A sign on the Haines Highway. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

Organizers of the annual Winterfest celebration this weekend say they hope a lucky convergence of events will draw big crowds to Haines. 

The annual event marks a transition in seasons from deep winter. The event has featured cross country and backcountry ski races, snow games and local entertainment. This year, organizers of the Alcan 200 snowmachine race scheduled the event on the same weekend. 

“I feel like it’s gonna be a good turnout,” said Haines tourism director Reba Hylton, “All of the events happening at the same time is gonna be a big draw.”

Hylton said the visitor center has been promoting the event fairly heavily, taking out ads on social media, in newspapers as far away as Whitehorse, and talking up the event on radio. 

The office took out ads in What’s Up Yukon, the Whitehorse entertainment guide, and Hylton said she’s done radio interviews for CBC in Whitehorse, as well as locally at KHNS. She said Facebook ads targeting users in Anchorage, Whitehorse, Fairbanks and Juneau appear to be getting views. 

“We’ve gotten really good numbers and hits on those, so hopefully those will transfer into people actually coming down,” said Hylton. 

Among other events is a cornhole and basketball shooting competition in Klukwan, a chili cookoff at the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds, a disc golf tournament and a sledding party. A full event guide can be found at the Southeast State Fair website. 

While advertising numbers have been encouraging, it’s too early to say how many people will arrive. Kathi Lapp, the president of the Haines Snowburners, which is organizing the Alcan 200, said as of Tuesday there were no out-of-Haines signups but she expected that could change before Saturday’s race. 

“Most years, we don’t know until Friday night at the Calcutta,” she said referring to the Friday night auction at the Fogcutter Bar. 

Lapp said the scheduling change was made to avoid the shorter days and storms of January, when the race is traditionally held. Last year, the race was canceled after snow plows weren’t able to clear the road before nightfall. The race begins just after the border at Mile 40. Teams travel to Dezadeash Lodge and return to the start, riding on the highway. 

The Kat 2 Koot tour is hoping for a good turnout after years of pandemic-related cancellations, despite a less-than-ideal snow pack for February. The event — which can be completed on skis, snowshoes, or otherwise — takes participants from Dalton City to Lutak Inlet. Most participants travel up Piedad Trail and down Takshanuk Mountain Trail. 

While snow is patchy in town, organizers say there should be enough snow for skiing up higher. 

“Above 2,000 feet there should be a pretty consistent snow pack, but lower sections are icy,” said Jeff Moskowitz of the Haines Avalanche Center, who is helping organize the event. 

Event organizer Lindsay Johnson of Haines Huts and Trails said the event has seen “exponentially” increased participation each year it’s been held since 2017. The event was canceled during the COVID pandemic. This year, she’s hoping more Juneau athletes will come up since it’s over the President’s Day weekend, but the event has traditionally seen a strong turnout from Yukoners. 

She said that while top entrants are competitive athletes, that shouldn’t discourage anyone with basic mountain awareness from participating. 

“There are serious racers who show up, but it’s also family friendly, and beginner friendly,” she said. “It’s just an excuse to encourage people to get out in the backyard here.”

More information about Kat 2 Koot and online registration can be found at the Haines Huts and Trails website. 

Several community events are also planned in Klukwan, including a free throw, 3-point, and ping pong tournament. Klukwan SEARHC community wellness advocate Else Spud said the events are designed for people who want to stay active through winter, but outdoors isn’t their thing. 

“Winterfest is all outdoorsy but there’s some of us lazy people that outdoors isn’t our thing,” said Spud. “We wanted to have something for people who want to do something but don’t want to be outside.”

Klukwan’s events also include a 1-mile walk and a sledding party on Sunday from the tribal office. 

A full program schedule can be found on the Southeast Alaska State Fair website. Updates will be posted the Southeast Alaska State Fair Facebook page. 

Events by day: 

Friday, Feb. 16

Walk Along – Noon at Klukwan SEARHC Clinic. Onemile out-and-back walk. Presented by Klukwan SEARHC. 

Beacon race and gear check – 5:30 p.m. at Haines Brewing Co.. Presented by the Haines Avalanche Center. 

Calcutta auction for Alcan 200 – 5:30 p.m. at Fogcutter. Presented by Snowburners. 

Indoor tournaments – 7 p.m. at Klukwan Gym. Cornhole, 3-point, ping pong and free throw contests. Presented by Klukwan SEARHC. 

Saturday, Feb. 17

Kat 2 Koot – 8 a.m. at Dalton City. Presented by Haines Huts and Trails. 

Alcan 200 – 10 a.m. start on Haines Highway. Presented by Snowburners.

Winter Games – 10 a.m. at state fairgrounds. Bird curling, ski races, frying pan toss, water hauling, snow shoe races, and more. Presented by Southeast Alaska State Fair. 

Disc Golf Tournament – 3:30 p.m. registration. 4 p.m. front nine, 6 p.m. back nine at state fairgrounds. Presented by RBKB Disc Golf Club. 

Sunday, Feb. 18. 

Chilkat Winters – 2 p.m. at Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center in Klukwan. Stories about winters in the Chilkat Valley. Hosted by Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center. 

Miles Klehini Ski Classic – Noon at 25 Mile Haines Highway. 10-kilometer ski race. Hosted by Haines Ski and Hike Club. 

Gear swap – 10 a.m. at Mosquito Lake Community Center. Hosted by Four Winds Resource Center. 

Sledding party – 1 p.m. at the Chilkat Indian Village office in Klukwan. Hosted by Klukwan SEARHC.