There’s no arguing that Coldfoot shines in the wintertime: we’ve got incredible wildlife, pristine snowy landscapes, and beautiful mountains bathed in alpenglow. Not to mention, of course, some of the best views of the aurora borealis in the world!
What’s the catch? Few places in the world experience winter quite like we do. Recently, the temperature dropped down to -44 in the area. We do average a little warmer, around -20, but still..most folks would hardly call it balmy.
Some of the most common questions we’ve heard from guests in the winter months go something like this: How do I prepare for winter weather in Coldfoot? What should I bring? Is there anything I should buy?
Our best advice: don’t be nervous! Here are some winter-weather essentials and not-so-essentials (both tips and gear recommendations) to make the most of your winter trip to Coldfoot.
Remember, layers are key!
For a quick visit, it’s less about quality than quantity. Don’t feel like you have to spend hundreds of dollars on gear for a short vacation! Just bring lots of layers, and don’t be afraid to wear them--especially if you’ll be joining us for an outdoors excursion.
We always like to remind people that being over-prepared is much better than being under-prepared. You don’t want to miss out on the incredible outdoors scenery. And you can always take off layers if you’re too warm!
If you don’t own anything you think would be suitable, there are winter gear rental services available in Fairbanks, as well as a number of outfitters and a thrift store. You’ve got lots of options.
Scarves, gloves, socks, boots, sunglasses
These might seem like obvious picks, but they’re definitely worth double-checking your bags for before you make your way north.
A scarf or neck warmer to cover your face can make breathing more comfortable if you want to play outside.
Good gloves are essential: you can even layer tech gloves under winter gloves if you plan on taking a lot of photos!
Warm feet can be the difference between a rough day and a great one. Wearing a pair of wool socks to wear over your regular socks can help you keep warm all night as you go aurora-scouting.
Likewise, good winter boots are crucial if you’re planning on exploring, hiking, or snowshoeing around in camp while you’re here. If you don’t already own a pair, there are plenty of outfitters (and a thrift store) in Fairbanks that sell gear at reasonable prices; or you might choose to use a rental service, instead.
Finally, don’t forget your sunglasses! Wait, isn’t it dark up there all winter? When we do outdoor activities (besides aurora watching), we try to maximize daylight. What sun we see can reflect off of all the snow and make for a very bright view.
Less obvious picks: headlamp, ice grips
A headlamp with a red-light setting is super useful if you plan on aurora-watching with us. Why red light? White light throws both eyes and cameras off in the darkness. Red light allows you to move safely outside without ruining your (or anyone else’s) photos.
Ice grips (like YakTrax, for instance) can be helpful if you struggle to walk on ice, or if you’re worried about safety. We plow, but even getting from the cafe to the inn requires a walk outside. They’re super optional, but do make a difference--so we like to mention them just in case!
Part of experiencing winter in Coldfoot is slowing down, relaxing, and moving with the outdoor world. We don’t have cell service (unless you’re a GCI customer), and WiFi costs money. Instead, consider taking some time off from being plugged in.
We’ve got a cozy space with hot cocoa, tea, and coffee: you bring a book, a notebook, a journal, a coloring book, a sketchbook, a board game, a card game, or...well, you get the idea. It’s the perfect time to enjoy something you wouldn’t have time for in the “real world.”
Still feel like a lot to think about? Like we said up top: don’t sweat it. If you’ve still got questions, don’t hesitate to ask. We want you to enjoy your time in the Arctic, and we’re happy to help you as much as we can!
Do you have any cold-weather essentials you can’t live without? Drop a comment below and let us know!