January, waking up at 9 am to a chilling -40 degrees Celsius and a stunning sunrise over the winter wonderland is an unforgettable feeling (shivers going up and down your spine when you are trying to figure if you should even consider going outside).
The hotel room is warm and cozy, however looking through the window it looks as though the Snow Queen from Hans Christians Andersen’s story came to life and created an everlasting winter.
Outside, the cold air hits your whole body; it feels as though you stuck in a freezer, naked. With each step, it gets more and more difficult to breathe. Your eyelashes and eyebrows turn white, and your face and toes get numb as if you’ve been at the dentist office. Once the shock of how cold it is, wears off and your body gets used to the cold air, you start to notice the beauty of Alaska. Crystal clear snow on the ground, and the way it makes a crunchy sound each time you move forward. The trees are all covered in a thick white blanket of snow; they are all very still as if you are looking at a painting, and the only sound you hear once in a while is that of the passing cars. Standing there, shivering in the snow, trying to absorb all the beauty around you, makes you realize that this everlasting winter wonderland is worth exploring… “you only live once!”
Five activities I did in Fairbanks, Alaska
Dog Sledding, if you visit any part of Alaska during the winter you must try dog sledding. Alaskan Huskies are incredible dogs, which can withstand the freezing cold temperatures, and harsh environments (however, being a dog lover, I just wanted to wrap them all up in a big wool blanket). Dress extremely warm, because riding in a sled with the bitter wind blowing in your face can get pretty darn cold (I used snowboarding mask to cover my face, and for the hand and feet I used small heating pads). This is the company I used for the unforgettable dog sledding experience: siriussleddogs.net
Chena Hot Springs Resort, when it’s -35 degrees Celsius, the thought of running outside in a swimsuit would only cross your mind in a nightmare, however at Chena Hot Springs Resort – http://www.chenahotsprings.com/chena-pool-house/ that’s exactly what you do. The resort is located at the center of a 40-square-mile geothermal area; the water temperatures can be as high as 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore the resort has constructed a Rock Lake where the water temperature is cooler for the guests to enjoy and relax. After a good dip in the lake, you will feel amazing, your skin will become soft, your pores will be clean (better than after a spa salon), and you will sleep like a baby (everything you need during a vacation). Also, if you are lucky, at night you can spot the northern lights while swimming in the lake.
Northern Lights are a fascinating natural light display in the sky. The lights are visible between mid-September to late April. In Alaska, Fairbanks and points further north are considered to be the best places to view Aurora. If you are around Fairbanks, the Chena Hot Springs Resort is a good location to view the spectacular light show (while swimming). However, if you prefer to get away from the city to enjoy the show, get a tour company such as http://www.northernalaska.com. This company offers many great tours. We did the Arctic Village Aurora tour. I didn’t like one thing about the tour and I liked another. The company sends a large van around 10 pm to pick up you and others at the hotels. After riding for about an hour or so, you reach the cabin where you will spend a good 4 or 5 hours (running back and forth between the cabin and the outside) looking up into the sky in hopes of seeing the northern lights. One thing I didn’t like is that you have to wait for everyone to be satisfied with their photos of the northern lights before heading back (and when I say, you have to wait, I mean you have to wait), most likely you will be back at your hotel room around 4 or 5am. One thing I liked was the tour guide/driver, very nice woman with many great stories. She definitely made my journey to the cabin a wonderful experience.
Snowmobiling, driving a snowmobile through the cold tundra, frozen lakes, and snow-covered mountains is a breathtaking experience. While on this trip, also dress warmly. The company I used for this experience was http://fairbankssnowmobiletours.com Riding along the snowy paths, going as fast as I can with the wind blowing in my face, and yelling at the top of my lungs, definitely made me feel free.
Driving to Denali National Park and Preserve, this is a very large park that takes up 6 million acres of Alaskan territory and is home to Mount McKinley (the highest mountain peak in North America). This glorious peak is visible from different parts of Fairbanks, however, if you have a car and want to see it up close, the two and a half hour driving trip is well worth it. During my winter trip, I got to see a moose picking through the snow, trying to find grass for dinner. I took many amazing photos on the way there. The only disappointment is that the park is closed during the winter, but I got close enough to see Mount McKinley.
Falling in love with Alaska was easy for me, it reminded me so much of home (Perm, Russia). Yes, it’s freezing and cold, but true beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Alaska has so much to offer, looking up into the night sky covered in a blanket of bright stars and yellow/green swirly patterns is an image that I will never forget. Sledding with Alaskan Huskies gives you an understanding of how precious animals are. Snowmobiling makes you feel wild. Diving into the hot springs and hiking through the snow to take a picture of a mount or a moose is something that I will remember for a long time. Winter in Alaska … One day I will visit again!