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2012 OWAA conference slated under the aurora borealis

Do I need to bring my parka? Can Fido come? These questions and more answered in an FAQ all about the 2012 conference.

By Kevin Rhoades, Executive Director
We’re planning an annual conference with a multitude of outdoor experiences in 2012.
The last “Far North” OWAA conference was held in Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, and that was in 1967. The furthest south the best-known outdoor communicators’ group in America ever held an annual get-together was in Mazatlan, Mexico, and that was five years later.
Many of you attended both.
While visiting recently with longtime member Glenn Titus about conferences held in extraordinary locations, he said both conferences were memorable and outstanding because of their venues.
After visiting with at least 50 frequent conference-goers including the board and officers about an “out of the box” sort of experience in 2012, the consensus was that it’s time for this outdoors media group to experience something extra special, a conference with spectacular prospects for outdoor adventure beholden with a plethora of story material and photo opportunities, a conference with remarkable possibilities for pre- and post-conference trips.
After carefully scrutinizing a short list of four locations, including Bend, Ore.; Fairbanks, Alaska; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Lincoln, Neb. – Fairbanks and nearby Chena Hot Springs Resort (http://www.chenahotsprings.com/) emerged as the best choice to change the paradigm of the typical OWAA conference experience. Chena is about an hour’s drive northeast of Fairbanks, and a 40-minute Piper flight to the Arctic Circle.
You might recall in 2000 the board of directors was split in their decision to hold OWAA’s 2003 conference in Columbia, Mo., or Juneau, Alaska. The chairman of the board broke the tie for Missouri, and it was a most wonderful conference put on by gracious hosts. But many of you have asked about an Alaska conference ever since.
The Fairbanks/Chena area touts several thousand square miles of birch and spruce forests, shining gold with all of autumn’s glory, and filled with members of the Fortymile caribou herd hoofing it through the mountains to the southeast, near Chicken and Tok.
After careful scrutiny of four competing bids and the hard work of Karen Lundquist of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as pre- and post-conference trip opportunities brought forth by longtime member Chris Batin, headquarters has awarded Fairbanks, Alaska, and Chena Hot Springs, with our the 2012 conference bid.
OWAA will hold its 85th conference at Fairbanks/Chena Hot Springs, September 4-6, 2012.
Click on thumbnail images to view full-size photographs in a slideshow:
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Just down the road from Chena, fish for Arctic grayling and rainbow trout on the Chena River. With a “September in Alaska conference,” there are plenty of photo opportunities for fall colors – and moose, which are as plentiful as whitetail deer in Iowa. Ever wanted to hunt moose or caribou in Alaska? If you haven’t, 2012 is your chance – and hunt with other fellow outdoors communicators you’ve long known.
Commencing with the darkening skies of early September, the Fairbanks and Chena area also feature the northern lights. Resort owner Bernie Karl will transport OWAA members via “auroramobile” up the mountain above the resort, where two 30-foot yurts offer a place to warm hands while filling bellies with hot drinks. Meanwhile, outside on the alpine and subalpine tundra, take in an 180-degree view of the yellow-green aurora borealis dancing on the northern horizon, sometimes shooting white and bluish beams to the sky’s zenith.
Of course, it will cost more to travel to Fairbanks and Chena, but this will be after holding two back- to-back conferences near hub cities with affordable airfares and room rates less then $100 per night – Rochester, Minn., in 2010, and Salt Lake City in 2011. Flights to Fairbanks may not be that much more. Today’s round-trip airfares to Fairbanks are in the $600 to $900 range from various major U.S. cities.
For those wanting to fly to Anchorage and tour Denali National Park before conference, the Alaska Railroad offers packages from Anchorage to Denali then onward to Fairbanks, with a return 45-minute flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage; the cost this year was $225.
Most sleeping rooms at Chena will be held at $99-$105 with yurts available for less (each yurt sleeps three) for those wanting more of a camping experience, complete with cots and fire pits out front. “Family rooms” that sleep four to six in a condo-style will be $220 per night lower costs lodging to $55 per night or less.
For those wanting to caravan to Alaska, an RV park with hookups is across the resort’s bush pilot runway. RVers or tenters ($20 per night) can walk to conference sessions, the bar and to the Rock Lake hot pool in just minutes.
Activities at Chena include: dog cart riding, horseback riding, hiking trails, canoeing and tours of the geothermal power plant, the greenhouses, not to mention an Ice Museum complete with ice sculptures and a bar.
Trips to the Arctic, brown bear photography, bush-pilot flights to native villages and mining communities, caribou and moose hunts – all feasible possibilities are being explored at this early stage.
While in Fairbanks members won’t want to miss the Morris-Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center (http://www.morristhompsoncenter.org/), and the city offers various greenways, a spectacular auto museum, birding areas and nature centers very much worth visiting.
OWAA’s three-day conference in 2012 promises to be something special, a get-together I hope you won’t miss.
Start making plans now. ◊

Do I need to bring my parka? Can Fido come? These questions and more answered in an FAQ all about the 2012 conference.


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