My First Winter In Alaska

I moved to Alaska last year and thought I’d just be here for a few months but after spending my first winter in Alaska now I’m excited to call myself an Alaskan!  Most Alaskans say the best time in this beautiful state is over the summer when there are endless days and beautiful mountains to explore.   Being a bit more of an atypical adventurer I’ve found myself taking full advantage of these stunning landscapes and exploring those mountains even when they are covered in a foot of snow!

Moving across the world and back to the United States had its own bag of tricks to handle and I’ve drafted a few posts on the reverse culture shock but haven’t been comfortable finishing and sharing those just yet.  Instead, I thought I’d share all the awesome things that I’ve done this winter.

Did you miss my sneak peak in my latest post about Eklutna Lake? That was just the tip of the iceberg and I hope this one inspires you to come visit Alaska!

I recommend purchasing travel insurance before coming to Alaska!  Did you know that it covers more than just medical expenses?  Click “Get a Quote” above for an instant quote.  I bet you’ll be surprised how affordable it is.

Outdoor Fun during My First Winter in Alaska

View from my first cross country ski adventure to Hatcher Pass

Cross Country Skiing

I was lucky when my friend Julia dragged me to the ski swap at Kincaid Park and managed to snag pair of skis for $20!  Then I drove to Play it Again Sports and picked up a pair of used boots for $60.  I’ve been downhill skiing my whole life but this was somehow entirely different and I suddenly found myself learning to ski again!  After a few days of practice on groomed trails along with many, MANY falls I’ve finally found my ski legs again and have fallen in love with this new sport.

I keep getting told to upload more photos of myself here.  This one’s for you mom <3

Cross Country Skiing is such a wonderful way to enjoy the winter weather in Alaska.  You get an excellent workout, can explore some amazing parks and travel slightly faster than if you were just walking.  After learning the basics in Kincaid Park I ventured off to Hatcher Pass where I made this short video.  Looking back on the season its hard to believe how often I hit the trails but then I remember that I’m just working part-time right now.

Anchorage is home to many miles of trails that loop through every corner of the city and although our snowy streets are melting in March I was able to pop my skis on in my driveway and ski straight to Campbell Creek Park throughout January & February.  On other days I drove up to the Glen Alps Trailhead or Eklutna Lake and discovered just how hard it was to ski through fresh powder.  It makes me a bit sad to see all the snow melting on my deck as I write this post but that just means it’ll be that much more exciting to hit the trails again next winter!


Downhill Skiing

I thought that I was going to spend my first winter in Alaska without checking out Alyeska Resort and its awesome alpine ski trails.  I got a great deal on those cross-country skis and thought I better not spend the $$$ on downhill skis too but when a few of Ben’s friends organized a trip and I splurged on the rental + lift tickets.  Then I hopped back over to Play it Again Sports with a friend from yoga and became the proud owner of my own pair of downhill skis & boots too. 

Now I’ve just gotta get myself back to the slopes.  The good news is skiing lasts until mid-April up here and you can find affordable rooms in Girdwood.  Be sure to book them in advance because they usually sell out!

Anchorage Winter Activities

Aurora Hunting

The Aurora Borealis are half of the reason that I came to Alaska in the first place so naturally, I took every chance I could to see the northern lights during my first winter in Alaska.  I’ll be coming out with a dedicated post about aurora chasing soon and you might have seen some of my photos on Instagram but here are some of my favorites until that post is ready.

Aurora Borealis are incredibly hard to predict just like other weather phenomena but between some Facebook groups, word of mouth, an adventurous family and a little bit of luck I managed to snap these amazing aurora photos.  The unfortunate truth is these photos is that while standing there it just looked like a strange grey cloud but the long exposure draws a gorgeous green light from those gray clouds.

One day I’ll see a more impressive aurora display and watch the lights “dance.”  If you’re following here and on Instagram you’ll be sure to hear about it when I do.  

