Haines Annual Winterfest Runs February 25-27 | KHNS Radio

Winners of the Olympic Games (Photo courtesy of Amanda Randles)

The annual Haines Winterfest is happening this weekend with winter races, games, food and more. KHNS Corinne Smith has an overview of the weekend’s events.

Now in its sixth year, Haines Winterfest has become a welcome mid-winter tradition – whether for new or long-time competitors, spectators, or anyone ready to step out of the house.

Amanda Randles is one of the organizers of the Southeast Alaska State Fair, and says she originally pulled together several winter activities for a weekend of fun.

“It all started with all of these disparate things and just trying to put them together and grow them,” Randles said. “And you know, February is tough. We all need a reason to get out, have fun, see our neighbours, enjoy a bit of winter, because it’s a tough time of year. And if our northern neighbors come to visit us, great!

Winterfest events kick off at 5:30 p.m. Friday night at the Haines Brewing Company with the Avalanche Beacon Race, hosted by the Haines Avalanche Center.

“It’s a race, but it’s also learning how to use transceivers and how to spot them in the snow,” she says. “It’s very useful.”

In a demonstration of backcountry survival skills, medals will be awarded for the fastest pointing, probing and shoveling of a beacon buried in snow.

On Saturday, alpine adventurers will put their skills to the test starting at 8 a.m. in the “Kat to Koot” alpine adventure race. Teams will start on the Chilkat side of the fairgrounds and run up Mount Ripinski to Chilkoot Inlet at Lutak Road 6 miles. It’s about 6.5 miles and over 3,690 feet of elevation gain.

“There’s no specific trail,” Randles said “You do it the way you do. Some people ski. Some people snowshoe. other side.

The Winter Games will begin with an opening ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday at the fairgrounds.

“We have this whole sort of silly Haines take on the Olympic Opening Ceremony,” she laughed.

It’s a family-friendly event, with classic games including the arctic survival gear relay, snowshoe hockey and frying pan toss.

“A bit like the discus,” she says. “It’s you know, how far can you throw a frying pan. And here we have these old battered frying pans that we pull out every year to do that. And frying pan tossing is good because you can do it in any weather.

Randles says the chili cookoff is back this year — after a hiatus last year due to COVID — and there will be an official judge and a People’s Choice award. The winter games and the chili tasting are free for all participants.

Saturday at 6 p.m. there will be a Winterfest Disc Golf Tournament, featuring light-up discs and decorated hoops.

Sunday starting at noon at 25 Mile Haines Highway is the Miles Klehini Ski Classic. Hosted by the Haines Ski and Hike Club, followed by BBQ and hot drinks.

“Before, it was more of a race. Now it’s more like skiing events,” Randles said. “It’s about getting together and going skiing. And there are children and adults. And they usually have a barbecue afterwards. For fun, and it’s a gathering to get together and go skiing and enjoy it with everyone.

As COVID rates remain high in Haines, all Winterfest events are outdoors and Randles says they advise social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus

“People keep their distance. Of course, masks are welcome. We don’t enforce anything like that, but we certainly encourage people to wear your mask, wash your hands, stay away from air hugs,” Randles said. “If anyone is feeling sick, and you know it (COVID) is raging in town right now, I completely understand. If anyone feels sick, stay home. We’ll take photos and share them online, so you can see what you missed. But stay home and get well.

Participants of all ages are welcome, for a weekend of Haines traditions, great food and winter fun.

For more information or to register for one of the February 25-27 events, see details here.