Ski resorts know how to have a good time — après-ski drink specials, anyone? More significantly, many ski areas across the U.S. West hold special annual celebrations that provide a ton of entertainment for locals and visitors. Whether you want to participate in zany games, parades or athletic contests — or just watch the antics — consider checking out these quirky ski resort events:
Breckenridge, Colorado – Ullr Fest, January 6-12, 2013: This zany week-long celebration is a tribute to of Ullr (pronounced Ooh-ler), the mythical Norse god of snow. Skiers and snowboarders dress in crazy costumes for the famous (infamous?) Main Street parade and the Ullympics are a hilarious sight. Plus, there’s often a bizarre Ullr Dating Game, family ice skating party and other hilarity on tap. Ullr Fest celebrates its 50th anniversary this year!
Winter Park, Colorado – SnowDash, January 26: Are you familiar with those warrior running races that take place in the mud? Well, the SnowDash happens in the snow at more than 9,000 feet in elevation. Organizers promise an exciting obstacle course complete with snow, music, beer and plenty of cheer.
Winter Park, Colorado – Winter Park Wipe Out, April 6: This new adventure challenge race will have participants running around town, completing tasks and challenges like puzzle solving, clue finding and obstacle tackling. Each completed task earns a string of beads. Those who collect enough beads are able to “buy” their way back to the WipeOut Zone in a local park, where live music and beer await. My favorite warning: “Goggles and helmet strongly recommended for the WipeOut Zone, flying objects are likely.” What does that mean? Whatever it is, sounds like so much fun!
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California – Pain McShlonkey Classic, March 29-30: This wonky weekend is a tribute to legendary skier Shane McConkey. Competitions include the Extreme Small Mountain Invitational, Chinese Downhill and a costume contest. Last year, the Red Bull Air Force kicked off the weekend, with notable athletes skydiving into The Village at Squaw Valley.
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California – Retro Ski Day, April 6: Break out the rear entry boots, all the neon you can find, and your favorite striped sweater for Squaw’s annual ode to its roots, complete with some of the original hot doggers. After a colorful ski day, hit the base bar for live music.
Aspen, Colorado – Soupsköl, January 11: Wintersköl is Aspen’s annual “toast to winter,” but Soupsköl is a highly entertaining festival within a festival! This soup-cooking contest is judged by the public to determine which restaurant has the best soup in town. Just head downtown to Hunter and Cooper streets to sample some free soup and cast your vote!
Crested Butte, Colorado – Alley Loop, February 2: This is not only the highest-altitude Nordic marathon in the United States, it probably is the most exuberant with participants donning costumes for the various course lengths (1.5K, 3K, 5K, 10K, 21K and 42K). Imagine skiers’ crazy get-ups like a pack of fairies, a pirate family, Mrs. Potato Head, a pair of aquariums, the alley cats, balloon man and three skiers hooked together as a caterpillar. The cheering is mighty with viewers ringing cowbells all along the race sidelines.
What other quirky ski resort celebrations take place in the West — or anywhere else in the world, for that matter? Let me know in the comments!
This post was written in conjunction with my relationship with Mountain Reservations as one of its Mountain Ambassadors.