Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Town rolls out welcome mat for skiers


Up to 100 skiers, snowboarders, media representatives, sponsors and event organizers arrive in Haines next week for the Freeride World Tour, and the town is gearing up.

Haines Borough tourism director Leslie Ross said many of the event organizers and media will begin to arrive Saturday, with the rest of the group – including competitors – streaming in by Wednesday.

The international ski and snowboard competition is bringing 24 men and 12 women to Haines for the competition tentatively scheduled for March 14. Media companies from Switzerland, France, Italy, Canada and the United States are expected.

The event is weather-dependent, with a week-long window for rescheduling in case of poor conditions. That’s making it a little bit tricky to plan around, Ross said.

“It’s been difficult to let businesses know what to expect other than when people are coming to town,” Ross said.

Ross said she expects visitors to be out Wednesday through Friday. “This is when most of the 80-100 people will be in town, looking for food, shopping, and visiting our area. Other days if the weather is not good for skiing, expect more people on the streets,” she said.

The tourism department is also preparing “welcome bags” to put in the hotel rooms of the visitors for when they arrive. The bags include coupons, promotions, visitor guides, events calendars and other information to promote Haines products and services.

The Sheldon Museum is holding a welcome reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 13, and has invited athletes and members of the local Haines Ski and Hike Club. The public also is welcome.

An awards banquet will be held at Harriett Hall on the day of the competition. The public is welcome to attend after 7:30 p.m. for drinks and live music.

Private businesses are working to accommodate the influx of visitors. Christy Tengs Fowler, owner of the Bamboo Room and Pioneer Bar, is expanding hours and booking live music to keep visitors fed and entertained.

“For one week, we won’t have to lay awake wondering how to keep our businesses open,” Tengs Fowler said.

She praised the borough assembly for approving extra heli-skiing areas for the event. In December, the assembly agreed to open land on the face of Telemark Ridge that is designated out-of-bounds by the borough’s heli-ski map.

“I’m very grateful our borough assembly allowed the heli-ski boundaries to be expanded, because it shows they see the potential for a winter economy,” Tengs Fowler said. “I want them to keep doing that. That’s what we need.”

She also credited Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures for partnering with the Freeride World Tour and working to get the competition to Haines.

The Haines Chamber of Commerce is asking people to clean up around town so Haines can put on its best face.

“Snow goes away. What does it leave behind? The bottles, the cans, the dog poop, the debris of the winter,” said chamber executive director Debra Schnabel. “We’re reminding people to spiff it up a little bit.”

Tourism director Ross said she is trying to organize a viewing area from town, likely on Main Street next to the Aspen Hotel construction site or in the Visitor Center parking lot. She is also hoping to get the library and downtown businesses to live-stream the competition from the Freeride World Tour’s website.

On Tuesday, event organizers will go up in a helicopter and scout the Telemark Ridge to check conditions. The following day, they will hold a meeting to go over safety plans with local emergency personnel, fire crews and doctors.

Ross said the logistics of holding the event in Haines have been “a challenge for (the organizers) to wrap their heads around.”

“This event normally is put on somewhere that has a large lodge or a ski area, and everything they have is right there: where they stay, where their dinners are, where they can watch the event,” Ross said. “We’ve stretched out our resources all the way across town.”

If the inaugural event works out, Freeride World Tour plans to come back to Haines for the next three to five years, Ross said. “I think we are pretty on top of it now. We’re ready.”  


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