Driving to Skagway, Alaska, at -20 Degrees

I’m always watching the weather for good road-trip days. The longer I’ve been off the road, though, the more accepting I am of what I might at other times consider a mediocre day, and yesterday was one of those.

With some sun and a high of -22°C (-8°F) forecast for Whitehorse…

Weather forecast for Whitehorse, Yukon
… and some sun and a high of +19°F (-7°C) in Skagway, it had the potential for some Kodak moments πŸ™‚ Click on either of those forecast images to see the current forecast.

Weather forecast for Skagway, Alaska
I pulled out of the driveway a minute before 9:00am at -29°C (-20°F). Sunrise was 51 minutes away, but the dawn light starts much earlier here due to the shallow angle the sun is at.

My Yukon driveway in the light of a winter dawn
By the time I fueled up, and came back home to fire up the compressor to fill a low tire, it was almost sunrise. This was shot about 10 miles down the South Klondike Highway at 9:46.

Winter sunrise colors in the Yukon
I love this view of Gray Ridge.

Gray Ridge, Yukon
An interesting tower of light just north of Carcross at 10:03.

Winter sunrise in the Yukon
At Carcross, a colorful sundog was visible.

A sundog at Carcross, Yukon
Even at -27°, work goes on at the “retail village” in downtown Carcross.

A store being built at Carcross, Yukon
Tutshi Lake still has lots of open water, so is creating lots of “steam”. Fully covered by snow, this is what the road reports call “normal winter driving conditions”. My 2001 Subaru Outback has 254,000km on it, and with its all-wheel-drive is so perfect for these roads that I just never get very far when I think about replacing it. In the winter, I’m running Toyo Studless tires, which grip well.

Winter on the South Klondike Highway
The mist from the lake coats the trees along the beach thickly with frost.

Tutshi Lake BC in the winter
I had the fur-kids with me, so we made our usual stop at Tutshi Lake, though their run was much shorter than it is in the summer πŸ™‚ The sign for boaters is funny now, but even in the summer, it’s rare to see a boat on any of these lakes.

Tutshi Lake BC in the winter
The open water is quickly freezing over – when I stopped here again 4 hours later, most of this water had a thin layer of ice on it.

Tutshi Lake BC in the winter
Up in the White Pass at 11:14, the air was thick with ice crystals, enough to cause the camera problems with focussing.

At the lower right, the well-protected “Welcome to Alaska” sign is disappearing under snow.

Here’s a video I shot to show you a few miles of the highway from the William Moore Bridge towards Skagway. You can see a 19-minute video of the highway from Skagway to the White Pass summit that I shot from my motorcycle in the summer (with a helmet cam) at YouTube.

The White Pass & Yukon Route railway (WP&YR) is on a major equipment upgrading program – these old passenger cars (not very old – built in 1969 and 1976) will be put on a barge to go to Seattle for rebuilding.

WP&YR passenger cars ready for rebuilding

I didn’t stay in Skagway very long – the increasing wind made me nervous that the pass could close because of blizzard/whiteout conditions. That would be no big deal if I was by myself, but with the dogs along it would be problematic. I made a quick stop at the post office to pick up an addition to my large collection of Alaska Highway books (“Highway to Alaska” by Herbert C. Lanks, 1944) and pointed the car north again.

This view looking south across Summit Lake was shot at 12:39pm.

Summit Lake - White Pass, BC
There hadn’t been anywhere near as much sun as I’d expected, but it looked brighter for the drive home.

The rock bluff is known as Ptarmigan Point on the railway, which is buried beneath the snow at the base of the bluff.

Ptarmigan Point on the WP&YR railway
I shot this at Log Cabin. At this point, I’d seen some Highways Dep’t vehicles, 3 transport trucks and no private vehicles from Carcross to Skagway and back again – some 90 miles.

Transport truck on the South Klondike Highway in the winter
Wow – this is why I make this drive again and again and again – and again… πŸ™‚

South Klondike Highway in the winter

South Klondike Highway in the winter

South Klondike Highway in the winter
The sundogs were brilliant but behind me as I drove north, and I stopped a few times to get out and enjoy them.

Sundog on the South Klondike Highway in the winter
Back at Tutshi Lake, but in the sunshine.

Tutshi Lake in the winter

Tutshi Lake, BC, in the winter
As I was taking photos on the beach at Tutshi Lake, a heard a snowplow coming, and got a few photos as it went by on the highway above.

Snowplow on the South Klondike Highway
The snowplow that I’d taken the photos of was at the main Tutshi Lake viewing area when I stopped to get this photo, and the driver walked back to chat. It was great meeting you, Charlotte πŸ™‚

Hour after hour of sundogs!

Looking up – waaay up – to the 1906 Venus silver mine.

I was home by 3:15 with 120 photos after editing, a couple of videos and an excellent addition to my historical library – a fine day!


Driving to Skagway, Alaska, at -20 Degrees — 9 Comments

  1. I especially loved that video shot while driving. Reminded me of my finer days when I delivered trucks from Edmonton to Norcan rentals in Whitehorse in the mid 90’s.
    I have always wanted to bring my wife up north to show her the most beautiful part of the country ever, but thanks to some unforseen health concerns I am no longer able to venture too far from my hometown.
    That’s why I enjoy this site so often. Keep up the good work, my dreams are still alive and active.

  2. Wow is all I can say. There are so many beautiful shots in that series. I would probably drive it again and again also if I got to see scenery like that. I had never heard of a sundog….had to go to your link to see what it was. I loved your video also…seeing the ice over the cliffs/rocks along the road. It gives one a good feel of how it would be to drive it. Thanks so much for all the pictures.

  3. Your photos and video are outstanding. Neal told us that you were an excellent photographer, and he is correct. Thank you for taking us with you on your drive.

  4. “Wow – this is why I make this drive again and again and again – and again… ”

    Just curious, what is the elevation of the mountain peak in that photo?

    Thanks for the coverage of the snowplows, although I was in engineering at the DOT I worked at, we all had to pull snow duty. Spent many an hour plowing snow, being inside the cab for such a long time can make you claustrophobic. And the blade rattling off the ice drives you nuts.

    Great photos of a beautiful drive, thanks for sharing with us, I was surprised it was that distance you mentioned from Carcross to Skagway.

    And winter is just beginning.

  5. Thanks for all the comments πŸ™‚

    Ron – keep the dream alive!

    George – looking at your blog has given me another reason to get down there for a look – gorgeous country!

    BruceB – those mountains are all in the 5500-7000 foot elevation range (the highest is just over 7200 but it didn’t show in any of the photos). From Carcross to Skagway is 67 miles, then another 25 or so back to Log Cabin where I shot that photo and made the comment.

  6. my favourite drive when i lived in whitehorse….i too never got tired of the views. thanks so much for sharing!

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