If you’ve heard anything about Alaska, you’ve probably heard about how long and cold and dark and dreary and miserable the winters are. Alaskans diligently maintain that public image. Something like jury duty, it’s a community-wide obligation to prop up the illusion that Alaska is not a favorable place for people to live. We tolerate our summer visitors, but when distant relatives, tourists, and seasonal workers flee with winter nipping at their heels, we all kick back with a sigh of relief because Alaskans have a top-level secret we’ve been working to hide.
It’s the snow.
A winter without snow is morose at best and is more often a ghastly season to endure. Cold weather longs for its better half—for snow. However, a winter well layered with blankets of snow is more lovely than most people will ever realize.
Snow makes wintertime warmer and brighter.
That chilly frozen mess dumped on us by masses of bleak clouds? Yes! Snow is truly wonderful!
Some of you don’t believe me. Consider this. On the claim of warmth snow is like firewood—it warms you twice. First, snow warms when it falls, covering your roof and the earth with Mother Nature’s proprietary blend of non-toxic, sustainable insulation. There are savings on your heat bill, a literal saving of the humble leach field (which we never fully appreciate until it freezes up during a low-snow year), and a gracious reprieve for that bed of tender plants you really hoped might survive until spring. Snow warms again when you have to shovel heaping mounds of it just to get to work or the bus stop. Finally, a bonus point in snow’s favor, it warms a third time when you romp around in it.
And bright, there is nothing like the 24-hour brightness of a fresh snowfall, whether it’s glittering under starlight, glowing under a full moon, shimmering pink as the sun rises, or giving a head-splitting case of snow blindness under a late winter noon-day sun. Yes, you can go blind from the brightness of snow. It’s unpleasant, but temporary. The winter sky can be gloomy with too many clouds and a negligible amount of sun, but snow on the ground makes everything fresh, clean, and beautiful.
So here I’ve gone and shoveled out the big secret, which is okay, because non-Alaskans won’t believe me. They’ll think I’m either crazy or pulling their leg, which is fair because those are both legitimate possibilities when dealing with an Alaskan. However, those people who can step outside, smell the next snowfall on the wind, and actually feel their heart ache momentarily with gladness, well, those people are already part-Alaskan. Perhaps a wintertime visit is all it will take to prove that this snowy frontier is where they were meant to live and thrive. Meanwhile, snow will remain an Alaskan secret and a primary reason why most Alaskans aren’t tempted (too much) to live anywhere else.