Partygoers load up their ski shot glasses to attempt to break an unofficial world record on main st. during the 56th annual Ullr Fest in Breckenridge on Jan. 10. The festival features an unofficial ski shot world challenge, where drinkers try to beat last year’s challenge of 1266 shots with 1266 people on 422 skis spanning 2,128.3 feet along Main St. (Andy Cross,The Denver Post)
With outdoor temps plunging and snowflakes floating from the sky, it often feels like winter is best enjoyed from the comforts of the great indoors.
Thankfully, Colorado boasts a bevy of winter festivals to draw you outside in celebration of all things winter. It doesn’t matter if you prefer skiing cowboys or sipping coffee; there is something for everyone on this list. Winter is here!
When: Dec. 11-15
Fill the streets of Breckenridge with thousands of visitors decked out in Viking hats. Why not? This year’s event celebrates 57 years of winter partying, and includes highlights such as the Ullr Ice Plunge and the Ullr parade, where participants are pulled down the street in hot tubs or ski off jumps from floats. For many, the climax happens Dec. 12 when the town hopes to draw 1,320 people (or more) to steal back the world record for the largest shot ski.
When: Jan. 9-12
In its 68th year, Wintersköl celebrates everything special about life in the Roaring Fork Valley. Events happen across town and all four ski hills — snow sculptures, fat biking, fireworks, ice skating, torchlight parade, and even a canine fashion show. History buffs will enjoy the nods to local lore, like last year’s History Ski Tour and Aspen History 101.
Ouray Ice Festival
When: Jan. 23-26
Visitors descend on Ouray Ice Park for this three-day (and four-night) celebration of all things ice climbing. Seminars and clinics are available for those learning to climb vertical ice, as well as those honing their skills. Gear demos are a highlight for pros and novices, who enjoy examining the latest and greatest tech. On Saturday and Sunday, spectators line the walls of the ice park to watch two pro competitions: speed climbing and mixed climbing.
RELATED: 5 things you need to know if you ever visit Ouray Ice Park
Borealis Fat Bike World Championships
Where: Crested Butte
When: Jan. 24-26
Riding bikes is a Colorado pastime, but riding them in winter takes a special sort of dedication. The Fat Bike World Championships celebrates bikes and people who ride them regardless of terrain and weather conditions. The focus of the party is the actual race, held on two courses — 32.5 miles or 19.5 miles. Beyond the fat bikes, there is beer, live music, free bike demos, a bike polo tournament on Crested Butte’s main street and a group ride on Sunday.
Where: Pagosa Springs
When: Jan. 24-26
This festival includes classic winter fun — fat bike racing, cross-country skiing, costumed pet parade, Penguin Plunge in the San Juan River. However, this small town’s party sets itself apart with a few unique components. The Nordic Club hosts a BB gun biathlon on Sunday morning and on Saturday there’s not only a skijoring competition but Sledz on Rez, where participants race down Reservoir Hill on homemade sleds. For many, though, the highlight is the hot air balloon ascension each morning, when dozens of balloons take to the skies, creating quite the spectacle.
When: Jan. 29-Feb. 2
Durango is celebrating its 42nd Snowdown this season with an apt theme: rock ‘n’ roll. Originally designed as a cure for cabin fever, Snowdown has grown into a much-anticipated festival that makes the most of winter’s dark days. The theme changes every year but many of the events remain the same, such as the Parade of Lights, an adults-only fashion show, and beer dunks (think: bobbing for apples in brew).
Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival
Where: Steamboat Springs
When: Feb. 5-9
Winter Carnival celebrates Steamboat’s western heritage by incorporating it into practically everything over the four-day festival. The fun kicks off with nighttime ski jumping, snow sculptures, and dual slalom bike races. However, the big event happens over the weekend when the city trucks in more than 400 tons of snow to cover the main drag. A marching band on skis and horses towing kids down Main Street are just a few of the sights to behold.
Cripple Creek Ice Festival
Where: Cripple Creek
When: Feb. 8-16
Enjoy watching the meticulous transformation as talented sculptors turn blocks of ice into works of art. All ice carvings will be completed by Feb. 16, but visitors are welcome to enjoy the live bands and beer tent at any point during the festival and watch the artists as they work. During the evenings, lights illuminate the creations for a magical viewing experience.
Frozen Dead Guy Days
When: March 13-15
It could be argued that Dead Guys Days is the most bizarre festival in the Centennial State. Entering its 19th year, Frozen Dead Guy Days celebrates the life of Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, a Norwegian gentleman who died in 1989 and was subsequently packed in dry ice and shipped to California. From there, he was placed in liquid nitrogen for four years before heading to Nederland where family members stashed him away under cold cover in a Tuff Shed out back. Today, participants pay homage to this quirky story by enjoying polar plunges, coffin races, icy turkey bowling and frozen salmon tossing.
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