Haines is well known for Beer Fest in May and the Southeast Alaska State Fair in the summer. In just a few weeks, a new festival will be introduced to the community. Haines Winter Fest will be held for the first time this year, March 3-5.
Tourism Director Leslie Ross has been wanting to do something like this since she took on the job a few years ago.
“Wanting to have something going on in the spring, winter that celebrates all of our winter sports and activities and brings people here at that time of the year,” says Ross.
Now, Haines Winter Fest is happening.
“Finally this year, even though it’s a little bit last minute and thrown together, we just figured we need to get it started and then we can grow from here,” says Ross.
In its inaugural year, the festival will be made up of five main events. Several of them are things that usually happen as separate events.
Including the Telluride Mountain Film Festival, the Miles Klehini Ski Classic, and the Haines Winter Games.
The cross country ski race is put on by the Haines Ski Club, the film festival by the Takshanuk Watershed Council and the fair which also organizes the winter games. Fair director Jessica Edwards has been working with Ross to develop the festival. She says she’s interested to see if bringing these events together will affect participation.
“If they’re one weekend after another, it’s a little harder to want to commit to doing something but I’m really curious and interested in how this will appeal to the public, our local community as a festival, as a weekend of events,” says Edwards. “I think it has cool potential and I’m excited about that.”
There is one new event in the mix. The Koot to Kat Winter Alpine Adventure Race. Teams of two or more start at mile 6 Lutak Rd., go up, over and down Mt. Ripinsky, and finish at the fairgrounds.
Lindsay Johnson, one of the organizers, says it’s open to everyone – not just skiers. She says the tourism department and the fair were key players in making the race a reality.
There are separate fees for each of the events – except for the First Friday events that kick off the weekend and the winter games that cap it off. Those are free. The proceeds from the other events will go toward the organizations sponsoring them.
Edwards hopes the event will encourage winter tourism, which is one of the goals in the Haines Comprehensive Plan.
“Locals understand that this can be an amazing place to play in the winter,” says Edwards. “And as the adventure capital of Alaska – that’s how we’ve branded ourselves – just trying to think of ways to broaden that appeal and let people know, there’s great cross-country skiing here. There’s a lot of fun things to do in the Alpine here that you can get at in the winter time.”
Ross says in developing the idea for the festival, she was inspired by the Backcountry Bash and Ball that Skagway used to put on.
“Haines has so many winter sports and I think we’re growing as a destination for winter sports so it would be great to bring in – we’re focusing mainly on bringing in mainly Yukon and Juneau to participate,” says Ross. “As well as just having locally, something going on for people to come together. We have all these different user groups. It’s fun to bring everyone together and celebrate.”
She says she hopes to continue to expand the festival in coming years, to include things like workshops and a dance party. You can find a schedule of this year’s events and registration information at visithaines.com.