Haines skiers ask to lawfully XC on roads

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With cuts to plowing services, it might be time to consider an alternate mode of transport if that big snow storm ever comes. But skiing on roads in the Haines borough is illegal, and those gliding down local thoroughfares can be dinged with a fine.

One ski enthusiast is spearheading a campaign in hopes of changing that minor offense.

Some Haines’ residents are hoping to change a local law that prohibits skiing on roads. (Jillian Rogers)
Some Haines’ residents are hoping to change a local law that prohibits skiing on roads. (Jillian Rogers)

Currently Erik Stevens has collected nearly 140 signatures on a petition to do away with the violation. If fined, a rogue road-skier would have to pay $25 for a first offense, and $5 for each subsequent offense.

Stevens says the catalyst for the petition is simply that he and many others he knows would like the option of skiing to work or to the grocery store.

“People are always like ‘Oh, this is so stupid, this is the most ridiculous thing, we need to change this,’” Stevens says. “We’ve been talking about this for years so I finally decided that someone should take it on as a cause.”

Stevens brought his case to the minor offenses ordinance ad hoc committee last month. The committee members had mixed reactions. Here’s Stevens addressing the committee with response from committee chair Bill Thomas and member Ron Jackson.

Stevens: “I’ve got this petition here, I don’t know if I can deliver it to you, or read it to you.”

Thomas: “We know what you want. And again, we can eliminate the fine, but we can’t do anything about the…”

Jackson: “Point of order, he’s got three minutes here and I’d hear what he has to say.”

Thomas: “Well, he’s said it, but OK.”

Stevens: “I do want to be clear, because it’s not an entire section of code that we want to remove.”

Stevens says the group just wants part of the offense regarding skiing, roller skating and sledding on the roads changed to omit skiing from the list of unlawful activities.

Committee member Donnie Turner suggested Stevens take it to the assembly. Mike Case agreed.

“In order to get any effect out of what you’ve done, you need to take it to the assembly because we have no power to that,” Case said.

But, Mayor Jan Hill says the committee does have the authority to recommend, not only changes in fines, but altering or discarding offenses that are redundant or aren’t relevant. She says the door is “wide open” as far what the ad hoc committee can tackle and recommend.

Despite being dismissed by a few of the committee members, Stevens says he’s optimistic that the committee, and ultimately the assembly, will see that skiing on roads offers a healthy transportation alternative.

“I don’t think I did a very good job of getting the message across. I think there is still some work to be done with the committee to make sure everybody understand what we’re asking so we’re going to keep trying. It’s just an age-old form of transportation that’s healthy, it’s active, it’s fun, people enjoy it, and in a small town there is no reason why we can’t share the road with skiers the same way we share the road with bikers.”

Dan Egolf has lived in Haines since 1980, and says the issue has been coming up for a couple of decades. He says that rewriting the law so people can ski on the roads, but would have to abide by traffic laws, is a good solution.

“It was enforced, historically, 20 years ago and in talking to Erik there have been people who have been told to get off their skis and walk back,” Egolf says. “It seems like another one of these laws that needs to be looked at. I don’t think there is near the hazard involved with people skiing prudently (compared) to other modes of transportation that are allowed.”

In Skagway, skiing on municipal roadways is permitted, according to the code. But skiers are subject to various traffic laws.

Borough clerk Emily Deach says it’s not something that’s done all that often – people usually want to ski on trails – but it’s nice to have the option, especially after a big dump of snow.

“As far as I know, it has never been an issue here,” she says. “It’s not something they usually choose to do in town, but I have seen it happen.”

The Haines’ minor offenses committee meets next on Dec. 17 at 5:30. Among other topics, the group will discuss who the enforcers should be when it comes to doling out citations.