Winter scenes in Alaska


Alaska Scenes

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Anchorage and mountains

Spring in Alaska

Spring in Alaska is known as "breakup," because that's a pretty accurate description of what happens. One day there's lots of snow on the ground -- gray because it's been there so long -- and it's bitterly cold. The next day, there's still lots of snow but it's melting fast and there are puddles everywhere. It's time for parents to get out their children's "breakup boots" before sending them off to school.

spring eveningIce is melting in the big rivers -- the Yukon, the Kuskokwim, the Tanana -- and the town of Nenana has been making money off the fact since 1917. For many years, it has held the Nenana Ice Classic, which awards a cash prize to the person (or, sometimes, group) who most closely guesses the time when the ice will go out on the Tanana River. That moment comes when a tripod on the river ice moves enough so that a line attached to it stops a clock on shore. That usually happens in late April or early May.

Spring, like fall, is one of Alaska's shorter seasons. Its length depends on what part of the state you're in; in Anchorage, it often begins in late April when the first carefully nurtured crocuses appear and ends in early June when the lilacs bloom.

The photos above show Anchorage in the spring from two perspectives. Both are views of downtown Anchorage. The top photo shows it as seen from Earthquake Park near International Airport in early spring when ice has melted in Cook Inlet but snow remains on the land.The mountains behind the city are the Chugach Mountains. A suburb, the Hillside, extends up the slopes of some of the nearer mountains. That's where the second photo, was taken from -- at 10:30 p.m., just before sunset, in mid-May.


Breakup Events

Folks are bidding winter goodbye in various ways in late April and early May.

Extreme Skiing Championships are being held near Valdez, which gets a lot of snow during the winter.

At the ski resort of Girdwood near Anchorage, skiiers dressed outrageously compete in a season-ending event that requires them try to ski across a large puddle at the foot of a slope.

Migrating birds attract folks to Homer for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival and migrating whales lure them to the Whale Festival in Kodiak in May.

May is still early spring in much of Alaska. Snow may still appear in forecasts on the North Slope and at higher elevations elsewhere, including in Denali National Park. In Anchorage, the lilacs don't blossom until early June.