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Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

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Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

I recently received my commission in the Air Force and my first duty station is at Elmendorff, AK.

While I would feel a lot more comfortable moving to Alaska in the summer...life does not work always the way you want and my report date is mid-January.

Coming from Virginia, needless to say I am scared to death about moving to Alaska in the smack dab middle of winter. So I am looking for any advice on how to make a safe and comfortable move in winter? How much of a shock weather-wise am I in for? What clothing should I be wearing for an arrival in January?

Also, how should I go about preparing my car (2006 Nissan Xterra) for a wintery arrival?

Any words of advice, tips, or just a reassuring "you will survive" would be much appreciated.


Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

Welcome to the Alaska forum . . . and your newest upcoming adventure!! I am presuming as well that you will be driving up . . . you can search here on the forum for a great thread about someone last winter who had to move up in January or something like that. If you are driving, you will need a copy of the Milepost. Not sure if you can find things in VA like a battery warmer, oil pan warmer, etc - all those things will need to be installed in your vehicle before you head into the Far North. Always have emergency food supplies/sleeping bag in your car . . . we can give you more details when that time is nearer.

If you have always lived in the SE, you are going to need some warm winter gear - and the good thing is that many places have all that on sale until the Fall/Winter catalogs come out - I would shop online at places like LLBean, REI, Land's End, Sierra Trading post, etc - for warm gear like a down jacket, fleece jackets, hats/mittens, boots and long underwear. That would be a good start!

As well, since Anchorage is near the ocean, it isn't as cold as many other places in Alaska or even the mid-west, so that shouldn't be too hard to adapt to. Best wishes! :)

Anchorage, Alaska
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2. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

First of all, WAY TO GO on getting your commission! If you could handle that, moving to Anchorage will be a snap! Second, I assume you will be getting a relocation package, so no need to worry about that stuff. The movers up her are quite experienced in what it takes to move in the winter.

As for you car, are you having it shipped or are you driving? The latter would be unadvisable during winter. When I moved up here a while back, first thing I did was take my vehicle (01 Pathfinder) to the Nissan dealer and have a complete service done - change all of the fluids. Also, you might want to look into having them install a block heater. Finally, most folks up here invest in a set of studded snow tires and steel wheels. It definitely makes a big difference!

Aberdeen, United...
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3. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

Congratulations on both your commission and the Anchorage posting. Alsaka is a great place to live and there are military discounts all over the place for you to take advantage of.

It was a December when I arrived, but I found it fun. Lots of snow, straight into the whole Alaska thing and if you arrive in January, the winter will seem short, because you've already missed a couple of months of it.

I second the advice about winterizing your car: winter fluids, snow tires, block heater, gloves you can drive in until the heater gets going...

Shoe snow tires (treads that you put over your shoe) are very useful too.

I found that the local shops had a better range of serious winter coats and trousers than where I was coming from. You might already have a good jacket, but if not, I would suggest you bundle up in what you do have and then hit the shops here for the proper gear. Hopefully you can time your arrival to join in the January sales. I did after I arrived and the winter boots and coats weren't like anything I'd seen in the UK (where I was moving from). I don't know what winters are like in Virginia, maybe you get the real thing down there already?

I like layers and particularly merino wool is cosy and not scratchy IMO. These you could order online so you can have them with you when you come. Icebreaker and Smart-wool are my recommendations.

I don't know what your housing situation will be like, if you will already have a house lined up or temporary accommodation, or how long before you things arrive. If these things are being arranged for you, then they should be able to arrange to have the heating serviced and operational and electricity hooked up, and hopefully they will be kind enough to have the drive snowploughed for you.

If you are living in your own place and it has a long drive, you might want to budget to buy a snow thrower machine or keep an eye on Craigs List for a second hand one.

Winters in Alaska are fun, if you are dressed warm and get out in the snow, rather than hibernate all winter. Don't worry, it's really not more difficult than moving in Summer.

Usa, Japan
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4. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

Welcome! EAFB is my first base too. I am loving it. JOin the CGO group when you get here, you will hear about us during the introduction class you take when you arrive. I moved here from Georgia and it wasn't half as cold as I allowed my imagination to believe. Layers is the key. I had to buy a winter jacket, since I didn't own one and winter boots. The key items that I have needed to add to my wardrobe is nylon long john, non cotton pants and closed toe shoes. Coming from the south, all of my clothes were cotton. If you want to be outside you need clothes that wick sweat and reflect moisture. Go to REI to learn all about this. YOu have to worry about hypothermia if you want to spend long periods of time outside, even in the summer. Start looking at clothes racks now, there are no Kohls, Ross or Marshall type stores here. DEep discounts up here are harder to find for some things. And for a sounthern girl I was suprised at how expensive good hiking pants can be. Regardless though, I wear my combat boots and gortex all year round and that is really all you need.

