Ways to celebrate winter solstice in Anchorage

Bright skies and noon golden hour sun shines through tree branches heavy with snow.
The morning after a second snowstorm in Anchorage, bright skies and noon golden-hour sun shines through tree branches heavy with snow. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

Wednesday is winter solstice, the shortest day of the year – an event of special significance to Alaskans, which will be marked by several events across Anchorage.

The solstice is set to occur at 12:47 p.m. Alaska time. It’s the moment when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun, formally marking the first day of winter.

In Anchorage, sunrise is at 10:14 a.m. and sunset at 3:42 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. But don’t expect five hours and 28 minutes of daylight, said climatologist Brian Brettschneider. 

“In reality the sunrise is later than that because it doesn’t clear the crest of the Chugach Mountains for probably another hour, or almost another hour, after the official sunrise,” he said. “So effectively, we have less sunlight than that.”

For Alaskans, winter solstice also means rapidly increasing amounts of daylight with each day forward until the summer solstice. Brettschneider estimated light increasing by five to six minutes a day in Anchorage, and seven to eight minutes a day in Fairbanks. It’s a bigger daily difference than residents see in other U.S. states.

“We really are quite in tune with changing daylight amounts, much more so than people in the Lower 48,” Brettschneider said. “So it really is an important marker for people in Alaska to note when that daylight turnaround occurs.”

Brettschneider’s favorite quirk about Wednesday is that people cast the longest shadows of the year on the winter solstice – especially at solar noon, which occurs at 1 p.m. in Anchorage.

“You look at your shadow, it’ll be really long – I’ve measured my shadow on the solstice and it’s about 50 feet long, or 50 or 60 feet long,” Brettschneider said. “And that’s as short as your shadow gets on the solstice.”

Alaskans will be celebrating winter solstice across the state Wednesday. Here are three free outdoor events happening in Anchorage: 

Anchorage Winter Solstice Festival

Cuddy Family Midtown Park, 201 E 40th Ave., 5-8 p.m.

The city’s Winter Solstice Festival includes ice skating, warm fires with hot chocolate, and even dog-sled and horse-drawn wagon rides. Plus, there may be early sightings of Santa Claus.

Hilltop Ski Area Winter Solstice Celebration

Hilltop Ski Area, 7015 Abbott Rd., 5-8 p.m.

Hilltop plans to host a fireworks show, torchlight skiing and snowboarding, plus cookie decorating and photo booths. Santa and his reindeer will also be stopping by. Admission is free, but you’ll have to buy a lift ticket if you plan to ski or snowboard.

Group Hike on Winter Solstice

Connors Bog Dog Park, 5404 Jewel Lake Rd., 6-8 p.m.

Bring yourself and your canine companions to the popular dog park just east of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for some outdoor fun. Locally made treats on hand will include Elevated Oats granola and Chugach Chocolates hot cocoa.

Do you know of a free winter solstice event we missed? Email reporter Chris Klint at cklint@alaskapublic.org.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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