This Beautiful Alaskan Town Is 250 Miles Away from the Nearest Stoplight
Every winter day takes my breath away in Alaska’s snow capital.
Courtesy Cindy Butherus for Country ExtraValdez, Alaska, known as Snow Town, gets more snow than any other in the state. On average, 300 inches fall in town each year, and 600 inches fall in Thompson Pass coming into town. Valdez is in a sheltered bay of Prince William Sound, surrounded by the Chugach Mountains. The nearest stoplight is over 250 miles away in Palmer.
My husband, Randy, and I live on the edge of Valdez. Our street was part of a homestead long before a bridge crossed Mineral Creek to get to the area. The owners barged their supplies to the beach and then hauled them home. When they sold the homestead, they gave the majority of the property to the state to be protected and preserved.
We look upon mountains from every window, waterfalls coming off the mountain across the street from the front and east end of our house, and bay views out the back when foliage and snow allow. We can see an eagle’s nest when the leaves are gone. We admire lovely, untouched nature that changes with the seasons to the point that it seems we live in two different places without having to move.
(Check out these 40 stunning photos of national parks covered in snow.)
Courtesy Cindy Butherus for Country ExtraRandy’s sister Sheri, who is our neighbor, moved here in the late 1980s from western Washington. We fell in love with the area on our first visit here in 1989, despite the chaos after the oil spill. It took us ten years to move, finally arriving in September 1999.
I have been employed with the local electric co-op since 2001, and Randy has worked for Alaska Department of Transportation as a parts manager for the equipment fleet since 2006. Randy helps to maintain the snowplows and the graders that keep Thompson Pass open and drivable year round.
We get moisture from the coast, and the mountains keep extreme interior cold out, so we stay in the perfect snow zone—teens and 20s for the most part. This makes for some great shots of our dog, Ruffy, playing in the weather that he loves so much. Ruffy likes to roll in the snow, help Randy dig the snow out, and play Frisbee or ball.
We have the best snow removal in the world, so weather doesn’t stop anybody from getting to work or school. Valdez was relocated after a 1964 earthquake, and the Army Corp of Engineers laid out the new town, including drainage and snow storage requirements.
Courtesy Cindy Butherus for Country ExtraThere are snow lots, so the plows don’t have to push the snow far. That helps, as we can get many feet in a day. Without the drainage system, we’d flood every spring, but the city keeps the drains clear.
Getting out of (or back into) our one-story house after the roof has shed a big accumulation requires some work. Randy likes to call it his “snowercise.” But after a heavy storm, the sun comes out, and it is so stunning, quiet, and peaceful.
In early winter, we have about five hours of daylight, and the sun doesn’t completely rise above the mountain peaks across the bay, causing a peek-a-boo effect. But by the end of January, the sun has risen high enough to clear the mountains again.
In late winter, avalanches start coming off the mountains. They are really something to watch.
Courtesy Cindy Butherus for Country ExtraPictures can’t do full justice to nature’s gift of beauty. With the mountains so close and so breathtaking, tourists stop in the middle of the road to stare!
Life in Valdez is not for everyone. With its extreme climate, people either love it or hate it. But even those who don’t like snow admit this is one of the most beautiful settings they have ever seen. I still am in awe after almost 18 years.