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A New Winter Calendar

The beginning of a colorful sunset over the sea ice in Nome.

A winter in Alaska was one of the things that most scared me about coming to KNOM.

I was excited, too — but mostly for the street cred I imagined it would earn me. In the same way I can brush off concerns about excessive heat with a breezy, “Oh I spent a summer in New Orleans — and my air conditioner was always broken,” I hoped my long, dark winter would similarly impress back in the Lower 48.

More than the cold or even the darkness, what I dreaded was the monotony. Maybe it’s my midwestern upbringing, but I love seasons. Shifts in weather and plants and animals help me mark time. I love the pattern and the constant change. Six months of only winter? Yikes.

But to my delight, this winter has been a continual surprise. Throughout it I’ve heard talk of what winters here used to be like, so I don’t know how typical it’s been, but here is a look back on the last few months — a new winter calendar:

A well-bundled Zoe rests after snowshoeing to the top of Newton Peak in Nome.

Zoe at the top of Newton Peak in Nome. Photo: Karen Trop, KNOM.

October

“Where’s the snow? When does the snow arrive? Will it snow today? Is that snow? SNOW! IT’S SNOWING!!”

November

Really starting to notice the waning sunlight. Wondering a lot: Is this normal? Thanksgiving with KNOM friends and family. Making use of the KNOM collection of snowshoes, skis, and ice skates.

December

Between the community chorus Gabe directed and I sang in, the KNOM Christmas play, and the increasing dominance of holiday music on our airwaves, Christmas lasted pretty much the whole month. I had a growth moment on the day itself: cooking the turkey that business manager Lynette shipped up from Anchorage with love. Not bad for this former vegetarian.

Also: slush waves (as the sea ice begins to form — basically the consistency of a gas station slushee) and watching the Bering Sea freeze over. Seals hang out in the small boat harbor for a couple days!

January

I’m a sucker for the New Year, even though the fireworks were postponed due to weather. Reflections and resolutions. Race coverage begins with the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race. Walks on the sea ice. The dreamiest sunrises and sunsets each and every day. By the end of the month, I can already tell the difference in the returning sunlight.

February

The Yukon Quest makes race season feel real, even far away from the 1,000-mile international sled dog race from Fairbanks into the Canadian Yukon. The Iron Dog snowmachine race gives us our first taste of live race-reporting. More goodies from Lynette and friends and family afar for Valentine’s Day. More and more daylight.

March

IDITAROD! Another thing I was needlessly dreading — despite the lack of sleep and stress of live reporting, Idita-week was absolutely the most fun I’ve had in Nome. I got to meet a lot of the extended KNOM family and quite a few mushers, and it was fun to see the town fill up.

All of the sudden it’s the equinox, and we’re back to 12+ hours of sun. I scale back my Vitamin D supplements.

April

The temperature’s been dipping and popping up again, but it seems the melt has begun. Many of Nome’s streets are back to gray-brown dirt and kicking up dust, even though huge drifts of snow refuse to give up their hold on several vehicles buried around town. Just the other day I noticed open water at the back of sea ice, visible from the second floor of the station and volunteer house. Race season wraps up next week with the Kobuk 440.


Who knows how long till sea ice completely breaks up and all the snow melts away. Although I’m looking forward to beach bonfires and the smell of the green tundra, I have to admit: I’m a little sorry to see this winter go.

Image at top: The start of a colorful sunset over the sea ice in Nome. Photo: Zoe Grueskin, KNOM.

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