Saturday, June 7, 2014

Skagway Hospitality

For over a hundred years, Skagway has been bilking travelers and doing it with a smile.

I'm in here Lemon Rose Bakery in Skagway for the 5th annual North Words Writing Symposium. This year I've arrived early with my fellow writer Lynn Lovegreen, author of Fool's Gold. She's over at the Skagway News Depot, signing books.

In 1898, with the discovery of gold near what is now Dawson, Yukon, Skagway became the place where hopeful gold miners debarked from steamships. Each miner was required to haul 2000 lbs. of gear over Chilkoot Pass. Ostensibly this was to ensure that no miner starved to death. I suspect, however, that Canadian officials were in cahoots with the merchants of Skagway. This requirement ensured that miner dropped a great deal of money into the local economy. Canadian official also collected customs on that 2000 lbs of gear.

Today, cruised ships arrive at the docks of Skagway and debouch tourists. The tourists buy not supplies but tanzanite jewelry on Broadway, the major tourist thoroughfare in Skagway. Like the miners of old, the tourists travel over The Pass, White Pass rather than Chilkoot Pass, to Carcross where vans and buses delivered the travelers as customers to Canadian shops.

I enjoyed the irony of it all even as I take part in exclaiming over the scenery, and visiting Skagway, Carcross, and Haines galleries and museums.

If you go, consider forgoing the cruise lines and instead travelling by the ferry run by Alaska Marine Highway System. Be aware of prices and where jewelry was made. Haines and Carcross galleries carry mostly local art. A few shops in Skagway also carry work by local artists, but most of the Skagway shops are run by the cruise line. Also be aware that cruise ship passengers stick primarily to Broadway. If you want experience small town Alaska go one block over to State Street. You no longer need sacks of floor and nails to visit Canada, but make sure to take your passport if you plan to visit Carcross.

Despite the history of extracting money from travelers, I've found the residents and seasonal workers of all three towns to be delightful and generous in their hospitality. And I happen to have my eye on a piece of jewelry made of salmon teeth. It's at Kirmse's Curios which features the work of local artists.

Lizzie Newell writes a science fiction series set on Fenria, a plant which resembles southeast Alaska. Due to fishing accidents, Fenria has a shortage of men, three women for every man. The first book in the series, Sappho’s Agency, an erotic science fiction romance, will be published in the spring of 2015.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Lizzie, you've given me another enticement to visit a place,already on my list. I can't wait to hear from you and Lynn about the conference, too.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Had a great time traveling with you, Lizzie, and I agree that Skagway folks are very friendly!