Along the Sterling Highway, people pitch a small shack on a frozen lake to go ice fishing near Cooper Landing, Alaska, on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Along the Sterling Highway, people pitch a small shack on a frozen lake to go ice fishing near Cooper Landing, Alaska, on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula sees growth in winter tourism

While the borough’s ports and highways fill up with thousands of visitors from across the world in the summertime, more and more travelers are looking to experience Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula in the fall and wintertime.

Alaska has seen an increase in winter tourism, according to a new report from Anchorage-based research firm, the McDowell Group.

Locally, several chambers across the borough have reported seeing small increases in winter tourism.

In Seward, Cindy Clock, the executive director for the Seward Chamber of Commerce, said in an email that there has been a slight growth in winter tourism in the Seward area.

“Although we are too far south to promote consistent aurora activity, Silverton Mountain Guides has been offering heli-skiing for the past few years,” Clock said. “Activity, lodging and restaurant businesses have been evolving into year-round businesses as well since they too are aware of this travel trend.”

Cooper Landing has also seen growth similar to Seward’s, with a handful of businesses choosing to stay open longer in the winter, President of the Cooper Landing Chamber of Commerce Stephanie Lesmeister said.

“Several of our members are open this winter and seem to be staying steady,” Lesmeister said. “Local volunteers have been grooming the cross-country ski trails and that seems to draw people to the area. Additionally, fly fishing has been getting more and more popular and we seem to see people out fishing later and later into the winter.”

Lesmeister said Drifters Lodge, Sunrise Inn, Wildmans and The Inn at Tern Lake are a few of the local businesses that have stayed open for the winter.

Tim Dillon, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, said the winter tourism numbers in the borough are up.

“Borough-wide everybody is pretty pleased with the numbers we’re seeing,” Dillon said. “We’re seeing some growth.”

Over the last three seasons, winter visitation in the state has increased by 2.1 percent. The report said Alaska’s winter tourism has been growing steadily over the last decade, though still far below summer tourist numbers. The report says the number of tourists visiting between the fall and winter season of 2017 and 2018 was up 33 percent from a decade earlier. Data refers to the time period between the months of October and April, and both out-of-state and Alaska residents.

The report notes that the “Chinese market has exploded over the last several seasons.”

“The main draw is the northern lights,” the report said.

The report also notes that Girdwood’s Alyeska Resort reported “unprecedented growth in out-of-state visitation over the last several winter seasons.”

Dillon said local chambers are in a listening mode and are gathering information about what travelers might be interested in doing in the winter.

“Whether it’s northern lights, ice-fishing, snowmobiling, or other winter sports, the peninsula can really accommodate,” Dillon said. “Our tourism industry has really been able to hold its own.”

Reach Victoria Petersen at

More in Business

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Halibut prices soaring

Bad weather, lots of quota unfished causing high prices

Business relief program application opens

The AK-ARPA business relief program began accepting applications Sept. 17.

Homer Truffle Co. owner David Briggs cuts the grand opening ribbon at the relaunch of his business on Aug. 17. He is pictured with Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center board members and employees. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Homer Truffle Co. reopens with new products

Homer Truffle Co. hosted a grand re-opening ceremony Tuesday, Aug. 17, to… Continue reading

Health official picked for state marijuana regulatory board

JUNEAU — A state marijuana education program manager has been appointed to… Continue reading

The old Homer Halibut Derby Shack is refreshed and updated to open  as the new Spit Visitor Information Center, as seen here on Friday, June 25, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Christina Whiting)
New Spit visitor center opens

Ribbon cutting is today for new Spit Visitor Information Center.

Sherry Stead, left, and Don Stead, right, pose on Sunday, June 6, 2021, at the groundbreaking of the new building for Grace Ridge Brewery at 870 Smoky Bay Way. Jay-Brant Contractors has started construction of the brewery, tasting room and beer garden to be completed by next fall. (Photo courtesy of Grace Ridge Brewery)
Construction starts on new Grace Ridge Brewing building

New brewery site is on Smoky Bay Way.

A boat is lifted out of the water at Northern Enterprises Boat Yard on Kachemak Drive. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Northern Enterprise Boat Yard expands business

Northern Enterprises Boat Yard, Inc., the largest privately owned dry dock marina… Continue reading

Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News 
Ana Rosa Polit stands in front of Espresso Waves, her new coffee drive-through. Espresso Waves is located in front of the Ocean Shores RV Park.
Polit runs on coffee and the American dream

Ana Rosa Polit opened Espresso Waves on May 1

The Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center hosted a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 21 for the Plantman store located on Pioneer Avenue. The “Plant Man” and owner, Darren Williams, said he is thankful for the opportunity to expand his store and for the support shown by the Homer community. “I just want to thank Homer and the Wildberry products for hosting us here,” Williams said. “It’s been a great experience doing business in Homer. I just really appreciate the community of Homer.” Plantman now has an outdoor and indoor space for customers to purchase and learn how to care for plants. For more information, visit Pictured left to right: Brad Anderson, Homer Chamber of Commerce executive director; Tom Soderholm, Homer Chamber of Commerce president; Williams; Christina Cooper, Plantman manager; Andrea Vargas; and Jan Knutson, Homer Visitor Center director. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Plantman holds grand opening

New Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center member honored with ceremony.

Homer News editor Michael Armstrong, left, and former reporter Megan Pacer, right, hold Alaska Press Club awards the Homer News received at the Alaska Press Club Awards banquet on April 27, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. Armstrong and Pacer also won awards for the 2020 contest year. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Awards were presented in virtural ceremony last Saturday

The Homer News, and its sister publications the Peninsula Clarion and Juneau… Continue reading

Homer News reporter Sarah Knapp poses for a photo on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at the newspaper offices in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstong/Homer News)
Knapp started this week at Homer News

Knapps brings Tennessee writing experience to Alaska