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The Town That Takes the Elevator Everywhere

Residents of Whittier, Alaska, have to take the elevator or stairs wherever they go in the wintertime.

(Evan Gearing)
When the fewer than 200 winter residents of Whittier, Alaska, want to pick up a few groceries, visit the post office, get their shots at the clinic, file a police report or go to church, they take the elevator. If they’re up to it, they use the stairs. Almost every resident and many of the town’s businesses and municipal services are under one roof -- Begich Towers, a 14-story former army barracks -- and for good reason: In winter, Whittier gets an average of 250 inches of snow and sees 60 mile-per-hour winds. Seventy-five miles southeast of Anchorage, Whittier can be accessed by water and through a two-and-a-half-mile-long tunnel shared with freight trains. The tunnel, which closes at night, has only enough room for traffic to move in one direction at a time, so visits must be timed carefully.

David Kidd is a photojournalist and storyteller for Governing. He can be reached at
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