Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Other Skagway Alaska

Over the last couple of days I have been trying to arrange an excursion in Skagway, Alaska for Veronica and I, during our upcoming Alaska cruise. I also wanted to obtain a feel for Skagway...the real Skagway. The Skagway that most visitors might not know about, think about or see...the "other" Skagway....the non touristy Skagway. I did some reasearch on line about Skagway along with making contact with a business there, Frontier Excursions, for our excursions while in Skagway. During this time of year, it is difficult to make contact with some of the businesses in Skagway. Not because they don't want your business or that they aren't friendly but because of the Winters that they endure up there. The Winter weather can make it extremely difficult to move around up there with the snow and brutal wind chills. I made contact with Jeanne, who is a very friendly and helpful woman and is the owner of Frontier Excursions. Jeanne lives in Skagway and she explained to me that during the harsh Winter months, she tries to get to her office in town at least twice a week to take care of business. Through Jeanne I ended up booking a Yukon Discovery Tour plus an add on side tour of the Gold Rush Cemetery in town and a scenic overlook that looks over the town and harbor areas....a good photography opportunity. If you ever get the chance to go on an Alaska cruise and have a port of call in Skagway, I would definitely recommend giving Jeanne and Frontier Excursions a phone call. She will go out of her way to take great care of you and set you up with an excursion that highlights the best of Skagway and surrounding beautiful scenery and wildlife, along with the Yukon Territory. And as "icing on your cake" the excursion prices through Frontier Excursions are much better than what you get through the cruise lines and promotional tour companies. A link to Frontier Excursions will be at the bottom of this blog entry. Jeanne told me that Skagway is only 4 blocks wide and 23 blocks long. Food and other items are barged, not trucked into Skagway. The barge carries the large containers that you would normally see behind 18 wheel trucks. By the sounds of it, there are only about 6 businesses that are open during the winter months...maybe a few more and just because the weather might be brutal at times up there, people in Skagway still make their way around outside to get wherever they need to go. Life in Skagway does not totally stop just because of a few snowflakes and a little cold weather. It definitely sounded as if Skagway is mainly a cruise ship port of call town....when the cruise ships stop at Skagway as a port of call, the town is very busy and this is when the residents make most of their income. After the cruise ship season ends, the town slowly closes up except for a few essential businesses. But even after the cruise ships have finished visiting Skagway for the season and Winter has rolled in full force, fraternal organizations in Skagway are busy putting together several of the towns special events that they have each year. During the Winter there are events such as the multi day Christmas Yule Tide Celebration and the Buckwheat Classic cross-country ski race. From what I have read on Skagways Chamber of Commerce page...back in 2005, Skagway had only 854 residents but when the cruise ships came in, the number of people in Skagway tripled if not more.
A portion of the downtown area has been designated as the Skagway unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and over 800,000 visitors are expected during the summer season. Skagway is the point of embarkment for the famous Chilkoot and White Pass Trails.
Skagway has 5 churches, 1 library, and 1 financial institution. There are approximately 250 hotel/motel rooms in 11 facilities, ranging from modern to historic, including 3 bed & breakfasts, 1 home hostel and 3 cabin-style lodges. Some of these businesses are open year round. Parking is available during the summer for over 300 recreational vehicles, in addition to numerous tent camping sites. Skagway has 1 clinic, staffed by a physician's assistant and a nurse practitioner and is open Monday through Friday year-round. Several doctors, a public health nurse, and a dentist each visit on a regular basis. A mental health counselor is also available. Emergencies are transported by air to Juneau, if possible, or by road to Whitehorse.
Skagway has 1 school, K-12, with 17 classrooms, and an average of 105 students, 13 teachers and 1 superintendent.
As remote as Skagway might seem, it has all of the infrastructure as any other town except on a smaller scale.
I find the lifestyle combined with the challenges of the weather and location to be quite interesting and in a lot of ways alluring. I can see why Jeanne had nothing but good things to say about Skagway and living in Alaska.
For more excursion information in Skagway:

http://www.frontierexcursions.com/

For more information about Skagway:

http://www.skagwaychamber.org/community.html

4 comments:

Toni said...

Rick, your trip is going to be amazing -- the way you approach it, so thorough, and I know your way with people too so it's no surprise how helpful these contacts are. I hope hope hope you are planning on taking hordes and oodles of photos, baby!

SUBHADIP said...

Hi, Rick..its like a dream trip to me..it must be great to feel that your life full of adventure..thanks for commenting on my blog..and want more such great travellouges..

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Anonymous said...

Hi Rick! What a nice blog entry! I live year round in Skagway and have since 1999. I am on the Skagway Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors as well as a seasonal small business owner. I hope you have a great time visiting our quiet little town. (Of coarse, it won't be quiet when you are here!) Just wanted to clarify one thing... Skagway's year round population is unclear- but the registered voter count is around 834. During the winter months it seems as though there's only around 600, but in the summer there's about 2500. We should have more concrete numbers next year- because of the 2009 census.

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