Snowmachiners will fire up their engines next weekend for the 48th Alcan 200 road race on the Haines Highway. Last year, 24 riders turned out for the event, and half were locals. Organizers say that was the highest local participation in about decade. And they hope that trend continues this year.
“I know the local guys have all been workin’ on the sleds and getting them ready,” said Chilkat Snowburners President Kathi Lapp, who is one of the main organizers for the 150-mile snowmachine race.
The race starts just past the Canadian border. Riders speed up to Dezadeash Lake and then turn back around to the Chilkat Valley.
“It’s an exciting time of year,” Lapp said. “It’s kind of quiet around here this time of year, so it’s kind of fun to have something going on.”
Last year’s race was notable because of all the local faces at the starting line.
“It’s a rush, it’s total speed from one end to the other,” Haines competitor Sean Mclaughlin said as he waited for the race to start.
Lapp says after years of dwindling local participation, last year’s turnout was exciting.
“It’s wonderful because before that it was just like everybody out of town, so we were doing it for…I mean it’s a good thing because we want to keep it going but it’s just nice to have the local support. And there’s a few younger guys who are really getting interested in it.”
Haines riders took the top two prizes last year. Chris Brooks was first overall and Jack Smith Jr. was second. Lapp says champion Brooks won’t be able to compete this year because he’s going to school out of town. But she says it looks like there will still be about a dozen locals competing in the 48th race.
Organizers don’t know numbers for sure until the Friday before, because most people register at the Fogcutter Bar Calcutta Auction.
Lapp says one reason more Haines snowmachine enthusiasts are stepping up to the plate is because they’ve realized smaller machines can hold their own.
“They’ve done real well with 600 and 700 classes,” Lapp said. “So that’s brought a lot more people in. Financially it’s not this big expense.”
The Ugly’s of Haines tried to motivate more local participation last year by contributing $200 to each Haines resident’s $325 entry fee.
“Over the years, we’re trying to keep the race going, and when there’s only one local in the race, embarrassing’s not the right word, but we wanted more participation of locals,” said Ugly’s president Gary Jacobson last January. “It’s our race, let’s get more locals in it.”
Lapp says the Ugly’s are continuing with the incentives this year, although they dropped their contributions from $200 to $100 per person.
Both locals and out-of-towners will benefit from a new culinary feature of the race. A Whitehorse-based barbecue catering company plans to set up at the turnaround point at Dezadeash Lake and sell sandwiches.
Lapp says aside from the new food offering, the details of the race are the same. Line-up starts Saturday, Jan. 21 right across the Canadian border at 9 a.m. The race begins at 10 a.m. and an awards banquet follows later that day at 7 p.m.