Snowfall blankets Anchorage and lifts spirits ahead of Fur Rondy

Devin Kelly
Craig Lee and his wife Karen brush snow off a friend's Piper PA-12 at Lake Hood Seaplane Base on Wednesday, February 19, 2014, at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. They were out clearing snow from their own plane as well as several more planes following recent snowfall.
Erik Hill
Maintenance crews remove snow from the tarmac at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport following recent snowfall on Wednesday, February 19, 2014, in west Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Dave Kendall of Golden Wheel Amusements clears fresh snow from the Super Slide on Wednesday as the company prepares for the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous carnival.
Gary Paterna shovels a snow berm away from the mailbox at his East Anchorage home on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.
Bill Roth

Anchorage received its first serious snowfall in weeks overnight on Wednesday, bringing back the look of a white winter and launching a flurry of snow-related activity.

Between 5 and 7 inches fell across the Anchorage Bowl, and up to 10 inches fell in higher elevations inEagle River and on the Anchorage Hillside, said Tom Pepe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

In recent weeks, the snowfalls have been more along the lines of a light dusting.

"We haven't gotten this type of snow in a month," Pepe said. "Now it's back."

Those involved in activities and industries that rely on snow were sighing with relief.

"It's a real energy booster for the city when we have snow," said Tadd Thoms, president of Alaska Snow Removal, the state's largest snow removal company.

At peak times, Alaska Snow Removal employs about 200 people, Thoms said. But in the last month, during a relatively snow-free January, that number dropped to fewer than 30.

On Tuesday night, when the snow began to fall, the company boosted its force by 150 people, Thoms said.

"Our guys are going to be busy for the next week, hauling the snow, sanding," Thoms said, adding the increased activity will extend across the industry, particularly to tow trucks.

Thoms noted the snow also minimizes pipe freezing and helps with dust control. Health officials in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough have issued air quality advisories in recent weeks as vehicles have kicked up dust and sand particles on snow-free roads.

At Alyeska Resort, which recorded between 16 and 22 inches of snow, a light powder was coating the mountain Wednesday morning -- a sure delight for snowboarders and skiers.

"People are going to be really stoked," said Jessica Pezak, spokeswoman for the resort.

All motorized areas on the Glacier Ranger District of the Chugach National Forest are now open to snowmachines, includingPlacer River, Skookum Drainage and Twentymile, according to the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. Turnagain Pass and Johnson Pass both opened to snowmachines last week.

The information center noted in an advisory that "considerable" danger for human-triggered avalanches existed Wednesday at all elevations in the backcountry, and those traveling should be cautious.

The snowfall comes within days of the start of Anchorage's Fur Rendezvous winter carnival. The main effect, said executive director Jeff Barney, is the festivities will be accompanied by fresh, clean snow.

"It makes it nicer and whiter, and everybody's in a better mood," Barney said.

Reach Devin Kelly at or 257-4314.