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Living in Palmer

The ABC campus is situated in the heart of downtown Palmer. This small town of around 6,000 has a unique historic feel. Grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and a public library are all within walking distance of campus. Below is a map with driving directions from Anchorage International Airport.

Palmer is located in the heart of Alaska’s Matanuska Susitna Valley at the foot of the Cook Inlet in south-central Alaska. It is 60 miles northeast of Anchorage and 300 miles south of Fairbanks. The Mat-Su Valley was historically a farming community, but has recently become the most rapidly-growing area in Alaska.

The town of Palmer was established as a farming colony, featuring the most fertile soil in Alaska. The long hours of daylight during Alaska’s summer yield world-record vegetables. These are featured annually at the Alaska State Fair, which is hosted in Palmer during late August and early September.

The climate of Palmer is moderated by its proximity to the Cook Inlet. Though interior Alaska often sees temperatures reach 50 degrees below zero during the winter, it rarely drops below minus 20 in Palmer. Lows average around 8 degrees in January, and highs average 66 degrees in July.

The winters in Palmer last from October through April and temperatures can get as cold as 30 below zero (Fahrenheit) for short periods of time November through February. Compounding the cold temperatures is the severe wind. Palmer sits at the mouth of the Matanuska River Valley. Coming off the Matanuska Glacier, this valley can generate winds in excess of 50mph. This means that it is necessary to have clothing that is suitable for the climate. A parka rated for 50-below and snow pants as well as warm boots are advisable for outdoor recreation. Gloves or mittens are necessary for severe cold – leather or Gore-Tex is best with a warm liner. A scarf or ski mask is helpful for face protection in the cold. Be careful not to buy anything with vinyl or plastic on it as they will crack or shatter in the severe cold.

Vehicles that are used during the winter should have a block heater or an oil pan heater that can be plugged in prior to starting the engine in below zero weather. It is wise for those who travel during the winter to take with them survival gear that includes a winter sleeping bag, parka and insulated pants, heavy mittens, hat with ear covering, severe weather boots, and something to cover nose and mouth. You will also need water and a source of heat (candles or camp stove). More detailed information is available on campus.

Life is different in Alaska, and sometimes challenging, but the benefits far exceed the difficulties. If we can answer any questions you have about life in Palmer or to help you adjust in any other way, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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