Winter Darkness in Alaska: 7 Reasons to Love It!

One of the most common questions I’m asked is,  “How do you deal with darkness in Alaska during the winter?”

I have to start by saying, it doesn’t really bother me.  I have much less tolerance for our 20+ hours of daylight in the summer because I can’t sleep when it’s light!   I’m sure if I lived further north, and had a couple of months where I never saw the sun, I’d be singing a different tune.  But, in south central Alaska, it’s not so bad.

Right now, at winter solstice, the sun comes up-ish around 10:15 or so, and sets at 3:30.  (I say up-ish because really it just peeks over the mountains and crawls along the southern horizon for a bit.)  So, with twilight and dusk, there’s maybe about 6 1/2 hours of some light where we are at.

Darkness in Alaska

Believe it or not, there are some awesome benefits to nocturnal longevity.  Other than Vitamin D deficiency, -degree temps, and skin paleness that rivals white chocolate, there’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do when you don’t have to worry about sunlight getting in the way.

So here’s my list of 7 Awesome Reasons to love winter darkness in Alaska!

1. Extended Aurora Viewing

This tops the list!  I’ve said it before, the only way to describe the Northern Lights is that they are life changing.  As patterns and colors of light dance in fluid shapes and streaks across the sky, I can’t help being awe-struck.

Not much else could prompt standing out in -10 degree weather at 4 a.m. in slippers and pajamas for a surprise show when you have to let the dogs out.  Aurora chasing isn’t just a hobby, it’s an obsession!  One I’ll never tire of.  And the more hours of dark night sky, all the better to catch it.

Aurora, darkness in Alaska

2. Night Photography

There is an art to taking photos at night.  In my case, it’s more of a finger painting as most pictures don’t turn out. But, it doesn’t stop me from taking a shot in the dark!

I finally took my first night photography class last weekend on capturing the Aurora.  “Oh, that’s how you do it.”  I learned more in 3 hours than I had messing around with online tips for the past 2 years!  So…anxious to practice these new skills, many hours of darkness will help.

3. Christmas Lights

How many places are there to live where you can turn Christmas lights on at 3:30 p.m. and leave them on until 10 in the morning?  Yes, the power bill doubles, but so worth it!  It’s fun, festive and fabulous!  It’s also worth mentioning, fireworks are bigger in Alaska over New Year’s than the 4th of July.  It’s nice to actually see them!

Alyeska at Night

4. Night Skiing

Love night skiing, always have.  Now it starts at 3:30 p.m. instead of 6-7.  The slopes at Alyeska are the bomb. Hilltop in Anchorage isn’t bad to play on either.

Along with night skiing is night sledding (yes with lights).  Government Peak by Hatcher Pass is perfect!  Throw in a little hot chocolate and who doesn’t delight in a winter wonderland of darkness in Alaska!

5. Bears Hibernating

Ok, this actually may be my favorite reason.  Probably enough said.  But…beware the dreaded winter bear.  (Not this guy, he’s chill’n at the AWCC.  Although, I’m pretty sure not all bears in Alaska do hibernate dang it!)

Bear hibernating

6. Late Sunrises and Early Sunsets

Don’t need to get up early for these.  Drop Saige off for School in the morning…beautiful sunrise.  Pick her up after school…beautiful sunset.  There have been some recent stunners!  Although I must say I’m not a huge fan of go to work, it’s dark; come out of work, it’s dark.

7. Finally I can get some sleep

Blessed sleep, in the darkness in Alaska, in my bed.  At 8:30-9:00 p.m., that’s where you will find me!

Why so early?  Because at 4 a.m. one of the dogs will start buffing to go out.  And you never know when you may catch that aurora, then make a run for the camera (possibly a coat and gloves).  Bonus? I’m not too worried about bears right now in my mad nighttime dashing which helps.  Moose on the other hand, that’s a different story.

And there you have my Top 7 reasons to love that Long Winter’s Night.  Sweet Dreams!


    1. Thank you Agness! It’s an amazing place to visit and certainly to live. I’d put it on the bucket list!

    1. Definitely do it! It’s much less crowded in the winter and the chance to the Aurora is worth it:)

  1. Your post is so awesome! Do you find that you get depressed during the winters there? It doesn’t seem like it with all the stuff you’ve mentioned and the Aurora alone seems like it’s worth it!
    Thanks for sharing!
    🙂 🙂 🙂

    -inquiring Coastie wife

    1. I actually really don’t. I love the winter in general and sleep so much better than when it is so light during the summer. It bugs some people, but I do just fine:). And the chance of seeing the Aurora?…Totally worth it!

      1. Honestly, it’s so hard to predict where and when the Aurora will be visible or if the weather will be cooperative with cloud cover. That being said, if there is the opportunity to view it near Anchorage, it is best to get away from the lights of the city.

        One of my best viewing experiences was around Christmas with crystal clear weather and major Aurora activity where I live in Palmer, just north of Anchorage by about 45 minutes.

        More reliable viewing takes place up around Fairbanks. But even there, we are at the mercy of Nature:). Hope that helps!

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