Fairbanks Alaska Weather… Snow…Snow and More Snow
We woke in the dark to the wafting smell of chocolate chip cookies and got ready for breakfast. Pike’s Waterfront Lodge offered fresh baked cookies, coffee and cocoa at all hours and we had certainly enjoyed our fair share in the last 2 days. While passing through the lobby we were informed the shuttle would not be running that day, only to the grocery store. Also, all scheduled tours were cancelled and to check our e-mails.
While sitting to eat in the wood lodge style breakfast area, we checked and saw that much to our disappointment, our Arctic Circle tour scheduled for that day was cancelled due to the 15 inches of snow that fell. Most of the back roads wouldn’t get plowed for days, the message explained. The trip was to include a trip to see the Alaska pipeline, a gold dredge, a ride on Dalton highway from ice road truckers, possible polar bears and a certificate stating that we had passed into the arctic circle.
We were super disappointed and wondered if the next couple of days would amount to much more than just town. There were limited transportation options and the snow was piling up.
We were on day 3 of our Aurora sighting mission and no Aurora. There was no sign of clear weather either, just more snow. I had read that Fairbanks is one of the top Aurora viewing destinations in the world. It said if you were in Fairbanks for 8 days in the winter there is a good chance you will be treated to the northern lights. With snow in the forecast for the day, we needed to reconsider our options.
Change of Plans We’re Going to Fairbanks Distilling Co.
We pilfered some coffee and a few warm cookies and headed back to our room to lay in bed drinking coffee till daylight, which was around 11:30 a.m. I saw places online offering dog sledding rides and set us up for the following day.
We called our favorite cab driver Tom…a.k.a. the cowboy…a.k.a. Sam Elliot, who had driven us the previous evening, to see if he was able to bring us into town. He was able to pick us up in 20 minutes. The roads were still packed with snow and flurries were still coming down.
“What are you girls up to today?” Tom inquired, his blue eyes flashing in the rear view mirror beneath his bushy grey brows.
“Just hanging around town, everything is closed.” I responded, adjusting my layers of scarf to be heard.
Annette had seen online that the Fairbanks Distillery was right in town so we thought it might be best to head there. It was looking grim when we pulled up. We paid Tom and got out.
“Gimme a call when you want to head back.” Tom called out the window.
The snow was piled deep and the lights inside were off. The sign said they would be open in an hour, so we trudged up the quiet road and ducked into a nearby coffee shop.
Snow Day in Fairbanks
There was a band playing, so we grabbed some coffee and banana bread and found a table by the window. We found that while we were relatively comfortable in the 4° weather outside with all of our layers, going indoors was a 15 minute endeavor to get to a non-sweaty level. We were like polar bears coming in from the tundra. We practically needed an extra chair for our giant hats, scarves, coats and hoodies. As we de-layered, two grey Huskies ran down the snow covered street in unison.
“Well, you don’t see that every day.” I remarked.
After finishing our coffee, we put back on our 47 pounds of layers and stomped through the thick snow towards the distillery. With the weather being what it was, we were the only visitors.
Fairbanks Distillery – The Private Tour
The owner Patrick was happy to see us and brought us on a private tour of the facility. He explained the history of the place and a bit about the distilling process.
“This building is the Old City Hall…it also served as the fire department and police station when it was built in 1935,” he informed us. “It is in the National Register of Historic Places.”
“How long has the distillery been open?” I asked.
“We established in 2012, but purchased this building in 2014. We are family business. Our daughters help run the place too, well… when they are not in college.” He continued as we passed gleaming silver tanks. He showed us the area that was to be expanded that they were currently renovating.
“We make our vodka with only Yukon potatoes and pure Fox Spring Alaskan water with no additives.” Patrick informed us as we circled back around to the front of the building.
“Would you like a taste of our most popular vodka, the 68 Below?”
“Sure, why not,” we chimed.
Pouring a dash into each little plastic cup, he continued.
“We named this one 68 Below because that is the coldest it got on record in this area.”
“And everyone keeps telling us it’s worse in Chicago.” I laughed.
“Oh it is”…he said. “It’s that wind.”
Annette and I looked at each other, shrugging and sipping.
To the Brewery! Hoodoo Brewing Co
After finishing up, I called Tom the cowboy and he said he was on a ride out of town so we grabbed another cab and headed towards the Hoodoo brewery in town.
The snow had stopped and we inched towards the address, squinting through the ice streaked windshield. I had been to over 200 breweries at this point and was excited to add another one to my list.
When we got out there was a group of guys standing around an outside table, drinking their beers in the snow. We made our way inside the surprisingly crowded room and grabbed drinks. They had a nice Hoodoo stout and good mojo in the place. As we were finishing up we noticed the same outdoor beer drinkers still gathered around the outside table.
We were getting hungry so we headed over in a non Sam Elliot cab to a Greek place in town. After our fill of flaming cheese we called to see if Tom was available to bring us back. He showed up 5 minutes later.
Return of the Alaska Cowboy
“See anything good today?” He inquired, shifting his hat.
We gave him the rundown of our day.
“Hey, what’s with the giant plugs sticking out of the car hoods here?” I asked.
Everywhere we went, parked cars had big plugs dangling from under between the cracks of the hood. At first, I thought somebody had accidentally slammed their extension cord in the hood. Then I saw everybody seemed to have one.
“It’s an engine heater.” Tom responded. “When it stays below 20° for a few months, your engine could seize up. Most people plug in overnight and many public places have a spot to plug into as well.”
As I looked around, I then began spotting the plugs everywhere. People plugged in at stores, restaurants and at our hotel.
We paid the cowboy and he tipped his hat and waved a hand in our direction as he drove off.
Heading inside, we grabbed a couple warm cookies and went to our room.
“Hey, there’s a sauna here,” Annette said, unzipping and dropping her third layer on the bed. “Should we check it out.”
“Yeah, good idea.” I said, shutting down my battery powered socks and yanking them off.
We suited up and put on our fluffy white robes and slippers left by the hotel. Then we shuffle-walked to the sauna area.
Annette looked at our scent choices and read them out.
“Go with lavender.” I advised.
After putting a few drops, she joined me on the white plastic bench. The room began to fill with hot steam and wafts of lavender. We relaxed into it, but began getting sleepy.
Putting back on our robes, we shuffled back towards our room, grabbing a warm bedtime cookie on the way. I peered out the window hoping for a glimpse of green in the sky, but so far…still snow.
Click here to read about Alaska Day 4 – trip to Chena Hot Springs to soak outside in the snowy weather