You probably call them “snowmobiles,” but Alaskans call them “snowmachines.” The Alcan 200 is billed as the “fastest snowmachine race on earth.” Machines have been clocked over 110 miles per hour as they zoom along the 154-mile course, from the Canadian Border to Dezadeash Lake, Yukon Territory. Portions of the Haines Highway are closed during the race, and plenty of partying takes place in town before and after this January event.
The Alaska Bald Eagle Festival takes place the second week of November, coinciding with the largest congregation of bald eagles in the world. The non-profit American Bald Eagle Foundation hosts the event, and tickets include transport to the Bald Eagle Council Grounds, live raptor presentations, educational programs, and other events.
The Kluane Chilkat Bike Relay takes place in June, right around the longest day of the year (the summer solstice). The 8-leg relay starts in Haines Junction, Yukon, and ends in Ft. Seward in Haines, a distance of 150 miles. It attracts a wide range of enthusiasts, from serious bike racers to local teams simply out to have a good time.
The “Haines Beerfest,” as its known by locals, is very popular, and tickets sell out weeks in advance. It kicks off with a gourmet dinner, paired with beer tastings. The following day, the crowd descends on the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds, where craft beer and homebrew samples abound.
This part of the state centers around fishing, so it’s no surprise to find a twist on the traditional rodeo: the fishermen’s rodeo! And that’s just the beginning: the fair also hosts livestock and agricultural exhibits, arts & crafts (including beautiful quilts), bands, a fiddle contest, a parade, and a children’s carnival. And to eat? Fresh king salmon, of course.
A relatively new event, the Celebration of Bears takes place in August, a time when the pink salmon run is peaking and bear viewing along the Chilkoot River is most reliable. Hosted by the Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation, the free, two-day festival promotes bear education.