Midnight sun gives Alaskans long days to enjoy summer
The Alaskan summer is as divine as it looks in all the postcards. You can expect highs in the 60s and 70s; in the Interior the mercury can even sneak into the 80s for periods of time. But the best part of Alaska summers is the long days. During the weeks leading up to late June’s summer solstice, the sun is above the horizon anywhere from 18 to 21 hours depending on the part of the state. So it’s no surprise that Alaskans tend to become nocturnal during the summer months: midnight hikes and fishing at 10 p.m. are typical!
Anchorage climate similar to northern Midwest
Now let’s talk about the winters. The truth is, they aren’t as bad as myth would have it. Anchorage actually has a warmer climate than other cold-weather cities like Chicago or Minneapolis because it’s on the ocean. Southeast Alaska stays relatively warm for the same reason. The Interior, however, does get very cold. Without the regulating influence of the ocean, temperatures in interior locations like Fairbanks can drop to minus-30 for weeks at a time (though it’s a dry cold, which doesn’t feel as cold as it sounds). Just remember that temperature is microclimate in Alaska. No matter where you are, a one- or two-hour drive in any direction can result in a 30-degree temperature change.
Abundant snow creates winter wonderland
Likewise, there’s a large variation in snowfall across the state. An average of 79 inches of snow falls on Anchorage every year (the same amount as Burlington, Vermont). But Talkeetna, only two hours north, gets considerably more snow due to the higher elevation, and Alyeska — just an hour from Anchorage — receives an average of 178 inches annually!
Winter days are short, but great for outside activities
The most important thing to be prepared for, however, is not the cold or the snow, but rather the darkness. Mid-November to the end of January can be difficult weeks because of the lack of daylight, and many Alaskans take a one- or two-week vacation warm-weather vacation during this time. If you can do that, too, the lack of light probably won’t get to you. Of course, if you enjoy the outdoors, winter is a beautiful time of year — you’ll be outside with picture-perfect low-angle light and an Alpenglow that illuminates the sky. And by mid-February, the days start getting longer again and you’ll start to dream of another great Alaskan summer.