The daylight hours in December are short indeed. Today’s sunrise was at 10:09am and sunset came at 3:44pm. Many people ask how we can tolerate the long darkness of winter in Alaska. To these people we respond that though our days are short, these hours are often filled with the most spectacular lighting. Our afternoon skies are filled with intense oranges, pinks and reds. When the sun hits on the snow-covered mountaintops the angle of the sun produces lighting known as alpenglow. This beautiful phenomenon produces illuminated pink mountains. The snow on the ground and in the trees also helps to brighten our world with a white blanket. Unlike snow in the big cities that turns gray with dirt after 24 hours, snow in generally Girdwood stays white and clean.
Many people think temperatures in Alaska in the winter are extremely cold. However, in our area in South Central Alaska, our temperatures are mostly in the teens and twenties. Occasionally the winds send us warm blasts of air from the south known as the Pineapple Express. The air temperature rises up in the 40s and unfortunately this produces rain rather than snow. We have seen more of this weather pattern in the recent years, leaving our snow up in the mountains, but not on the ground.
We have found that we can almost always find snow a half hour drive away, at Turnagain Pass. Back country skiing and snow machining are primo in this area. Even on our shortest days, there is still time for a lap up the mountain followed by a ski down a (hopefully powder filled) run. By mid-afternoon the skies are getting darker, but some of the most glorious lighting, like the picture on this page, can be our reward at the end of the day.