Cold is cool, city tells potential visitors

AP Photo/Lucy Pemoni
When it comes to cold weather, Fairbanks has a lot to offer.

And what Honolulu is to heat, Fairbanks is to freezing, tourism officials say.

With average temperatures around zero, and little or no wind, Fairbanks is promoting itself as a mecca for dog mushing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, ice sculpting, ice skating and mountain biking and horseback riding on snow.

"We promote cold as cool,’’ said Deb Hickok, executive director of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We believe there is a lot of potential in the winter. We don’t believe winter is a niche market in Fairbanks.’’

A study done about four years ago found that the Interior city hosts about 320,000 visitors annually, about 80,000 considered wintertime tourists.

Hickok believes those numbers have grown over the years, especially for the viewing of the northern lights.

About 8,000 people annually come to Fairbanks just to witness the northern lights, which can be seen from the city for more than 200 days a year, according to Hickok.

Viewing the aurora borealis is especially popular with the Japanese.

Hickok said surveys have been done in Japan asking people what most they’d like to see before they die.

"First were the pyramids, then the northern lights,’’ Hickok said.

Many summertime visitors also are returning in the wintertime to experience the city in below-freezing temperatures, Hickok said.

Tourism officials are also pitching Fairbanks’ wintertime to sunny states like Hawaii, California, Arizona and Florida, where many folks have never seen snow.

"They don’t have it so they have to come here to get it,’’ Hickok said.

Cold weather testing for automobiles and airplanes has become a welcomed wintertime industry in Fairbanks. Last year, the Cold Climate Housing Research Center was established in town, a nonprofit facility that studies the effect cold has on building materials like windows, insulation and foundations.

"Cold is a commodity we have in great abundance,’’ said Kara Moriarty, president of the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. "The coolest thing about it is the potential is great.’’

11/25/2001 - 8:00pm