Sliding on the Ice

Following Thailand, we moved to Anchorage Alaska, where we lived from 1974-1978, and where I flew air defense missions intercepting Soviet aircraft off the coast.

Alaska was a wonderful assignment for many reasons:  the flying was magnificent, the people were friendly, and it gave us the opportunity to do things that we could never have done elsewhere.    Within 1 -2 hours of Anchorage there were major glaciers readily accessible to the public.

In the summer, it was an easy drive to take visitors to the Matanuska Glacier, where they could park close to the edge of the melt and climb.   To the south was the Portage Glacier which, for those of us who lived there all year round, really came into its own in the winter.

Alaska Ice


In the winter the Portage Glacier became mother nature’s own ice carnival. Each winter the iceberg pool, which was about a 45 minute drive from Anchorage, froze solid trapping all the icebergs within walking distance.   Although there were prominent signs advising of the dangers to be found there, it was a magnet for folks from Anchorage to come and walk and slide on the ice.


Inside the ice

Above on ice bench inside berg, the gang abt 1977

Glacial ice is very different from the ice found in a common ice maker.  For one thing it is blue.  That is because it is very dense and absorbs all the color spectrum but blue which is reflected back to the eyes of the viewer.   The blue ice of the bergs creates amazing ice grottos that are easily entered and explored.  Ice slides were also open to the air and we quickly learned where they were and slid down them.


Sliding on the ice was only one of the many activities in the winter in Alaska.   On some very special cold winter nights the Northern Lights were visible all over the sky.   On those nights we would pile into the car and drive over to the Army installation — Ft Richardson.   On the Fort, there were few lights and the Northern Lights were spectacular.


Northern LightsNorthern Lights 2


We have never experienced winter as we did in those long ago days in Anchorage.  It truly was a once in a lifetime experience.

In 2007, nearly 30 years after we had left Alaska, we returned for a short visit and it was a very different world indeed.

About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in Air Force, Alaska, Alaskan Air Command, Alaskan glaciers, American History, Anchorage, Anchorage Alaska, Portage Glacier, Sliding on the ice and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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