There are few people we'd trust more to show us the ropes in Haines, Alaska than Greg Schlachter, Alps & Meters Alpinist and owner of Expedition Broker, an adventure travel agency that helps powder seeking skiers plan the trip of their dreams to explore the Alaska backcountry in style. We asked Greg to put together a list of his favorite haunts in Haines, and he doesn't disappoint.
36 Hours in Haines, Alaska with Greg Schlachter
Perched at the northern tip of the Inside Passage, Haines is home to roughly 2,000 people surrounded by 35 million acres of protected national & provincial wilderness. While internationally known as “The Valley of the Eagles” for its late fall congregation of over 4,000 eagles, the Chilkat Valley and neighboring mountains hold endless options for adventures. Haines awakens from the darkness of winter each spring as skiers and snowboarders arrive from all over the globe to experience terrain like no place else on earth. You’ll be planning your next visit before you finish your first.
1. Grand Entrance, 5pm
Getting to Haines isn’t easy. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to leave. Though Haines is only 80 miles north of Juneau, access is via a short, 35minute commuter flight in a Cessna Caravan with Alaska Seaplanes or a 4.5hour ferry ride aboard the Alaska Marine Highway. Alaska Air flies 737s into Juneau with connections through Seattle, but there are no roads connecting Juneau to the rest of the state. The ferry trip through the Lynn Canal is exquisite, with towering mountains erupting directly from North America’s longest fjord. The flight option is bipolar, as it can be sometimes terrifying but often breathtakingly beautiful: occasionally at the same time.
2. Soothing Nerves, 6pm
Once you’re back on terra firma, make your way to Port Chilkoot Distillery, located in historic Fort Seward. Owners Sean Copeland and Heather Shade have turned the 1904built military bakery into a gorgeous production facility and tasting room. Copeland’s master craftsmanship can be seen in every aspect of the building, from the handbuilt doors and slate bar to the bung hammer used on every barrel of rye and bourbon. Port Chilkoot originally gained celebrity for their 50 Fathoms Gin, a Double Gold winner at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition, but that was merely because their bourbon was still aging. Handcrafted syrups, bitters and sodas are used in their inventively scrumptious cocktail menu. Their Manhattan garnished with local cherries and the Moscow Moose with homebrewed ginger beer and Icy Strait Vodka are two easy pickings.
3. Local’s Choice, 7:30pm
After a couple of cocktails on an empty stomach, dinner beckons. Fortunately, The Fireweed Restaurant is perfectly located directly next to the distillery. Convenience is quickly outweighed by quality, as the Fireweed delivers delicious pizzas, sandwiches, and salads with local beer on tap. You can’t go wrong with their pizza & calzone selection, but their laborintensive Super Mac (two pizza toppings added to baked noodle and cheese heaven) is a weekly favorite.
4. Ski History, 9:00pm
An easy walk to downtown Haines takes you to the Pioneer Bar. One of the most filmed bars in the ski industry, you’ll recognize it immediately from the ski porn that inspired you to come to Haines in the first place. A potpourri of locals and a veritable “who’s who” of big mountain athletes convene at the P Bar at night during ski season in Haines. The handdrawn ceiling art documents who has traveled before you in the mountains surrounding the bar. Get home early though — big day tomorrow!
5. Rise and hope for Shine, 6:30am
It’s a bluebird day so make it an early rise. Swing by Sarah J’s Cafe on 2nd Avenue for tasty coffee and breakfast on your way to the helibase. Personally, I’ve never met someone who puts more attention into making the perfect espresso, as her goal is oneness with her machine. Grab a breakfast burrito to go for the road and a sandwich for lunch. Burritos are stuffed with rosemary potatoes, salsa, an herbie yogurt sauce and pig.
6. Stunning, 7am
When the weather pops in Haines, the 35 mile drive to Alaska Heliskiing’s helibase is one of the most scenically spectacular highways on earth. Winding beside the glaciallyfed Chilkat River, keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles in the neighboring cottonwoods, mountain goats on the roadside cliffs and moose just about everywhere else. After the initial 30minute drive, the valley broadens and the mountains rise higher — massive glaciers can be viewed in the distance. Start scoping your ski lines.
