5 of the Best Winter Festivals in U.S. Ski Areas

winterSnowsports lovers rejoice! The season of winter festivals is coming around again. If you like to bundle up tight and get outside in the crisp air and new-fallen snow, we’ve got five of the best winter festivals in the U.S. for you to try. And as a bonus, all five are held in favorite ski towns, so pack your skis or snowboard and plan your winter getaway around one of these winter festivals.

Wintersköl – Aspen, Colorado | January 9 – 12, 2020

winter festivals

Fireworks over Aspen are even more special in winter. Photo credit Aspen Fat Bikes

The 2020 edition of Wintersköl will be the 69th annual “toast to winter” in the laid-back ski mecca of Aspen where it’s commonplace for celebrities to play side-by-side with locals and visitors. Wintersköl celebrates all the winter activities that make Aspen so popular, featuring a snow sculpting contest, a torchlight descent of Aspen Mountain, and plenty of après ski parties. Onlookers can cheer on a fat bike race on the snow, a canine fashion show, and evening fireworks.

Stowe Winter Carnival – Stowe, Vermont | January 23 – 26, 2020

winter festivals

The professional ice carvings at Stowe Winter Carnival is amazing! Photo credit Huntly Armbruster

Stowe and its mountain, Mount Mansfield, make up one of the oldest established ski areas in Vermont. The 2020 winter season brings the 46th annual Stowe Winter Carnival to highlight this New England winter wonderland. The carnival offers young and old, tourists and locals over 20 major attractions. Watch as professional ice carvers create their masterpieces throughout the village in a NICA sanctioned Ice Carving Competition. You can participate in crazy sports like a Snowvolleyball Tournament and the Snowgolf Competition, or join in a pickup ice hockey game. Suss downhill or glide cross-country at your own pace or in organized ski races.

Steamboat Winter Carnival – Steamboat Springs, Colorado | Feb 5 – 9, 2020

This is the oldest continuous winter festival west of the Mississippi. It began during the turn of the 20th century to help residents assuage winter cabin fever. Now it has become a celebration of winter, as well as western culture. In addition to the expected skiing and snowboarding events, horses play a role as they pull adults on shovels and kids on skis down a snowy main street. During the Night Extravaganza, Winter Sports Club skiers show off their ski-acrobatic skills while outlined in glowing lights. Everyone’s favorite, the Lighted Man descends last, covered in lights and shooting roman candles from his backpack as a precursor to the fireworks show to come.

Polar Fest – Detroit Lakes, Minnesota | February 6 – 17, 2020

winter festivals

Polar Pete participates in many Polar Fest events. Photo credit: Polar Fest

Everyone knows those hearty Minnesotans embrace the cold like polar bears, so their Polar Fest slogan “Get outside and find your fun!” shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Polar Fest lasts 11 days so you can fully participate. Outdoor activities include the Poles ‘n Holes Fishing Derby – ice fishing, naturally – and a Polar Fest Plunge into Little Detroit Lake. You can ski and snowboard with Polar Pete (the bear) at Detroit Mountain, join the Polarpalooza Tube Race, or take a full-moon Nordic ski. You might also try ice tee golfing or admire vintage snowmobiles. Top it all off with the 5K Freeze Your Buns Run before the famous frozen fireworks and the Polaritaville Dance.

Tahoe Snowfest! – North Lake Tahoe, California | February 28 – March 8, 2020

Lake Tahoe

Tahoe has great skiing into March so Snowfest! is a late-season winter festival.

Tahoe Snowfest began as an effort in the early 80s to bring skiers to the area later in the season. After February each year, the winter sports visitors dwindled, but the High Sierra still has an incredible snowpack into March with great weather and excellent skiing. This winter festival came to life as part winter celebration and part Mardi Gras with up to 100 events throughout the area. Today there are ski races, a torchlight parade, concerts, a laser show and fireworks, a luau, a Mardi Gras party, ice carving, a polar bear swim, and the Tahoe Donner Ididarun. Many of the activities provide fundraising for area non-profit groups.

All of these fun winter festivals celebrate their local snow-loving culture and the activities that cold temperatures make possible. Thankfully, sipping a steaming mug of hot chocolate is also one of those activities! If you are hearty enough to play with these natives, contact a Covington vacation specialist to make it happen this winter.

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