Alaskan Sunsets are Awesome

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably know that I have a soft spot for sunsets (among all the other amazing things on this planet).  Here in Alaska the skies light up in stunning displays of orange, red and yellow.

This first one comes from Denali National Park after snowshoeing up Mount Healy.  You can read a bit more about that below but if you’re visiting Anchorage you’re sure to get a great view from the Flattop region of the Glen Alps Trailhead.

I just had to share one more stunning Alaskan sunset from Beluga Point.  The best part is that it’s just a short drive from Anchorage and I’m told you can see beluga whales from here when the weather warms up too!

Stargazing

After years of living in Seoul with some of the worst pollution in the world its such a relief to live somewhere where I can see stars again.  Every night I can see a few dozen stars just by stepping onto the deck so on those special nights when its extra clear I went aurora hunting.  Even when I missed the aurora I still found myself obsessed with the night sky.   Just a few years ago I wrote “photograph the Milky Way” on my bucketlist and now I’ve been able to capture it multiple times in just a few short months.

Snowshoeing

If you couldn’t already guess, Alaskan winters have LOTS of snow and that means I got to go snowshoeing for the first time ever! Ben and I donned a pair of snowshoes on Christmas Day and headed up the Mount Healy Overlook Trail in Denali National Park.  I tried to go snowshoeing again a few times but I always ended up skiing instead, guess I’ll have to try it again next winter.

Sledding

Lots of snow means plenty of opportunities for sledding!  My students regularly go sledding during PE class so when I got the invite to head to Hatcher Pass for some snowy shenanigans I jumped at the opportunity.  There’s not much more to say about sledding other than its awesome and you need to try it so why not just watch this drone video I made from that trip instead!


Indoor Things to do in Anchorage in Winter

Acroyoga

Its good to find some fun indoor activities during the dark Alaskan Winter and I was ecstatic to find a group of acroyoga enthusiasts in town.  I’ve been going to Acryoga jams in Alaska most Sundays and Thursdays.  The group is more advanced than I was used to but that just means I’ve been able to learn a lot and do some pretty cool new moves.  Find out more about Acryoga in Alaska on their Facebook page.

Okay so maybe these photos are from doing outdoor acroyoga but we practice indoors twice a week too!

Dance the night away

Anchorage has a surprisingly large amount of dance classes with all different styles of dance from the country two-step to contra dance, salsa and so much more.  I’ve really only been learning the country two-step and a few line dances.  It’s a whole new style of dance from my typical night out in Seoul but still plenty of fun.

Teaching

If you’re still reading this far down the post then you might have met me on my travels or even be family so here is my long over-due life update.  I’ve been substitute teaching in Alaska and have become quite attached to a wonderful elementary school here in Anchorage.  I’ve mostly been teaching 2nd grade and am hoping for a fulltime job here starting next year, quite possibly in 3rd grade with some of these same kiddos.  When I’m not teaching or out adventuring to the places you read about above I’ve mostly just been a hermit at home.

Working from Home

I spent most of my indoor winter days sitting at my computer and focusing on updates for LiveTravelTeach.com.  I learned a ton about Search Engine Optimization and began to monetize this site (partially with the ads you’ve seen above).  I also have been fortunate enough to pick up some wonderful new gear sponsors who sent me some amazing items to review and share with you.  You can read about my Cabinzero bag here and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss my upcoming review of some amazing PolarPro accessories for my drone & DSLR.

Since moving to Alaska I’ve had big dreams of running smaller tours/photography workshops.  With any luck I’ll finalize the location and announce that by the end of the week!

What’s Next?

I’m coming home!  I thought about flying straight to NYC but then realized I wanted to see friends in DC, Boston and in between.  So instead of flying to New York I’ve got a flight to Richmond on April 19th and will make my way north to NJ/NY/PA by May and ultimately Boston by June for my 10 year college reunion.  Then I’ll jump back on a flight to enjoy my summer in Alaska.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this overdue life update.  If you happen to live somewhere on my east coast itinerary let me know so we can catch up!

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded www.LiveTravelTeach.com as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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