Alaska’s Dark Winter Nights podcast gets national recognition

A white man sits on the stage floor with one arm around a stuffed tiger and the other holding a microphone
Dark Winter Nights producer and host Rob Prince speaks at a Feb. 2020 show. (Photo courtesy of Rob Prince/Dark Winter Nights)

Dark Winter Nights, a Fairbanks-based storytelling show, has been named one of New York Times top winter podcasts of 2021.

“How does anyone find us, in the world of hundreds of thousands of podcast these days? I don’t know. I still can’t really believe it,” said producer Rob Prince.

Alaska has long been a focus of highly produced reality TV and numerous YouTube channels, but Dark Winter Nights takes a simple approach: It’s just Alaskans telling stories.

Here’s one from champion dog musher Brent Sass recounting a failed canoe trip in 2015:

“So Matt’s using the paddle to push me out. He pushed me out, but in the same motion, he was still holding the bear spray. And as he pushed out, he completely — like a four second spray, right into my face.”

Prince said he didn’t submit the podcast or in any way notify the New York Times of its existence, but it ended up on their recent shortlist of “Icy Podcasts to Warm your Cold, Cold Heart” anyway.

“It feels like we kind of leveled up in terms of our goal to share the real Alaska with the rest of the world,” Prince said.

A University of Alaska Fairbanks documentary film professor, Prince has been producing Dark Winter Nights with volunteer staff and storytellers since 2014.

There are three formats of the show: live storytelling events, a radio show and the podcast. Prince said the plan is to capitalize on the exposure.

“When your pitch comes, you gotta swing hard, so we’re gonna try and make this roll,” he said.

Prince said that within a couple of days, the number of subscribers jumped from 1,700 to 2,600.

“That’ll make it easier when we want to possibly approach more radio stations to see if anyone else wants to broadcast the show,” Prince said. “We also have kind of a dream of going on tour at some point. I think that’d be really cool, to take some Alaskans down through the Lower 48 or elsewhere.”

The pandemic has put Dark Winter Nights live shows on hold, but Prince said he’s keeping busy producing the podcast and the radio version.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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