Imagine, if you will, sitting in a bubbling outdoor hot tub breathing cool, fresh air while you stare off at the picturesque image of snowcapped mountains and frosty blue glaciers scattered in the ocean waters while whales, narwhals, and possibly Neptune himself swim beneath you.
It’s not a dream.
It’s better than a dream.
It’s Alaska, also known as the Last Frontier, and it’s priceless.
As one of the most beautiful places in the world, and a place you might have been blessed enough to enjoy for a memorable summer, we can happily explain why Alaska seems expensive, and the top ten reasons it’s worth every penny.
Let’s start with the obvious.
Alaska is pretty far away.
You need to cross the entire country of Canada to get there.
You’ll experience the cost of Alaska right away in the cost of traveling to Alaska.
On average, it will cost between $838 and $1,273 per person to travel to Alaska by plane.
Getting everyday goods to even the most populous cities is more expensive than transporting goods within the continental United States simply due to the distance.
Most deliveries require air travel, which costs more to run than standard delivery trucks.
Many logistics companies also charge an additional surcharge to deliver to Alaska thanks to the distance.
Not only is Alaska far away, but it covers a large area of land.
In fact, Alaska is the largest state, but it has one of the lowest populations.
People live sparsely throughout the large space as opposed to New York or Los Angeles where everyone lives on top of each other.
While this lifestyle leads to more privacy and peace, residents and delivery people have to work harder to get to each city and the smaller towns.
Residents must drive to most locations with the sixth-highest gas prices in the United States.
Public transportation isn’t quite as easy, either, thanks to the distance and rough terrain.
Some locations can’t even be accessed by car and require a plane.
Some of the items that are shockingly more expensive in Alaska than in other places:
- Orange juice
- Ice cream
- Frozen pizza
- Fast food
Alaska also has the second-highest tax on beer in the country.
While some people joke about people in Alaska having a drinking problem, that seems unlikely because of the cost.
“I’d read somewhere that nine out of ten adults in Alaska had a drinking problem. I could believe it. Snow, ice, sleet, wind, the dark night of the soul: what else were you supposed to do?”
2. Low Taxes
The Alaskan government fully understands the cost of living further away than the rest of the country.
To counter the cost, the Alaskan government offers incentives in the form of tax breaks.
Alaska has the lowest tax burden of all 50 states at a total of 5.16%, including income tax, property tax, sales tax, and excise tax.
In fact, many places in Alaska don’t have a sales tax at all.
This means that when you buy something for $5, the total actually comes to $5 with no additional charge added to the total.
How could this make Alaska more expensive?
While low taxes and no state tax may sound appealing, this tends to be balanced out in other ways.
For example, Alaska has the lowest tax burden, but they also are the least affordable state out of all 50 states.
It’s important to note that certain areas have a minimal local sales tax.
Cities with a local sales tax:
- Wasilla: 2.5%
- Soldotna: 3%
- Kenai: 6%
- Kodiak: 7%
Alaska’s distant location doesn’t only affect the price of everyday goods.
It also affects the cost of healthcare.
Not only does America have the highest healthcare costs in the world, but Alaska has the highest healthcare costs in the United States.
This puts Alaska’s healthcare costs at some of the most expensive in the world.
It’s harder for people to get to a doctor thanks to the remote location.
Unfortunately, this means that people don’t have access to preventative healthcare like other people do.
When people don’t take advantage of preventative healthcare, such as checkups, they end up with conditions that require more intense (and more expensive) treatment.
The main health insurance provider in Alaska is Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska with Moda Assurance also offering coverage in select locations.
Luckily, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield approved a decrease in the cost of premiums by 7.13% in 2021.
One in three residents has coverage through government-provided Medicare instead of having their own health insurance.
4. Cold Weather
When people think of Alaska, they think of snow and the cold, and rightfully so.
In the capital of Anchorage, the average high never exceeds 65 degrees at any time of the year.
In the far north, such as Fairbanks, the average high doesn’t get higher than 35 degrees.
Not only can this get uncomfortable and dangerous, but it also generates higher than normal living expenses, especially when it comes to home maintenance.
