Avalanche damage delays lighting of Anchorage’s iconic holiday star

The star atop Mount Gordon Lyon at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is lit every year in conjunction with Anchorage’s City of Lights celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman James Richardson)

An avalanche delayed the lighting of a 300-foot-wide star that’s normally a bright spot on Anchorage’s dark winter horizon, according to officials for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Since the late 1980s, starting the day after Thanksgiving, Anchorage residents looking north have had a view of the large star on Mount Gordon Lyon.

But this year, when a crew of airmen with the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron went to turn the lights on, half the bulbs didn’t work, said JBER spokeswoman Erin Eaton.

“It appears that there was an avalanche that had taken out a portion of the supports and wiring bulbs and what have you,” Eaton said.

Since Friday, crews worked to fix the lights, which are about 4,000 feet up the mountain. They contended with wind chills below zero degrees and snowy skies to get all 350 light bulbs changed out.

“It’s like a 25-to-45-degree angle at some areas of that star,” Eaton said. “So they had to tie themselves off and use safety harnesses to get the work done.”

For Alaskans who missed the soft glow of the star on the mountain, Eaton expected the star to be lit starting Tuesday night.

She said she believes this is the first time the star wasn’t lit until after the Anchorage City of Lights celebration, held the day after Thanksgiving. The star will stay lit until the last Iditarod musher crosses the finish line in Nome in March.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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