7. Safety First, 8am
Alaska Heliskiing’s base of operations lies 35 miles from Haines, close to the British Columbia border. After a safety briefing and avalanche beacon search drills, it’s up into the mountains for some turns! Haines offers something for every rider from steep spines to wideopen bowls, ramps and glacial runs. When conditions allow, the options are truly limitless in the massive terrain surrounding the Chilkat Valley. On a good day, expect 610 runs with some runs over 5000 feet!
8. Mud Bay, 3pm
Returning to Haines, a run to Haines Packing in Letnikof Cove provides fresh seafood for dinner. Spot prawns, king salmon, halibut, black cod and king crab are available for shipping or cooking in town. Pricing is as good as you’ll ever see and shipping boxes home to impress friends and family is always appreciated. A stop into Svenson’s Extreme Dreams Gallery is an afternoon of entertainment. John Svenson is a gifted, multimedium artist and retired climbing guide. Your visit will inevitably lead to the purchase of a Japanese block print of a local mountain landscape, stories of guiding on Denali, shots of cobrainfused vodka and discussions of making necklaces of blown glass encapsulating grandpa’s ashes.
9. Black Fang, 5pm
Main Street has a couple of new commercial buildings along the downtown corridor and none are more exciting than the new Haines Brewing Company production facility and tasting room. Owner Paul Wheeler has been at the helm since 1999 and produces mealworthy beers. Or maybe they’re just so tasty you forget to eat. Either way, don’t miss his Devil Made Me Do It IPA, Black Fang Imperial Stout and a variety of vintage and seasonal ales. But try to remember dinner.
10. Remember Dinner, 7pm
The Lynn Canal provides a rich bounty of seafood including all five species of Pacific salmon, halibut, crab and prawns. Many accommodations in Haines include access to a barbeque and kitchen so a seafood feast can’t be missed. Haines Packing will not only provide the fish, but also local tips for preparing it. Grab a growler to go from the brewery to steam the prawns and sip while indulging in all the local ocean has to offer.
11. Skier Tales, 9pm
Fort Seward Lodge is the base of Haines’ second heliskiing operation, SEABA. A cozy bar on the second floor with jawdropping photography on the walls plays host to the retelling of the day’s tales from the mountains.
12. Mountains of Java, 8am
Mountain Market keeps Haines buzzing. The only local coffee roaster, try their espresso with a grilled breakfast wrap. Full organic grocery and and liquor store make the Market a nearly daily stop. On sunny days, their picnic tables can’t be beat to bask in the spring heat of the lengthening days.
13. Don’t Be Late, 10am
While Haines is visually stunning right from town, getting in a plane and flying through the mountains adds a whole different perspective. Drake Olson (better known as Fly Drake) has been slowly building a fleet of aircraft for all mountain scenarios. Best known for his exploits in his Cessna 180 on skis, Drake’s been delivering climbers and skiers into the hills for well over a decade. Take a flight across Glacier Bay National Park and around Mount Fairweather (15,300 feet and only 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean) or land on a glacier and spend the day alpine touring. Let your budget and skillset decide.
14. What Did You Bring Me? 12pm
Nothing is as classic “Alaska” as smoked salmon. Dejon Delights dry brines their salmon, halibut and black cod, ensuring the best fish in the region. Hotsmoked salmon travels easily and makes a perfect gift for the friends and family left at home. Dejon carries a wide variety of “Made in Alaska” gifts from handturned birch bowls to pickled bull kelp.
Alaska Guardhouse B & B is located in Historic Fort Seward and easy walking distance to nightlife. Choose your jail cell (no joke) for the night and enjoy Phyllis and Joanne’s beautiful, spacious home as if it was your own. Fort Seward Condos is also in the historic district and boasts massive views of Lynn Canal and the Coastal Mountains. These restored officer’s quarters of Fort Seward have one and two bedroom suites with full kitchens and living rooms.