probably feed you too.  He has cabins for rent in the summer – when the staff from the upscale and overpriced Princess Lodge want a break, they come to the Copper Rail Depot for their after-hour libations.  I’ve stayed at both places – Copper Rail Depot is pure Alaska and the Princess Lodge could be anywhere in the lower 48.

Alaskans know how to clear their roads in the winter


Alyeska is the ski resort of choice – just an hour’s drive south of Anchorage – the lodge provides luxury accommodations, while the slopes and view are amazing. You can go online and see the slopes from a web-cam. If you think the best skiing is in Colorado or Utah- try Alaska.

The view is different in the winter in Alaska- the snow on the mountains is beautiful, many of the lakes and inlets are frozen over. Plus Moose come out to forage – and there is much less of a chance of a bear attack should you go out on the trails. Instead of biking on the trails, you can cross-country ski – a much better work out- and you will have plenty of coastline, mountains, and forests.


Winter in Alaska means the mountains have a new look

Southeast Alaska will have to be seen by the Alaska Marine Highway system, as there are no cruise ships making their way up the coast of Alaska. Same views – but with more snow, and you will see more of Alaska than a cruise would show.  While the summer-time cruise ships go between the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway- the Alaska Ferry System goes to many of the smaller ports – like Wrangell and Petersburg.