Anchorage, Alaska
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for Anchorage, Zermatt
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5. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

First, not too many people in the Anchorage bowl area (that includes Elmendorf)worry about having several different heaters on their cars anymore. When we were stationed at Elmendorf in the early 70's cars still needed lots of help in cold weather but my engineer son tells me that isn't the case much anymore. Certainly, my V6 Camry has never been plugged in though she overnights in a garage most nights. However, I've parked her outside for three or four days without starting her in January and never had a problem. You need to let the car run a bit (three minutes or so is usually enough) before pulling off to be sure that your oil and transmission fluids are circulating as they can be pretty slow in the really cold weather. You do need to change your oil as soon as you get into the colder weather - if you're driving do it in Minnesota or do it as soon as the car gets here on the barge if you're shipping - because you need to run a lighter oil in the engine. Of course, be sure the car has antifreeze good down to about 50 below.

No, it doesn't get that cold here in Anchorage but it can on the highway up here particularly overnight.

I keep my antifreeze good to that so I don't have to think about it if I head up to Fairbanks or somewhere else colder than Anchorage.

Clothes - I suggest you get silk thermal underwear from Lands End for everyday and under your work clothes - it will keep you warm enough to go back and forth to your car from an office or quarters or out shopping, etc. Additionally, get a set of their thermal underwear for skiing - it's super lightweight but very warm and wicking like the silk.

Layers are absolutely the answer for clothing. You won't feel the cold as much as you think because it is a very dry cold most of the winter but the wind can be cutting. Look for parkas/ski jackets that are good for temps down to 20 or 25 below, get good ski gloves and be sure to have a hat because that will keep you warmer than anything else! I also like a good down vest (again Lands End for all of this - good prices and good quality gear) because I find a T-neck with a pullover sweater and a down vest with gloves and a hat are often enough even on very cold days for just getting in and out of the grocery store etc. and wearing or carrying a heavy coat just isn't fun in a warm store! Boots - I like the weatherfield line from Lands End for everyday - don't buy leather soled boots because we have a lot of ice and leather is deadly on ice! You may be sure that folks up here in winter dress very practically and aren't too worried about fashion when they are outdoors! In town dress is very casual for nearly everything - jeans, etc. Get just the basics until you get up here because you can get lots of stuff here once you get a feel for what you will need. We have Sears with Lands End store inside, Lands End catalog on-line gets here in a week with regular shipping, we have and REI, etc. The exchange also has lots of stuff. We have a Nordstroms but I wouldn't say that is where to go to get good cold weather stuff. Lots of folks like North Face gear, too.

Anchorage is a small city and the shopping is pretty good. What I can't find locally, I can get online and shipped up here fairly quickly.

Your biggest challenge is likely to be learning to drive on snow and ice. Many folks get a set of studded tires and put them on a second set of wheels (it pays back quickly because paying to have the studs mounted every year gets expensive and very time consuming)and I always did this until this year when my son convinced me that the new all weather tires are fine. I will say they aren't quite as good as studs but when I wasn't looking for somewhere to get my tires changed when the date for mandatory removal of studs was approaching, I was convinced that I am fine with all weathers! You can't run studs driving up here so you'll have to wait until you get here to get them. Meanwhile, get a set of all weather tires designed to run on snow and ice to use for the drive up.

There are huge areas on the highway driving up where you cannot use your cell phone. If you can't get someone to drive with you, you might want to consider taking the car to Seattle, shipping it on the barge and then flying up. With the cost of gas it will be an expensive proposition and gas is much higher on the Alaska Highway in Canada.

Hope this gives you some ideas. It really isn't as cold as the tales will have you believing - lordy, some of the high school kids wear shorts in January!

Hope this helps.

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6. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

I plan on shipping my car since a couple thousand miles of driving alone in winter for my first time driving in snow does not particularly thrill me.

I appreciate all of your helpful advice. It has taken the intial edge off of moving. I will definetely be posting again when the time is gets nearer.

Thank you so much again.

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7. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

Another great resource for moving to Anchorage is the forum:


Hope you love our town! We sure do.

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8. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

I think you'll be surprised at how modern the Anchorage area is. The streets are plowed quickly and for that matter, they truck snow in for their dog races. Snow wasn't a problem for me - it was the black ice! At 20 degrees in Anchorage, I wore just a heavy sweater. At 40 degrees in New Jersey, I wear heavy ski clothes. The moisture in the air (or lack of it) makes a difference. Anchorage has stores like JC Pennys, Nordstroms, Sears, REI, Costcos, Army/Nanvy etc. Just buy clothes as needed up there. I found the prices and selections better than NJ. I also found that the people were extremely helpful and friendly. Whenever I asked for help, advice, or directions, people went out of their way for me. Boy, you don't find that where I'm at. You will survive, and most likely will really enjoy it.

9. Re: Moving to Anchorage in Winter?

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