Cabin fever kicking in? Why fly south when you can visit a friendly neighbour? With Winter Fest happening this weekend, Haines Alaska is the place to be if you’re feeling like a road trip out of Territory.
“The best part of this festival is that we have all these different parts of the community bringing their event to this one weekend to celebrate snow, winter and the fun things we do,” says Leslie Ross, director of tourism for Haines Borough in Alaska.
Ross says that she has been looking at starting a winter recreation celebration over the past few years, “to celebrate all of the winter activities that we have in Haines. From Nordic, cat, heli, backcountry skiing to snow machining, snow shoeing, or sipping cold drinks at the brewery and distillery.”
The festival aims to encompass all of that and more.
“Start out Friday night with the Telluride Film Festival at Harriet Hall at the fair. Here you can register for the Klehini Nordic Race or the Koot to Kat adventure race while watching award winning outdoor films and dinner,” Ross suggests. “There’s something for everyone at the festival.”
There are family events such as the Klehini ski race for children and the Winter Olympics family event. This includes fun things like a dog sled race “meaning that a dog pulls a child behind on any kind of sled,” a fire building contest, a “gear up and run race,” and more.
“The Nordic race can be as serious as you want it to be,” says Ross. “Dress up and ski or put on your lycra and go for it. The Koot to Kat is for the seasoned or adventure spirited.”
Ross insists that Winter Fest isn’t just for fitness enthusiasts.
“If you do not want to do any athletics you can watch the films, join the aprés-ski barbecue at mile 25 after the race or watch the Winter Olympics and eat chili.”
Travelling Yukoners in search of good times should bring a few things along with them to Haines Alaska this weekend: “A sense of adventure, the ability to adapt to weather and only your fun pants… no grumpy pants,” Ross says. “Seriously, if you plan to take part in the Nordic or Koot to Kat races, bring your gear… you just need your Nordic gear and perhaps a good costume.”
However, the Koot to Kat Alpine Adventure Race has a list of requirements: a partner, beacon, shovel, probe, communication device (phone or GPS) and the ability to get yourself up and over Mount Ripinski.
The Winter Fest runs from Friday, March 3rd to Sunday, 5th. The Haines “First Friday” event also takes place on March 3, kicking off downtown with an art walk on Main Street and around Fort Seward businesses and on to the fairgrounds. There, the Southeast Alaska State Fair and Takshanuk Watershed Council present the Telluride Mountain Film Festival from 6 p.m. to 9p.m. at Harriett Hall.
On Saturday the Haines Ski and Hike Club presents the Miles Klehini Ski Classic. This cross country ski race starts at 11 a.m. and is followed by a barbecue at mile 25 on the Haines Highway.
Sunday features the Koot to Kat Alpine Adventure Race presented by Haines Huts and the Haines Ski and Hike Club. The race starts at 8 a.m. at mile 6.5 on Lutak Road. The weekend wraps up with the Haines Winter Games presented by the Southeast Alaska State Fair from noon to 4 p.m. at the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds. The event features fun and games for all ages, including snow machine demos, the Winter Olympics and a chili feed at the fair.
The Winter Fest is sponsored by the Southeast Alaska State Fair, the Haines Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Haines Ski and Hike Club, Hains Huts and Takshanuk Watershed Council. For more information about Winter Fest go to VisitHaines.com.