Monday, December 29, 2014

Annual Colorado Winter Festivals – Let the Fun Begin!

Aspen Winterskol Ice Musician
Aspen Winterskol Ice Musician (Photo Credit: Rich Pearce)
When people think about Colorado, they think about the outdoors, and during the winter they often think about skiing, snowboarding and the countless other winter activities the state has to offer.

Of course, this time of year, locals and visitors alike are focused largely on all the festive holiday events and activities going on, but there are many other entertaining and fun annual Colorado winter festivals at other times as well.

Here are a few of the more notable annual Colorado winter celebrations:


Winterskol – Aspen 

Since I live in Aspen, I’m most familiar with Winterskol, so I’ll start with that first. One of the most anticipated and fun Aspen events of the entire ski season, Winterskol is a celebration of "Aspen's unique Nordic lifestyle". This annual winter event began in 1951 as a way to bring visitors into the town during the three weeks after Christmas, a traditionally slow time of the year.

The specific Winterskol activities in Aspen and Snowmass have varied over the decades, but some of favorites throughout the years include:
  • torchlight ski descent down Aspen Mountain and related fireworks show
  • snow sculpture competition
  • soup-cooking contest
  • canine fashion show
  • broomball tournament
  • public downhill ski race
  • the ever-popular “Mad Hatter’s Ball”. 
For more on Aspen Winterskol here: http://www.aspenchamber.org/events/acra-annual-events/winterskol.

Winter Carnival – Steamboat Springs

Although I never made it there myself, I also used to hear a lot about Winter Carnival in Steamboat Springs while I was in college. The event was started in 1914, by Norwegian Carl Howelsen to celebrate winter and alleviate cabin fever. Over the years, the festival has featured, among other activities and events:
  • ski racing and jumping
  • dog sledding
  • chariot races on Lincoln Avenue
  • light shows on Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill
  • adults on shovels being pulled down main street behind horses or skiers jumping through fiery hoops
  • local Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club kids being pulled on skis behind horses right down main street in downtown Steamboat
  • crowd favorite, the "Donkey Jump", sends kids soaring off a jump for up to 40, or even 50 feet.
For a schedule of this year’s Winter Carnival events, visit http://www.steamboat-chamber.com/info/events/sbcccalendarevent.winter.carnival.item.asp

Ouray Ice Festival – Ouray 

With a current slogan of “Get Your Axe in Gear”, the Ouray Ice Park has hosted the Ouray Ice Festival every January since 1996. The festival, known as the world’s preeminent ice climbing event, attracts ice climbers, equipment manufacturers, industry sponsors and ice climbing aficionados from around the world.

Ouray is often considered the winter ice-climbing capital of the United States, and the annual ice festival features a fun-filled weekend  of contests, exhibitions and instruction by many of the world's top ice climbers.

For more information about the festival, visit http://ourayicepark.com/ice-festival/.

ULLR FEST – Breckenridge 

Ullr Fest began in 1962, as a week-long celebration to honor Ullr, traditionally known as the Norse god of winter (and in modern times, the patron saint of skiers), in order to win his favor. Every January, the town of Breckendridge holds the event so that the historic ski town will be rewarded with abundant snow for the season.

This year’s Ullr Fest activities include:
  • ice Skating Party
  • crowning of the Ullr King and Queen
  • Ullympics -  frying pan toss, group ski racing and ski boot relay.
  • “Breck’s Got Talent”  talent show 
  • parade
  • bonfire
  • comedy night
  • bike festivities 
  • SYRCL Wild and Scenic Film festival.
Find out more at http://www.gobreck.com/events/ullr-fest.

Estes Park Winter Festival – Estes Park 

Showcasing another full weekend of Colorado winter fun, the Estes Park Winter Festival, started in 2009, features skiing and snowboarding-focused trampoline exhibitions, downtown ice skating, chili, beer and wine tasting, music and more.

Specifically, here is what you will find at the festival:
  • an Interactive kid’s festival - "frozen" ice sculptures, snowboard simulator, face painting, s'mores, trackless train rides, and interaction with the feature film, "Frozen" ice sculptures
  • celtic dance
  • equipment demos
  • winter safety and adventure tips
  • winter apparel and outdoor adventure gear vendors 
  • ice dancing performances
  • "beat the goalie" hockey game
  • numerous giveaways, including:
    - Snowcat tours
    - Rocky Mountain National Park passes
    - Outdoor adventure gear
    - Private snowmobiling tours.
Find out more at http://www.estesparkwinterfestival.com/

Winter Park's Winter Carnival – Winter Park

Experience nine days of Colorado winter festival fun at the Winter Carnival at Winter Park.  Activities include:
  • live music
  • disco skate night
  • Subaru Winterfest – Nordica and LibTech equipment demos, ski and ride clinics and giveaways
  • skiing and snowboarding competitions and clinics
  • broomball
  • Mardi Gras celebration
  • yoga with live music
  • snowshoe race.
For more information, visit http://www.playwinterpark.com/wpwintercarnival.html.

Why We Love these Annual Colorado Winter Festivals

Now that you have all of the details, what is the overriding theme of all of these events? They are incredibly fun!!

While all of the usual holiday festivities are enjoyable and entertaining, these annual Colorado winter festivals uniquely celebrate winter and the Colorado outdoor lifestyle. They exemplify the true enjoyment of visiting and living in the magnificent mountains of Colorado.

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