Let me get to the point of this article in a roundabout way. It is a well known fact that we from the more northern Midwest cold climes almost always will move to other cold climes when we finally get up the gumption to do some roving. This odd trait comes from our Viking heritage when our forefathers would set out to pillage the southern lands. Strangely, once these foragings were done, the horned warriors would always return to the God-forsaken place they were from despite experiencing all these wonderful lands where the normal color of the landscape was green rather than white. They saw countries where the fields grew abundant crops- grains other than just oats and multi-colored vegetables other than just turnips. They encountered cultures with languages easier to speak than Norwegian and Swedish. These cultures had women with hair color other than golden yellow (although that is not a bad thing at all, just a little boring when every woman is like that.) and these women were curvaceous and sensuous in ways that their own women hadn’t evolved to yet. Despite all of these things the Norsemen would always come back to their frozen, frigid fjords.
Now back to the present day. Like the ever-cold seeking Vikings, some fans of frostbite have discovered Fairbanks. We are populated with expatriate Michiganonians, Washingtonites, New Hampshirovians, Wyomingtons and even some West Virginianers (although they don’t really count because they are too far south to be considered winter folk). These people have all discovered the secret I am about to reveal about Fairbanks. Some have wandered up here haphazardly in the past, but today even the most stalwart descendants of the Norsk explorers, softened up by generations of fast food eating, dinky desk jobs and decades of TV watching, are now intimidated by the Alaskan horror stories put out by the media. They have heard of our –50-degree weather, our months of near-sunless skies and our polar bears that especially savor Lower 48 McDonalds fattened flesh. They are so afraid of winter here that even looking at pictures of it causes them to ice over with dread. Let me now dispel these rumors.
A lot of this bunk about our horrendous winters is jimmy-jam that locals make up to keep lower 48ers and others from coming up here in droves. If Midwesterners ever discovered how easy our winters are compared to those icy, month long blasts that Chicago, Minnesota and Wisconsin endure that have the surgical precision to separate skin from bone, their airports would be jammed with flights north. The difference is that our winters are dry. Our atmosphere is so dry that water runs away shrieking at the mere mentioning of the word “Fairbanks’. It is so dry here that snowflakes are puffy and immaculate things that float daintily to the ground like miniatures of those lace doilies that your Grandmother used to have on her coffee tables. Once on the ground they just form a thick, puffy blanket that is so airy if you fell into it you would disappear from sight. You wouldn’t have to worry about suffocation; you would just stay in a suspended state of animation until the road crews found you in the spring and returned you good as new to your family. The snow is so light that we don’t use snow plows up here, we just send out big guys with names like Donny Lee and strong lungs to blow it all to one side.
It is also virtually windless here. The difference between a windless winter in the sub-Arctic is like the difference between sticking your head in a cardboard box and sticking it in a jet engine. Fairbanks is usually as windless as an accountant’s convention, which is a big difference as far as feeling cold is. The cold is there, but it is just hanging out minding its own business and not trying to get under your clothes like a horny sophomore. Without the humidity and the wind, winters here are just not that bad. I’d rather have Fairbanks at –20 than Chicago at +20.
It is true that it does get dark here. In the winter the sun forgets to set its own alarm clock, finally gets up around 10, does this quick sprint across the sky barely getting above the tree line, then settles back down for an early afternoon siesta and never bothers to get up again. But what does that matter? Most people today tan themselves by the glow of their TV sets and computer screens anyway. People hear that we only get 3½ hours on our darkest day, but the reality of it is that there are 90 minutes of twilight propping up both ends of that daylight like bookends, dramatically altering its real length.
By giving away these secrets of our winters I am ostracizing myself from the Fairbanks community. They do not want these things to be commonly known. I might as well sew a big scarlet ‘A’ on my coat or a yellow Star of David or simply have ‘TRAITOR’ tattooed on my forehead. Once word of this gets out we might as well get the guys building that fence between Texas and Mexico to come build us one too to keep all the half-frozen North Dakotatonians out. “What?” I can hear you all say, “A place that is minus 0 and yet you can still go outside with only the lightest of Land’s End on? Where the snow is powdery all winter long and there are three ski areas all in a catapult’s throwing distance from each other? Let’s give the house away and rush up there! We’ll live in an igloo if we have to!”
Hereby, my friends , I insure my doom. With the licking of the envelope that contains this document, I seal not only the envelope, but also my fate as well having ignited the wrath of 40,000 home-loving Fairbanksingsers. I will probably disappear mysteriously as a result of this, my body making a reappearance 100 years from now at the bottom of a Denali glacier where future CSI investigators will wonder at the strange tread-like marks on my tenderized flesh as though I had been beaten with snowshoes.
I thank you, and bid you goodbye, perhaps in more ways than one.