On screen the shape of Mt. McKinley gradually materializes and the whole mountain is flooded with light in time-lapse photography. The light sweeps across valleys and forest, still in winter white. An avalanche of snow dissolves into a river of water as spring thaw arrives.
Dall sheep ewes retreat to hidden places to birth new lambs. A grizzly teases a raven. The raven joins his mate to drive a golden eagle from their nesting territory. An arctic fox robs eggs from a duck’s nest.
As spring melds into summer a storm breaks around us then clears in time to watch the mid-night sun skim along the horizon. Horned grebe chicks are fed their first meal on the back of their parents. Dall sheep lambs race in exuberant games. A red fox frightens a vole but the vole is captured by a long tailed jeager.
There is a series of humorous scenes as bears scratch on trees, on rocks, on the ground. The grizzly is then joined by a raven briefly. But the raven flies away through the nesting territory of the jeager and is attacked by the jeager. In the southern forests of Alaska salmon return from the ocean. Bald eagles await this feast. The fish spawn, then become food for the waiting birds. A black bear sow shephards her triplet cubs through the lush forest and sea otters crack sea urchins on their chests.
Back in the interior pikas are harvesting and making hay, as autumn touches the higher slopes and sandhill cranes fly overhead. The grizzly digs out, catches, and eats an arctic ground squirrel. The grizzly passes caribou as they begin the first stages of their migration. A weakened caribou is pursued by the grizzly and in a dramatic scene is killed, after a fight in the river. The bear feasts, with her cubs.
Moose are threshing the willows to clean their antlers and two bulls challenge each other at dawn on a crisp autumn day. A spectacular battle proves that one is superior and the other escapes into the spruce. Beaver get serious about their winter food supply.
The red fox redoubles his hunting efforts. He then plays with a golden eagle which has landed nearby. For some minutes they play until the eagle flies away, proving he was not injured after all.
The migrant birds make their way south, the streams slow to a trickle, and heavy frost precedes first snow. Migrating caribou making their final push to the boreal forest where they will winter.
The arctic winds from the top of the world will make the smoking snow the dominate force in this winterscape. Lengthening shadows creep up the mountain sides, returning the world to darkness and bringing our film full circle.