7 Must-Visit North American Winter Festivals for 2019

Event Coverage Travel By Kühl Editor

Hibernate. KÜHL people don't. Winter is when we pull out our down parkas, fill our travel mugs with hot cider, and head to the snow when everyone else seems to be headed south. Sometimes, we want to go where there's solitude: a Nordic skiing trail, a cozy cabin on a remote mountain, or even a climbing ascent up a frozen waterfall. Other times? We want to commune with people like us, who revel in winter for winter's sake.

Find your kindred spirits at one of these perennial cold weather events, which we've hand-picked for those who want a little more adventure than the typical downtown sleigh ride and pop-up ice-skating rink.

January 24 - 27: 24th Annual Ouray Ice Festival, Ouray, CO

Did we say ice climbing was a relatively solitary sport? Instead of taking one buddy, why not join thousands at Ouray Ice Park. Stay on the sidelines to watch world-class ice climbers do their thing, or throw on the crampons and participate in one of over 100 multi-skill climbing clinics. The big names in climbing equipment will be there to offer gear demos and presentations, likely with some good deals in case you catch the bug.

Need to thaw out? There's music, food, and dancing, and both live and silent auctions to help raise funds for the ice park's day-to-day operations. There are also hot springs, essential after a technical climb or night on the dance floor. Elsewhere around Ouray, which lies in southwest Colorado, is cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling... and that's just the winter lineup.

Man dressed in KUHL clothing riding a horse in winter.

January 26 & 29: Ski Joring World Invitational, Whitefish, MT

What started as a dare in the 1960s immediately became a crowd-drawing Whitefish tradition: cowboys pulling snow skiers, at breakneck speeds, through a course of death-defying jumps. Now, this highlight of the Whitefish Winter Carnival is the crown jewel of international horse ski joring competitions, staged at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Once the mud's settled, do some skiing of your own (gravity-powered, of course) or drive 25 miles to visit Glacier National Park for a guided snowshoe walk. Or just explore Whitefish's galleries (we love art), restaurants, and bars. Don't forget to layer your clothing to be ready for any adventure, since Whitefish's really does warm up at night.

An image of Bogus Basin in Idaho, USA. A hill covered in snow with pine trees.

February 1 - 3: Idaho Fire & Ice Winterfest, Lava Hot Springs, ID

"Just over 2 hours north of Salt Lake City" is this tiny town's tagline, but Lava Hot Springs is a stand-alone destination in its own right every February. The Idaho Fire & Ice Winterfest is a great winter event for families, with activities for all age groups. Winterfest highlights include the "Running of the Bulls," in which you can strip down to your bathing suits for a run down Main Street to Lava's World Famous Hot Pools.

If that's not chilly enough for you, grab a costume and an inflatable and join the Polar Float Parade down the icy Portneuf River. Once you've dried off, warmed up, and checked out of the ER, go back outside for the Torch Light Parade, in which skiers carry fire down the sides of nearby "L" Mountain while fire performers offer up-close and personal entertainment.

February 6 - 10: Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, Steamboat Springs, CO

Didn't get enough ski joring back in Whitefish? You'll get to see plenty more this weekend, but the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival isn't just for spectators; anytime an event website mentions signing liability waivers more than three times on its schedule, well, you know it's for the KÜHL crowd. There are downhill and Nordic obstacle races, ski jumping clinics, snow slalom mountain biking races, street events, parades, and a breathtaking light show featuring wired-up (electronically, that is) stunt skiers, pyrotechnics, and synchronized music. Oh... and the pancake breakfast fundraiser? It's a must.

Steamboat Springs never needs a festival to be a winter destination, but if you only go there once in your life, go now.

Carnaval de Québec and people making igloos out of snow.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

February 8 - 17 Carnaval de Québec: Québec City, QC

You'll find ice carving and snow sculpting festivals all around the northern U.S., but you might have to grab a passport and brush up on your French to experience the end-all, be-all celebration of meltable art. Also called the "Québec Winter Carnival", it's the largest winter celebration in the world, drawing visitors from around the globe to learn about Canada's pioneer culture and modern innovations.

The parades are amazing spectacles of art, robotics, and human movement. There are lumberjack events. There's mechanical moose riding. There are canoe races on the icy, snowy Saint Lawrence River. There's a LOT of beer. And, as with most international events, there's a cute—if slightly creepy—mascot soliciting hugs and selfie ops.

The festival's centerpiece, Bonhomme's Ice Palace, is more than the average ice sculpture; in 2018, it was made from 1800 blocks of ice, with each block weighing in a just shy of 300 lbs apiece. If that's not enough, a sequenced light and music show turns the setting into a raucous dance party.

Here's a crowd-beating lead worth following: The festival coordinators really push the convenience of VIP packages, mentioning "bar service" several times in their promosO Canada!

February 22 - March 3: Fur Rondy, Anchorage, AK

Winter in Alaska? Are you serious? Yes we are, because the Fur Rendezvous is serious fun. Every year since 1935, Alaskans have honored their rough and rowdy heritage with sled dog races and mushing demonstrations, a beer festival, professional ice-skating (not rowdy? Haven't you seen "I, Tonya?"), the Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship, and the Jim Beam Jam. The overall theme of the Fur Rondy is somewhat off-beat, but as they say in Alaska, "the odds are good, but the goods are odd."

All of Anchorage celebrates during Fur Rondy week, with microbrews, restaurants, and shops catering to international travelers here to brave the Last Frontier. We can't resist saying that our Women's ARKTIK™ down parka was made for Fur Rondy... or anyplace where rugged beauty is celebrated.


March 8 - 10: Frozen Dead Guy Days, Nederland, CO

Winter eventually melts away, but with any luck (and copious amounts of dry ice) Bredo Morstol never will. Kept frozen since his death in 1989, Morstol awaits scientific advancements that will revive him; in the meantime, residents of Nederland, Colorado await the 18th Annual Frozen Dead Guy Days.

Nederland's motto is "Life is Better Up Here!" which is slightly amusing given that Morstol's home-made, cryogenic coffin is housed in a Tuff Shed high on a mountain. But for those who gravitate toward the region to kayak, mountain bike, ski, or climb, there's a consensus that this is the place to be, even when the zombie hoa—we mean, the festival goers—have moved on.

Southwest of Boulder on the Barker Meadow Reservoir, this small town festival hosts 30 live bands, a polar plunge, coffin races and "human foosball." Costumes (corpse-themed, of course) are all but required, and so are waivers which, we'll say once again, always mean good times are ahead.

OK, well, almost always. Maybe you'll want to bring along your own supply of dry ice, just to be safe.

Post Your Bear Den on Airbnb. Get Out and Celebrate Winter with KÜHL.

It's our favorite time of year, right up there with spring, summer, and fall. Our durable, fashionable, and functional winter clothing make you want to say "hell yeah" when someone raises the road-trip war cry. So get those snow tires installed, pack your bags, and hit the highway. The white stuff's on its way. Are you ready?

People dressed in KUHL clothing walk down the street in winter.
Kühl Editor