Doing time in Alaska

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- As we begin the second half of our long winter and daylight hours begin to grow, many people in Alaska start to get cabin fever. Being cooped up all winter with the lack of daylight is a tough situation for most families to face, especially for the first time.
I think back to when my family and I first arrived here in Alaska, late October 2008, and how difficult it was to find fun things to keep us all active and keep us from pulling each others' hair out. I did have the benefit of being an Arctic Survival Instructor, forcing me to spend many hours outdoors.

Now that I have a full year under my belt, including one long winter, I realize there are many entertaining options for families to do in the winter while stationed here.

The biggest challenge families face is dealing with the cold and cold injuries that might arise. The best defense against the cold is your clothing, organized with three easy layers.

First, have a single layer next to skin to keep you dry; some good examples are wool, polypropylene, and light weight silks. Second, have quality insulation layers to provide dead air space; for example, wool, fleece, down, synthetic down, and natural furs. Lastly, use a durable gore-tex or similar outer shell to provide protection from wind and moisture.

A few other considerations for arctic clothing are warm hats, neckies, and gloves or mittens. The best combination for hand wear is a warm glove liner and thick mittens. Proper footwear is paramount. Start with a heavy wool sock and highly insulated boots. Whatever layers you decide on it is important not to wear water absorbing cotton or have your layers too constrictive to allow proper blood flow to all extremities.

Once you are prepared for the harsh arctic climate, you can start to have a little fun exploring the great Alaskan outdoors. Here a few fun options for you and your family. For further information you can refer to the natural resources or outdoor recreation offices.

Ice Fishing at nearby lakes, cross country skiing in Creamers Field, sledding, skiing, visiting the Chena Hot Springs for a swim and snow machine rides, trapping, dog sled rides, viewing the ice sculpture competitions in March, nature hikes, Fairbanks Carlson Center sporting events, volunteering, trip to Anchorage for shopping, touring and wildlife viewing, visiting Santa House's reindeer, Fairbanks Alaska Trappers Assoc. Fur Auction, Winter Solstice carnival, and Aerial tours are a few examples.

Many people stationed here often overlook great opportunities provided by living in the truly last frontier. The fact that individuals from the lower 48 pay thousands of dollars to fly up here to experience Alaska is something that many of us take for granted.
I challenge those living in Alaska to experience all the great things that are waiting right in front of your eyes. For many, this is your once in a lifetime opportunity.