Alaska Winter Survival Guide

Hello, dear readers. Winter is upon us up here in the frosty north! We had our first day at 20 below zero last weekend, and to me that means it’s official: winter is here. I thought it would be fun to do a winter survival guide. Caveat: I am no winter expert! I have only been through 1 winter up here so far, and so this is coming from a new person.

I am so grateful to have grown up in Chicago winters – they were like training runs for the marathon Alaskan winter ahead.


Here are some tools that really helped me last winter/things that every Alaskan has to get through the winter:

  1. Make like REI’s marketing and opt outside. My coworkers last year told me this time and time again. For the first half of winter I was pretty content to stay inside and be all cozy and warm, but after a while I started to go crazy. So Derek and I went snowshoeing. We (I) tried to cross country ski, and spent most of that time facedown on the frozen Chena River questioning my life choices. (I am reevaluating my relationship with skiing, will update later, with hope that things will improve).
  2. Exercise. This means spending a lot of quality time with the treadmill. Last winter I went to a lot of yoga classes, too. Exercise is so crucial. It automatically improves your mood and keeps you healthy, and also keeps you from being too sedentary in the winter, which is an easy temptation. It is extra work in the winter to get to the gym or workout class, but always worth it.
  3. A winterized car! This was new to me, but when we moved up I had to have block heaters installed onto my car, and whenever it’s -5 or -10 or below I plug in my car at work. There’s a little plug sticking out of my car and I have a weatherproof extension cord I use to plug it in to outlets. I use I also have blizzak snow tires which are completely necessary. Salt doesn’t work on the roads when it’s -20 or colder, so the snowplows drop gravel. Roads in Alaska in the snow are TERRIBLE in general, so snow tires are basically a necessity.
  4. Vitamin D supplements and a happy lamp. Because we have such little sunlight in winter (think less than 3 hours, which I am inside at work during), both of these are necessary to help avoid seasonal depression and also keep our bodies healthy and happy. I usually sit in front of my happy lamp in the morning when I’m reading, and I can tell when I don’t take my Vitamin D supplements. (If you don’t know what a happy lamp is, it’s a lamp that imitates sunlight and helps your body produce vitamin D. I love mine so much and plan on using it even after we leave AK. Here’s a link to the one I have: Happy Lamp).Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
  5. Wool socks and super warm boots. Xtra tuffs are the boot of choice in Alaska, but I have the Sorel Joan of Arctic boots and they are incredible. It’s pretty much necessary to have a serious snow boot.
  6. Books! I am a voracious reader. It’s challenging sometimes during the school year to read consistently, but when I’m stuck inside I really enjoy escaping into a good book. This year I did the Goodreads challenge and just today met my challenge of 35 books for this year.
  7. Community. I have been consistently blown away by the beautiful, wonderful people God has placed in my life up here in Alaska. I have made the most amazing friends and I absolutely love my community up here. When I think about PCSing (military speak for moving) I get really sad thinking about having to leave the community. It helps to go through difficult things with others and to have people to spend time with!

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Winter is tough. The minimal sunlight and extreme cold make it really challenging to not want to stay inside all day. However, I do love that the winter last year taught me that I can do hard things. With God’s grace and a beautiful community of people experiencing the same thing, we learn that we can face difficulties and experience growth through them.

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