Homes must have adequate protection from the cold.
A well-insulated home can mean lower utility bills.
However, it costs a significant amount of money to insulate a home thoroughly.
Some of the best ways to insulate a home:
- Energy-efficient windows and doors
- Fiberglass insulation in walls
- Efficient building materials
The cold weather puts plumbing at a higher risk of damage, especially if they freeze.
Frozen pipes can burst and lead to expensive water damage.
Most homes in Alaska have insulated pipes, which creates an additional cost.
They may also pay for high-end water heaters that keep the pipes from freezing.
It also takes more energy to heat your home, creating larger utility bills.
Alaska is also the most humid state in the entire country, having higher humidity levels than Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
This makes it especially important to waterproof Alaskan homes and to use an HVAC system with a dehumidifier.
5. Storied History
Alaska has a rich history that contributes to the value of the area.
It all starts with the native Inuit peoples that we all found so interesting in school.
These natives knew how to survive the cold and make the most of the land while still preserving it.
Natives enjoyed the land as early as 10,000 B.C.E.
Historians believe that people made their way to the area from Siberia thanks to a land bridge that connected the two countries at the time.
Years later, when governments realized just how valuable the land was, they decided to take ownership of it.
In 1741, a Russian explorer named Vitus Bering made the first recorded venture to Alaska.
Since Alaska is so close to Russia, it only makes sense that Alaska was a part of Russia from the 1700s until 1867 when the United States purchased the land for $7.2 million.
While that may sound like a lot of money, especially back then, it comes to about $.02 an acre.
A great deal indeed, especially after it was discovered how rich in resources the land was.
Alaska is a very rich country thanks to the natural resources in the ground and waters.
Naturally, these resources attract business, allowing everyday prices to go up due to the demand.
Some of the most important resources include gas, fish, and precious metals.
The two main gas sources in Alaska are Prudhoe Bay in the North Slope and Kenai Peninsula on the south coast.
While we are still working on how to access the gas and distribute it efficiently, these gas sources open the door to reducing our reliance on foreign oil.
People love salmon with its delicious flavor and health benefits.
Alaska has a lot of salmon.
Fishermen gather salmon for commercial purposes, sending them to your grocery store.
Of course, fishermen must adhere to strict fishing regulations to ensure that they don’t completely diminish the salmon populations.
Wild-caught salmon from Alaska look and taste better than farm-raised salmon raised just about anywhere.
In 1896, explorers discovered gold in Alaska.
Once word got out, Alaska experienced the Klondike Gold Rush.
Today, there are still numerous active gold mines throughout the state.
Some mines even allow recreational mining for people who want to dig themselves without going through a mining company.
Second after Nevada, Alaska produced 539,390 troy ounces of gold in 2019.
Value doesn’t only come from the items around us but also the people around us.
Many people are willing to pay more to live in an area where they enjoy the people.
Alaska has a unique group of people different from those in most other places in the country who may mesh well with your social preferences.
Many people assume that Alaskans are all like the Alaskan bush people, living off of the land.
While many Alaskan residents share similar tastes and values, many people find themselves amazed at the diversity in the area.
It’s true that certain smaller populations, such as Muslims, don’t have the same representation as they do in larger cities, you will find people of all races and religions.
You will also find a wide range of social classes.
While many people live modestly, you can also find luxury when you look through the snow piles.
- Unalaska: $94,750
- Cordova: $94,625
- Valdez: $85,085
- Juneau: $88,390
- North Pole: $81,042
Alaska tends to vote Republican.
In fact, no other state has voted for fewer Democrats throughout its history.
The last time Alaska voted for a Democratic president was in 1964 (Lyndon B. Johnson).
That doesn’t mean that Democrats don’t have a strong presence in the area, though.
In fact, in 2020, the vote was extremely close with 52.8% voting for Republican Donald Trump and 42.8% voting for Joe Biden.
8. Wildlife Preservation
“In terms of wilderness preservation, Alaska is the last frontier. This time, given one great final chance, let us strive to do it right. Not in our generation, nor ever again, will we have a land and wildlife opportunity approaching the scope and importance of this one.”
