Photo: Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock

6 Rites of Passage All Alaskans Go Through

by Jennifer Gracey Sep 6, 2017

1. You learn who put the “Prep” in “Prepper”.

Alaskans were “preppers” way before prepping was a thing and you learn the law of the north young. An Alaskan is never caught unprepared. Ever. You buy the biggest, heaviest, sturdiest vehicle you can afford. Why? In case you get hit by some idiot who’s driving too fast and can’t stop at an icy intersection or in the more unfortunate event, you hit a moose that’s trying to cross the road. You keep an extra blanket, hat, pair of gloves, shovel, flares, jumper cables, sturdy rope and even a container of sand in the trunk 9 months out of the year. This is your “BOS” (Bug Out of the Snowbank) gear and you haul it around like a boss in order to sometimes help the lesser experienced dislodge from snowbanks near you.

2. You stock up for winter.

Depending on where in the Last Frontier our “homes” actually are, different reasons and motivations are the basis of our annual hoarding habits. For bush dwellers, in winter, accessing a store is difficult all around – and by “store” that means a retail establishment with more than 25 items in stock at any given point. There is also no guarantee you’ll get out and back with your cache before the next whiteout blows in. City dwellers have different issues and hate the idea of driving 30+ minutes round trip in cold crappy weather to pick up that one item they forgot. The solution to Alaskan wintertime supply conundrums? Binge shopping as infrequently as possible at warehouse stores and afterwards cramming every available inch of household space with food and sundries.

Your “stock up for winter” preparations also periodically include buying spare containers of milk and ice cream and sticking them outside to stay “cold.” In summer, you hunt, dip net, binge fish when the reds & silvers are in, and berry pick till your fingers are as blue as the blueberries are wild. You then vacuum pack, smoke and make sausage till your house smells like an Alaskan Wild Berry Products processing center. Stockpiling activities concluded, you endure frigid months seated by your wood burning stove as you daydream and count the days till summer- when you repeat the entire process.

The day you purchase your very own deep freeze in which your berries, fish and sausages stay safe for eating is a serious rite of passage. Congratulations, you are well on the road to becoming truly Alaskan.

3. Knowledge level of snow: Snowspert.

Yes, you indeed become an unofficial expert in all things snow. Termination dust, sloppy heavy wet “spring” snow, “This is gonna be a nightmare to drive home in,” snow, decadent skiers’ paradise snow (aka powder), chunks stuck all over your dog snow, granulated snow, big magical flakes (like the movie Frozen) snow. In fact, you get so good at identifying types of snow that you can accurately estimate how painful your back will be after shoveling a driveway full of it. This is all based on the highly scientific, age old process of measuring the quality, texture and weight with a handful. The best thing about being a Snowspert? You get to say, “It smells like snow,” after sucking in a breath of clean, Alaskan air.

4. The list of firsts.

Every human has a genuine and true list of “firsts.” As an Alaskan, this is no different. The list you painstakingly acquire however, is superlative in an almost scary way. It has “bigger,” “better,” and “badder,” written all over it.

I remember when I caught my first trophy halibut….

I remember when I panned for my first gold nugget….

I remember when I experienced the largest tsunami in recorded history.

I remember when I…awh, heck, you get the idea.

But, here’s the best. “I remember when I got chased by my first polar bear.” Booyah!

5. Turning 14.

In most US states, the 14th birthday isn’t such a big deal. For Alaskans, your 14th birthday is among the most anticipated (you) and dreaded (your parents.) Why? Drivers’ permit. Over the next two years, this milestone will make you an even greater expert on snow. You will soon join the Alaskans’ who “can drive in snow without getting stuck, totaling the vehicle or hitting a moose.”

6. Turning 16.

Another big milestone for the maturing Alaskan? Sweet 16. Not only do you have the opportunity to demonstrate your snow savviness by doing donuts in the school parking lot sans parental oversight, you become eligible to join the elite club of teens who drive to school. You can also lawfully possess a gun. Your birthday loot is likely to include either a vehicle or a gun. If you’re one of the super fortunate, you’ll be driving with one hand and holding a gun in the other. After all, the decent Alaskan knows when you hit a moose with your car, the humane thing to do is “put it down.”

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