Winter in Anchorage is six months long--from about the middle of October until the middle of April, give or take a month--and it can be rather tedious, even with a season of great skiing like we've had.
The days are getting longer however and something about having the sun coming up over the mountains as I'm driving my children to school at 7:45am makes me feel like I can survive anything. Bring it on, I've almost made it through another winter.
Which brings me to Fur Rendezvous. This local festival started, the story goes, from hunters and trappers meeting to trade furs and stock up on supplies after the cruelest part of winter had passed. Now it's an opportunity for Anchorage-ites to find something to celebrate in that home stretch towards spring--an excuse to get outside to enjoy more of that rare winter sunlight that's finally coming our way.
For one thing, Fur Rendezvous hosts the World Championship Sled Dog Races. On Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage, after plowing snow off the streets for four months the city hauls in snow back in to cover the pavement and provide a race track for the sled dog teams as they wind their way through the urban district. Then they plow it all up again. Go figure.
But that's not enough--at Fur Rondy there are snowshoe softball games, parades, arts and craft exhibits, Alaska Native cultural experiences, snow sculptures, a dog weight-pulling contest, ice skating exhibitions and of course the outdoor carnival. Rather like a state fair only in frigid temperatures that normal people wouldn't think of facing, even for the sake of the Tilt-a-Whirl.
And cold it has been--the coldest temperatures all winter I think. Now in Texas or California that might mean 50 degrees or (heaven forbid) a light dusting of snow in the morning. Here it's means hovering around zero for a week during bright, clear, thin sunny days, then plunging down in negative double-digits at night as what little heat you picked up during the day scatters into the atmosphere without a cloud cover to keep it in.
I'm freezing my giblets I tell you. But we hardy Alaskans, does that stop us? Never. When on Friday I announced to the family we'd be attending the Friday night fireworks (it was 8 below) it merely meant we would be dressing in more layers than astronauts facing a moon walk.
Saturday morning was a little easier with the sun out but still the temperatures were below zero. The kids still wanted to try the carnival rides which meant that with the wind chill factor of flying through the air on The Gravitron they'd be facing temperatures of Antarctic proportions. Here's a clip of Andrew with the kids riding one of the rides. I was worried one of them would inadvertently rest their face on the metal bar and be permanently frozen in place until the spring thaw.
After an hour we had to call it a day and limp back to the car for hot chocolate and a chance to thaw our toes but it was worth it. What else are you going to do on a Saturday in February in Alaska?
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