The summit of Mt. Ripinsky during the 2017 Koot to Kat Alpine Adventure Race. This year, the race is rebranded as the Kat to Koot, running in the opposite direction. (Abbey Collins)

Haines second annual Winter Fest is coming up at the end of the month. Here’s a preview of the races, games and food slated for the festival February 24 and 25.

“It was a well-attended event last year and I think it will be bigger this year,” says Southeast Alaska State Fair Director Jessica Edwards. The fair is one of several Haines groups organizing the weekend event.

Last year was the first for Winter Fest. Though, not all of the activities are new.

One winter race did make its debut in 2017. The Koot to Kat Alpine Adventure Race.

“It doesn’t depend too much on weather because you can just pick your mode of transport. It’s a human-powered race. Get over the top and make the correct waypoints. And I think that’s all that’s involved,” says Edwards.

The trek up, over and down Mt. Ripinsky is coming back this year – with a slight rebranding.

Now, it’s the Kat to Koot. That starts at 8 a.m. on the Saturday of the festival.

“They’re going to start on the Chilkat side and go over to the Chilkoot side,” says Edwards.

Race organizer Lindsay Johnson says the decision to race in the opposite direction was made for both fun and safety. She says participants will now be going up the steeper, dry, sunny side of the mountain. They’ll come down the mellower, snowier side.

The plan is to summit the mountain before descending to the finish line on Lutak Rd. where shuttles will be waiting to bring racers back to the fairgrounds. But, Johnson says depending on weather, that midway checkpoint could be moved away from the summit of the mountain.

Meanwhile, other games and activities will be taking place at the fairgrounds.

“The Fair’s part of the weekend will be, starting at 11 a.m. we’ll have the family winter games,” says Edwards. “Which are fun events for all ages. They’re free. We’ll pick events based on what the weather’s doing.”

Edwards says there will be a variety of games.

“We’ll have some sort of biathlon, which is target shooting with either skiing, biking or running. Depending on what we have on the ground to work with,” says Edwards. “They’ll be dog races. If it’s cold weather for ice we’ll have hockey. If not, we’ll throw a frying pan and do a distance completion with that. Like a discus. Just a fun day.”

And, there will be warm food.

“The other part of that event is that it is a chili cook-off,” says Edwards. “The fair will provide quite a bit of chili but we ask for submissions from the community and then it’s judged. And then the participants at winter games get to enjoy that as lunch.”

The separate activities will come together on Saturday night.

“That evening we’ll do the Telluride Mountain Film Festival,” says Edwards. “It will start at 5:30 p.m. And that will be a time to watch those great films but also we’ll announce awards for the Koot to Kat and also we’ll have signups for the next day’s event which is the Miles Klehini Ski Classic at 25 mile.”

The Miles Klehini Ski Classic is an annual event. The 10k race starts at 1 p.m. Sunday. With kids games before and a barbeque after.

Edwards says there may be one other event in the mix.

“The Snowburners, Chilkat Snowburners, may be doing an event over the weekend,” says Edwards. “And they’re just kind of waiting on conditions. Because they can’t run the machines if there’s no snow, they overheat.”

For updates on that and other events, Edwards says the best place to look is the visitor center’s website, or the Facebook pages of the organizations involved.