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Winter work outfit in Fairbanks, Alaska with Halogen straight skirt, GNW tight, GNW Luxe sweater under GNW snow leopard print cardigan, Kieselstein Cord belt, Jord bamboo watch (all own) and boot topper c/o Top of the Boot
  1. Outfit photo at 40 below is a Must-have-done
  2. You want your swimwear photo be taken at 40 below
  3. It’s a movement
  4. Different types of 40 below photos are taken
  5. How to prepare for a swimsuit photo at 40 below
  6. What happened at my photo shot
  7. 40 below photos cause a traffic jam

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Outfit photo at 40 below is a Must-have-done

Ever since the University of Alaska Fairbanks students made national news with their photo in bathing suits and snow boots, taking a photo at 40 below in a great bikini look has been on my to-do list. Thus, when ever a cold snap hit, I eagerly studied the weather forecasts of the National Weather Service and other agencies to see whether, and if so, when temperatures would plum below -40F (-40oC). Finally, last Wednesday it happened!

A shoot UAF Photo by JR Ancheta (2017)
A shot UAF Photo by JR Ancheta (2017)

You want your swimwear photo be taken at 40 below

Don’t get excited yet (or disgusted by the idea of an over 50 years old woman posing in a bikini). We could not take the photo and this post tells you why. The post will give you a glimpse on the very unique mentality of the people in Fairbanks. No matter whether they are there due to an assignment (e.g. military), for an adventure (e.g. interns), education (e.g. students), on vacation, to escape (e.g. after a nasty divorce or breakup of an abusive relationship), since birth or because they like the community, it is finally cold enough for them. Fairbanksans greet each other with

I hope it is cold enough for you today. #Alaska Click To Tweet

It’s a movement

When it gets below -40F, the short-term and long-term residents as well as visitors have to document it. They all want to have their photo taken at the temperature display that views them at Alaska’s first university, i.e. the place that made national news years ago. The documentation, however, differs among short-term residents (including visitors) and long-term residents.

Different types of 40 below photos are taken

The former group bundles up like it were -60F (-51.1oC). They literally look like dumplings. Due to the multiple layers and the high insulation they provide, they take a lot of time for their photos. They do single photos as well as group photos until the battery of their camera gets too cold too permit taking another photo.

Alaskan fashion blogger in a skirt, sweater and booties standing outside at a -41F temperature display

midlife style blogger in winter work outfit at -41C

over 50 years old fashion blogger in winter indoor outfit posing outside at -41F
Halogen tweed skirt, GNW Luxe sweater, GNW tight, Kieselstein Cord belt, H buckle, GNW cardigan, Jord bamboo watch (all own) and boot toppers c/o My Top of the Boot

In the case of long-term residents, there are three groups. The one that doesn’t care and just says

I hope it is cold enough for you today.

The other two groups have in common that they only go to take their photo when the temperature hits a new negative record for them. Let’s say when they moved to Fairbanks they had the picture taken for the first time at -41F (-40.6oC). Then when they experience -44F (-42.2oC) for their first time since arrival, they have a new photo taken with their new personal minimum temperature. However, these two groups differ by their gear – weather appropriate outerwear vs. bikini. Both groups also have in common that they take the photo fast even though for different reasons. 😉

How to prepare for a swimsuit photo at 40 below

Posing in a bathing suit at 40 below requires some logistics. You need to be bundled up in clothes or blankets that you can quickly get out off and back in. At the same time, these items must have a high heat capacity, i.e. they should not loose their heat too fast. You have to watch the cycle of the temperature display to hoop out of the car at the right time, know your pose, take the photo and run back into the car. You need to have the camera ready and how to wrap yourself back in the blanket/clothes fast. The car’s heating namely is insufficient at those frigid temperature. In plain English, even in your car you face below freezing temperatures. Read more on car heating problems in Alaska in the post at the link. Then you have to head home or to where ever you can get a hot shower fast. You have to ensure that hypothermia and/or a cold are no options.

What happened at my photo shot

Now back to Wednesday. At the temperature display, there is a bus stop. In the early morning, the area was covered by ice fog with local visibility less than 20 yards (~18 m). The valley was so foggy that one could not possibly drive out there.

An hour or so after sunrise the fog lifted and/or decayed. Once there was enough visibility and light, people drove to the sign to have their photo taken. Drivers pulled into the bus stop to wait until they were the first car at the end of the bus stop. Then they left the idling car to go about 25 yards (~23 m) back to the sign and take their photos. Then they headed back to the car, left, and the queue pulled forward. People left the car …. and so on. State Troopers were present to keep things safe with respect to the traffic rules. There was one car after the other parking in line on the side of the display waiting for their turn.

We past by the display several times on Wednesday afternoon and evening. There was still a traffic jam at 10:30 pm with more than five cars in line and others making U-turns in the area! Meanwhile it was -45F (-42.8o). State Troopers had put up a sign so that there was at least some place for the bus to stop when it needed too. Obviously, in response, people had started parking in the traffic light area around the corner. At least this is my explanation, why at that late time, a state trooper was placed with warning lights at the entrance of the bus stop area and a police car had stopped a car on the other side of the intersection.

40 below photos cause a traffic jam

Since the temperature was still higher than the personal minimum temperature I ever had felt so far, we changed our mind. We decided to try to take an OOTD photo at the display early in the morning on Thursday. Guess what? We still had to wait. And yes, there was still police!

What is the lowest temperature you ever were exposed too? How did you dress for it? What did you find the worst when being exposed to that temperature? I am curious.

Extreme weather in Alaska

The weather situation that Fairbanksans and people in the Interior fear more than 40 below is wind.

You can find more on Fairbanks’ winter temperature extremes in the Archive, for instance, how to dress for Fairbanks’ harsh conditions when aurora watching.

Photos of me: G. Kramm

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