Far from being a sleepy seaside town during the winter months, Valdez boasts an active winter sports scene that keeps the adrenaline flowing through the "off season" of February, March and April. In just the next two weeks Valdez will see three major winter sporting events take place out on the Valdez landscape as well as the opening of a museum exhibit on the history of extreme skiing.
Fat Bike Bash
Valdez's annual Fat Bike Bash returns in 2022 the weekend of April 1 to 3. Each year, fat bike riders from around Alaska and the country arrive in Valdez for this competition and celebration.
Registration for the Bike Bash is at the Fat Mermaid restaurant on North Harbor Drive from 4 to 6 PM on Friday April 1 followed by a Fat Bike Social. The action kicks off Saturday morning at Valdez Glacier Lake at the end of Airport Road. Check in is from 8 to 8:30 AM, followed by fat bike races on the frozen lake. The races include a 5 Mile Fun and Family race as well as the more competitive 10 Mile Cross Country Race and 20 Mile Cross Country Race. After the competition, participants and spectators can warm up with a brew or soda at Growler Bay Brewing, where another Fat Bike Social starts at 4 PM.
Sunday morning features another race down East Peak. Check in for this race is from 8 to 8:30 AM at Valdez Glacier Lake again, followed by at meet up at 9:00 AM at East Peak Resort for the start of the Extreme Downhill Fat Bike Race. For more information on the Fat Bike Bash or to register, contact the Valdez Adventure Alliance.
Fat Biking on Frozen Valdez Glacier Lake. Photo by Freya Fennwood.
Returning to Thompson Pass for it's 13th year, Tailgate Alaska is an annual freeriding festival where snowboarders and skiers at Tailgate access the terrain from basecamp via helicopter, snowmachine or snowcat. Over it's twelve-year history, Tailgate Alaska can boast to have "hosted a who’s who of professional athletes and media professionals from around the world" and to have "turned thousands of regular riders on to the pinnacle experience of winter sports."
This year's Tailgate runs from March 25 to April 3.
Photo by Cody Honea
Alaska Snowkite Festival
Another spectacular event coming up in Valdez is the Alaska Snowkite Festival. Snowkiting, according to event organizer Tom Fredericks, is "basically getting pulled on the snow with a giant kite."
The festival has been an annual event in Thompson Pass for over a decade and features the uniquely Alaskan sport of snowkiting. This year's festival runs from April 1 to April 10 at Odyssey Lake, Mile 27 of the Richardson Highway, with snowkite clinics held at noon on both Saturdays of the festival (April 2 and April 9).
Photo from Adrenajen
A Tribute to WESC
Valdez's reputation as a premier destination for winter sports has been accumulating for decades. While winter sports in the community can be traced back to the early days of Valdez, it was the 1990s that lead to world renown as Valdez hosted the World Extreme Skiing Championships (WESC) from 1991 to 2000. The Valdez Museum's upcoming exhibit 'White Gold: A Tribute to WESC' commemorates that history with artifacts and photos from the WESC days. The Museum states that "Visitors to the exhibit will see highlights from the Museum’s WESC Collection, plus hear the incredible stories of WESC as told by those who conceived of it, and were there on the mountains!"
The exhibit opens up on Thursday, March 31 and an opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Friday, April 1 at 5:30 PM.
Judges viewing the 1996 World Extreme Ski Championships. Photo from the Valdez Museum.