Alaska Winter Photos

Winter is the longest season in Alaska.

alaska winter photosAll photographs on this site are available for purchase as art decor pictures or stock photography. Browse the links on this page or enter your own keyword in the search box. In the two most populated areas of the state, snow generally is present from late October through early April. Fairbanks, Alaska’s second largest town, will reach temperatures of -50 nearly every winter. Snowfall throughout the state varies significantly and some mountainous regions receive 1000 inches per year.

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis over Moose Creek cabin in the White Mountains National Recreation Area, Interior, Alaska. (Patrick J Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Aurora Borealis over Moose Creek cabin in the White Mountains National Recreation Area, Interior, Alaska. (Patrick J Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

The aurora borealis, although not strictly a winter phenomenon, is often associated with winter because Alaska’s nightless summer skies prevent one from seeing both the stars and the aurora. Many travel to Fairbanks to view the northern lights, due to its latitude, which situates it in a prime spot for viewing the mysterious and heavenly aurora. Green glows and arcs are by far the most common color of the auroral displays, but violets, blues and sometimes deep reds are observed when the solar wind activity is particularly high. The UAF Geophysical Institute offers and aurora forecast website which forecasts potential auroral activity.

Dog sledding

DIGITALLY MODIFIED: Musher J. P. Norris, 2007 Open North American Championship sled dog race (the world's premiere sled dog sprint race) is held annually in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Patrick J Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Musher J. P. Norris, 2007 Open North American Championship sled dog race (the world’s premiere sled dog sprint race) is held annually in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Patrick J Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Dog sledding has an important history in Alaska, and is celebrated throughout the winter. In the past, the native Alaskans in rural villages traveled by dog sled and still do to this day, although it is not uncommon to see snowmobiles, cars and trucks. Each year, nearly 100 mushers from all over the world compete in the Iditarod, a dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome. This 1100 mile race is a tribute to a life saving run on the same trail in 1925. Countless Nome children were sick with the disease diphtheria, and the only way to get the serum to Nome was via dogsled.

Animals in winter

Arctic fox in white winter coat rests in a snowdrift along a lake in Alaska's arctic north slope. (Patrick J. Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Arctic fox in white winter coat rests in a snowdrift along a lake in Alaska’s arctic north slope. (Patrick J. Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Many animals of the arctic prepare themselves for the harsh winter in different ways. For some, the summer long season of consuming food has provided them the necessary nourishment for a long winter hibernation. For others however, they adapt to winter in different ways. One common change observed among Ptarmigan, Snowshoe hares, Arctic foxes and Short-tailed weasels is a change in color to the their coat. This is referred to as cryptic, or camouflage. It helps a prey species conceal itself among the white snow and thereby find some safety from the many predators seeking to also survive a harsh winter.

Where does snow come from?

Spruce trees under snow load after a full winter, severe, blowing snow and moisture pack heavy loads of snow in this sparse taiga environment. Interior, Alaska. (Patrick J. Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Spruce trees under snow load after a full winter, severe, blowing snow and moisture pack heavy loads of snow in this sparse taiga environment. Interior, Alaska. (Patrick J. Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Snow crystals are born in the clouds when water vapor freezes on a particle of dust, a floating bit of bacteria, or another solid material. When cloud temperatures are at the freezing point or below, and there is an ample supply of moisture in the air, ice crystals form around a core particle. As water vapor condenses and freezes, the complex pattern of a snowflake is born, one molecule at a time. A snowflake’s hexagonal shape is born at the atomic level. It is here that water molecules bond together into stable crystal structures.

Types of Snow

Snow plow clears snow from the James Dalton Highway (Haul Road), that connects Fairbanks with the Prudhoe Bay Oil fields. (Patrick J. Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Snow plow clears snow from the James Dalton Highway (Haul Road), that connects Fairbanks with the Prudhoe Bay Oil fields. (Patrick J. Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com)

Snow can be further classified into six basic patterns called: Needles, columns, plates, columns capped with plates, dendrites, and stars. Dendrites are stars with attitude. Essentially, they are three dimensional star crystals with branches growing on more than a single plane. Branches (or arms) connect randomly to a central structure. These complex critters form under extremely cold conditions (-20 to -25 degrees C) when high levels of atmospheric moisture are pre sent. Each type is the result of different atmospheric and temperature conditions within the cloud.

Terms for snow in Inupiat

The First nation peoples of the Arctic live in a land where the nuances of snow hold a great significance in daily life. For this reason, their language has many names for the different types of snow. The following words are taken from the Eskimo Inupiat Dictionary.

Eskimo

English

apunsnow
apingautfirst snowfall
aputspread-out snow
kanikfrost
anigruakfrost on a living surface
ayaksnow on clothes
kanniksnowflake
nutagakpowder snow
aniupacked snow
aniuvaksnowbank
natigviksnowdrift
kimaugruksnowdrift that blocks something
perksertokdrifting snow
akelroraknewly drifting snow
mavsasnowdrift overhead and about to fall
kaiyuglakrippled surface of snow
pukaksugar snow
pokaktoksalt-like snow
miuliksleet
massaksnow mixed with water
auksalakmelting snow
aniuksnow for melting into water
akillukkaksoft snow
milikvery soft snow
mitailaksoft snow covering an opening in an ice floe
sillikhard, crusty snow
kiksrukakglazed snow in a thaw
mauyasnow that can be broken through
katiksuniklight snow
katiksugniklight snow deep enough for walking
apuuaksnow patch
sisuukavalanche