Winter of Summer? We get this question all the time. A helicopter glacier tour is a great Alsaka adventure in any season. There's no right answer. Our answer is; depending on what you want to see! So here we made a comparison list of winter and summer glacier landing tours.
Winter wonderland scenery
Alaska is beautiful in any season but you can really feel the stark wilderness when flying over its spectacular winter scenery. Here in Alaska, winter lasts about eight months and it’s dynamic. Ever-changing, this landscape is anything but frozen in time. You’ll see the definition of “winter wonderland” in Alaska in winter. As soon as we take off from our base at Knik River Lodge, we’ll be flying over the boreal forest covered with hoarfrost, making the trees shine like diamonds. The glacier is buried with snow, forming different patterns than the summer months by snow and wind. You can see glimpses of blue-colored glaciers peaking out on icefalls, stunningly contrasting the snowy landscape. Mountain peaks are snow-covered. You’ll see wildlife tracks and trails imprinted through the snow.
Glacier formations: ice caves, ice walls, icefalls
Winter is the time to explore glacier formations. The flowing rivers, streams, and ponds we were enjoying in summer are now frozen. Icebergs are frozen solid into the glacial lake. But interestingly enough, these icebergs can still move by the force of gravity pushing the glacier. Glaciers are like gigantic frozen rivers, slowly moving down from high elevation. This movement, along with snow, rain, and sun can both create and destroy different ice formations. Occasionally we are lucky enough to access ice caves and stunning blue ice walls. Our pilots will help you put on ice cleats and lead you to discover some of these various interesting features of the glaciers.
Winter light orange glow
Photographers sometimes prefer Alaska in winter because of the light. Due to Alaska’s high latitude, we get longer sunrises and sunsets each day compared to the other, lower 48 states. That means the ‘golden hour’ of photography lasts a really long time. When glaciers and the winter landscape are illuminated with an orange glow, it’s the most beautiful place in the world.
Blue melt pools
If there’s a way to rank the prettiest color of blue, that must be the color of glacial melt pools. These stunning melt pools are definitely one of the highlights of summer helicopter tours. They are frozen all winter long and come back to us as the temperature warms in summer. This is what makes summer glacier tours shine! What are melt pools exactly?
Melt pools or melt ponds are some of the most popular glacial features for our visitors. These pools of meltwater are found on glacial ice, having liquified in the sunlight and warm summer temperatures. Melt pools are usually darker than the surrounding ice, and their distribution and size are highly variable. As the weather gets colder, meltwater will often re-freeze. Meltwater can collect or melt under the ice's surface. There are certainly opportunities to visit some of the deep blue melt pools on our tours, especially between May to August. Please read our Glacier Feature blog posts for other stunning features about glaciers.
Drink glacial water
As the snow and ice melt on the glacier (don’t worry, the glacier is so dense, it’s not going to melt while you’re on it!), rivers, streams, and sometimes ponds appear. One of the most important items to pack on the summer glacier tour is a water bottle! This is the freshest and the cleanest water you’re ever going to drink, straight from the glaciers. The water is so cold, so clear, and so delicious!
Long daylight (more hours of tours available)
In summer, we get around 20 hours of daylight on the longest day of the year. It makes our summer operation longer, which means more travelers can ride on the helicopter with us. Most of the summer months you’ll have long days to enjoy Alaska. You have to pack sunscreen because you can get sunburn from the reflecting light off glacier ice! Summer is really a magical time in the north. But fair warning, it doesn’t mean that we’re running tours all night. We have tour hours in each season, so check with our office to find out when you can fly with us.