Cal's life,  United States of America

Alaska 1.0: A Winter in Girdwood

Hey friend,

As I mentioned in my previous post, I arrived in Alaska when the nights are long, and the roads are white. January 3rd, 2023. Girdwood, situated at the northernmost point of the Earth’s rainforest, is about a 45-minute drive south of Anchorage. It is home to about 2,200 people and hosts the only ski resort in the state.

This is where I was headed, on the road from the airport, along the Turnagain Arm. The sky was grey above the mountains surrounding us. Where the water usually lies, dusty black blocks of ice were moving with the tide. And when I finally got to Girdwood, the town was covered in meters of snow, the hostel’s door handle was frozen.

It is funny how easy it becomes to wake up and fall asleep early when the night extends from 3:30 pm to 10:30 am. Every day for about four months, I got to fall asleep under white snowflakes whirling under a streetlight.  I would walk to work at 7 am through a quiet and empty parking lot, admiring the steps I could print on the fresh snow and the glittery appearance of the white trees. And between the morning walks and the sleepy snowflakes, I would snowboard down Alyeska, from which you could see the valley stretching out to the sea.

I’ll always remember the day the sun peaked over the mountains for the first time in months. The sun traveled so low for so long, hidden behind mountains, even sunny days did not give us much comfort. But every time I looked up, and snowflakes danced, and the sound of my footsteps on the snow rose to my ears, I felt at exactly the right place.

After some time, the snow stopped showing up every night, and the clouds would part away to leave us with Northern lights. While the two looked similar at first, the screams and photos sent by all the J1s (students on visas in the US) told me otherwise. As the weeks went on and the occurrences increased, they showed brighter and brighter. Our gatherings in Moose Meadows, behind employee housing, became more frequent. The lights came out green, then pink, and would dance above our heads and behind the mountains. We once drove to Fairbanks and watched their twirls from the back of the truck.

Once the rain started interrupting the snow, the trees down the mountain and throughout the valley would lose their robes in between the snows. The roads turned to slush and then to ice. Spots of concrete appeared; birds started chirping. It was exciting – for I was discovering everything differently; and it was nostalgic – for I would have to say goodbye to the white winter I enjoyed so much.

It took another few weeks before the first patches of earth appeared on the mountains, and the ice made snowboarding less fun. During that time, we admired the Turnagain Arm regaining its silver waters from the long curvy road. And the view from the top was breathtaking.

On my last week there, the roads had been fully cleaned, and the holes left by the winter were being filled. The trees were gradually greener down the mountain and the creeks were strengthening. Moose Meadows was still white, though slush was creeping in, and earth peaked up in spots. Virgin Creek, where I had been cold plunging all winter, was birthing moss and the ice had melted from its falls.

I heard rumors of bear sightings. And while my concussion and I were sleeping it off, they were slowly waking up.

May would bring me back to that road that brought me from the airport my first day in Alaska, and lead me further down south, to Cooper Landing.

Until next time. Love,


PS: I would like to give a shout-out to all the amazing people I have met in Girdwood, including: 

Braden, for the early cold plunges, the naps on your floor, the Anchorage runs, and just for being an amazing friend.

Oleg, for the laughs, over and over again, for the comfort you brought me, for the walks and the beers, for the generosity and the love.

Isi, for the cheekiness, for the sunshine you brought to some unhappy times, and all the chair rides. Get ready, I’m coming to Chile!

Malachi and Gil, for the game nights, the simpleness of things, and for being there, always. For the stolen burritos and the van.

Keegan, for always taking my side and opening your arms, for the endless night chats and jamming sessions.

Julia, for your smiles, your cooking, and your positive outlook on everything around us.

Bela, for your openness and sensitivity, for our artsy afternoons.

Martin and Pablo, for being silly and kind and hosting all the dinner parties.

Ignacio, Dustin, and Declan, for all the snowboarding sessions and the bienveillance.

Bessy, Lydia, Michelle, Ginger, Jane, for making work fun, for helping me want to get up in the morning.

Catherine, for your hospitality and for finding my next adventure.

McKinzie, Evelyn, and Jay, for being rays of sunshine every time I saw you.

Jeff, for making bus rides exciting in between my three jobs.

Bree, for all the adventures, for the love you share, and for all the fun we have.

as well as Lucas, Tristan, Jeremy, Jake, the Double Musky team, Brennan, Jarod, Sveta, Reese, Michelle, Chris, the Valet team, the Security team, Robert, …

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