From early January until just this past weekend, Anchorage agonized through a long stretch of insufferable Lower-48ers who faced moderate cold and snow like my dog facing the threat of a bath. During the last six weeks, we saw temperatures in 40s & 50s and rain heavy enough to melt most of what we built up during the depressing part of winter. Snow machines were fitted for wheels, skis were left unwaxed, and Alaskans contemplated spending their vacations in Colorado instead of Hawaii. Worst of all, the state had been flood with doomsayers pointing at slush puddles and declaring Global Warming killed every fish in the ocean.
Seriously, as long as the winters are up here, to live in Alaska is to embrace what you can do in Wintertime. That’s why skiing, snowshoeing, snow machineing, skating, and yep even curling is embraced and loved in our state. This is the time of year to really love it too, because not only are the temperatures usually in a comfortable 20s or 30s, snow still remains white & powdery, and you get 9 to 10 hours of sunlight to play in it. When it came to any outdoor activity, this “Polar Vortex” put a hamper on the fun winter activities, and began to threat what would be the best time of the winter season.
This past weekend was the start of the Iron Dog race, a 2000 mile endurance race of snow machines (don’t call them snowmobiles in this state) from Big Lake (just north of Anchorage) to Nome to Fairbanks. They still set off as schedule on the planned route, but less than 48 hours into the race there were reports of open water along the Bering Sea coast and one rider having to get his machine dragged out of the ocean.
Yet Iron Dog was just the start of the great part of winter. This weekend starts Fur Rondy including the World Open Sled Dog Sprint Championships, the famous Running of the Reindeer, and a whole mess of other outdoor winter fun.
The biggest fear was an announcement two weeks ago that the Iditarod, the greatest sled dog race in the world, would have to be re-routed majorly. Instead of having the official start in Wasilla just outside of Anchorage where it has always left from, unless trail conditions improved and snow & cold returned to the mountainous sections of the trail, they would have to move the start to *gasp* Fairbanks. Let’s face it, nobody wants that! Fairbanks would end up to be as insufferable as anyone in the Lower-48.
Our hopes of a last fleeting grasp of winter was filtering away slowly. Over the weekend we started to see a dusting of powder. It was nice, but it had yet to be all that impressive – let alone enough to warrant shoveling the sidewalk.
Then Tuesday happened. Over a four hour period Tuesday night, we received over three inches of snow, much more in other parts of town. It was still coming Wednesday morning, but now has tapered to clear air. Anchorage, whom for so long had been covered in half melted dirty ice chunks and salty grit, now is blanketed in fluffy whiteness hanging from every tree and covering ever rear windshield.
So that means we return to our Winter Wonderland. Fur Rondy is set to be epic. Iditarod leaves from South Central Alaska as it should. And finally we can stop complaining about the lack of Winter for a few weeks.
At least until we can start complaining about breakup season.