One of the things that make Alaska so special is how untouched it is.
When you walk through Alaskan forests or explore the Alaskan waters, you see nature just as it was intended to be.
You won’t notice miles of phone lines or electrical lines.
You also won’t notice cloudy pollution in the air.
You also won’t see bright neon lights taking away from the natural light of the sun and moon.
As beautiful as Alaska is, it takes a significant amount of time, money, and effort to keep it that way.
It’s not only about maintaining the beautiful scenery.
A lot of animals consider the area home, despite the cold weather.
You won’t see a lot of these animals in other areas around the world either, making the preservation of their environment even more important.
Some, but not all, of animals that call Alaska home:
- Grizzly bears
- Polar bears
- Bald Eagles
- Killer whale
As scary or adorable as some of these animals may seem if you encounter them, it’s important to understand that the land belongs to them.
We are simply enjoying it as their guests.
Individually, we all have a responsibility to show respect to the ecosystem, including the animals.
This means cleaning up after ourselves and leaving animals alone.
However, we as individuals can only do so much.
In an effort to keep the Alaskan wilderness as pure as possible, the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center and a number of other organizations have been established.
To earn money for their efforts, they charge a fee to enjoy their services, including exploring different nature preserves.
They also established the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which classified millions of acres of land in Alaska for preservation.
“I now walk into the wild.”
―Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
Alaska has some of the best hunting and fishing in the country.
The Alaskan wilderness also offers numerous other opportunities for adventure, including mountain climbing, hiking, and whitewater rafting.
This makes Alaska one of the most treasured states in the country for people who love adventure and nature.
Several authors explore the harsh perfectness of the Alaskan wilderness, including Jon Krakauer in his incredible true story Into the Wild.
The book tells the story of a man, Christopher Johnson McCandless, determined to dominate the rugged Alaskan terrain in 1992.
However, most people who seek adventure in nature truly seek to learn about themselves more than the planet.
“Unlike Muir and Thoreau, McCandless went into the wilderness not primarily to ponder nature or the world at large but, rather, to explore the inner country of his own soul.”
―Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
However, adventure carries a certain amount of risk to it.
Unfortunately, McCandless learns just how difficult an adventure can be.
After 113 days toughing out the Alaskan wilderness, McCandless succumbed to the unforgiving terrain and became one with the ground.
Luckily, we have his journal entries to know the details of his story, making his sacrifice educational for all people who would follow him.
Luckily, modern explorers don’t have the same risks, even though all explorers should take the proper precautions.
Always tell someone where you will be before heading out on a trail and bring the proper gear to keep you comfortable.
Of course, the adventurous experiences cost money.
Travel, equipment, food, and additional costs add up quickly, not to mention the cost of the selected activity.
10. Natural Beauty
Celestial glitter illuminates the skies above polar bears eating salmon in a lake at the bottom of majestic mountains in one of the last areas unmarred by man.
Alaska’s beauty comes from the various landscapes, including 18 of the 20 largest mountains in America, two oceans, and countless lush forests.
The lack of pollution also keeps the view clear and attractive, even in the largest cities.
Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Whitman can attempt to illustrate the beauty of the bluer than blue ice and the feeling of breathing in some of the freshest air in the world, but words will never do it justice.
Artists can try to recreate it, but paint and canvas can never portray the image you see in real life.
Alaska costs more because, while it’s impossible to quantify the worth of natural perfection, the people in charge know that it’s certainly worth something.
In all sincerity, we believe Alaska is worth every single penny, and we should all experience it now before it goes up in price and becomes tainted.
“The mountains are calling, and I must go…” —Muir
While the cost of living in Alaska is substantially higher than the national average, that doesn’t mean that these expenses are completely unreasonable.
To help encourage people to move to the state, most residents qualify for a payment from the government up to $1,000 as part of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division.
Houses are also surprisingly reasonable.
Whether you want to visit or move to the area, Alaska can make you appreciate the beauty of the natural world and feel the freedom and clarity that nature can bring you.
However, hearing about how great Alaska is can only do so much.
Experience it for yourself.
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“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” —Henry David Thoreau