For winter outdoor enthusiasts, a time to shop, dream

Victoria Barber

Winter's coming, and Alaskans are all $900 richer than they were yesterday. That means it must be time to gawk at some expensive winter toys.

Kicking off the winter gear season -- and helping Alaskans part with some of their PFD -- is the Oxygen and Octane Expo at the Dena'ina Center downtown, affectionately known as "the Big O." About 14,000 people are expected to stream through over the weekend to check out the latest in snowmachines, snowboards, fat-tire bikes, cold-weather clothes and more. The event is part sales expo and part fair, with a beer garden, climbing wall, sled dog puppies and even a (live) reindeer. Sportsman's Warehouse will sponsor an Adventure Film Fest, featuring Alaska videographers.

Founder and organizer John Woodbury said the event aims to cater to two kinds of outdoor enthusiasts who often butt heads -- "oxygen burners" (self-propelled athletes like skiers) and octane-burning snowmachiners.

"Sometimes those crowds are a bit like oil and water but we're trying to bring them both to one place," Woodbury said. "No matter what the bent of their passion, they all love winter."

Woodbury said about 50,000 square feet of the Dena'ina will be packed with more than 95 vendors. Snowmachines are a big draw but Woodbury said he's noticed a steady increase on the "Oxygen" side of things.

The Oxygen and Octane Expo runs 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.


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