International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge (credit: CBS)
When people think of Colorado ski towns, they picture snow-capped mountains made up of powder and fun. Nearby Denver-area ski resorts Breckenridge, Vail, Winter Park and Steamboat Springs offer more than a smooth ski or ride down the hill. Along with some of the best skiing in the world, they host winter festivals that are an annual must see. Denverites know how to keep the fun going year-round.
2014 Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships
Dates: Jan. 21 through Feb. 2, 2014
Breckenridge knows how to show visitors a good time. Not only can this ski town boast some of the sweetest runs, but it also knows how to welcome visitors as friends. One of the highlights of the ski season will be the 24th annual Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships. Teams from countries such as France, Germany, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Russia and even Mongolia will turn giant blocks of snow into stunning sculptures. This free event will take place January 21 through February 2 and is a must-see festival for the entire family. Hotels and condo rentals are plentiful and ideal for a mountain getaway with plenty of amazing and fun restaurants in which to hang out such as famous Breckenridge Brewery and Angel’s Hollow.
Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival
Dates: Feb. 5-9, 2014
Steamboat Springs is worth the drive from Denver. The snow and amazing atmosphere makes for the perfect getaway. One must-do event is the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival. This charming town will celebrate its 101st winter carnival with ski-jumping competitions, dog-sled pulls, cross-country obstacle races, a tubing party and even fireworks. Visitors will help the town embrace its Colorado’s western heritage by highlighting its long tradition of winter sports. This will even include a lighted man at the Night Show Extravaganza whose battery-powered suit weighs 70 pounds. Be sure stop by the Strawberry Park Hot Springs to rejuvenate the soul at this rustic nature resort. Satisfy the taste buds with local favorite hangouts such as Sunpie’s Bistro, Mahogany Ridge Brewery and The Boathouse Pub.
Breckenridge ULLR Fest
Dates: Jan. 5-11, 2014
Not only is it one of the best ski resorts in Colorado, but Breckenridge attracts winter enthusiasts to celebrate Norse mythology as they dress up as Vikings for the Breckenridge ULLR Fest. There will be non-stop activities beginning with the crowning of the ULLR King and Queen and ending with a pond hockey tournament. Visitors to this festival will have the chance to witness and take part in Ullympic competitions such as a frying pan toss, group ski racing and a ski boot relay. Family Day is ideal for kids with Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, indoor activities and a family-friendly bonfire. For the adults, take part in the Guinness Book of World Records’ attempt for the longest “shot ski” provided by the Breckenridge Distillery. One of the best parts of the festivities will be to watch as people sacrifice their Christmas trees to flames during the Ullr Fest parade and town bonfire.
Winter Park Snowball Music Festival
Dates: March 7-9, 2014
Avoid the dreaded tunnel and jump off Highway 40 to Winter Park where the skiing is plentiful and the activities are amazing. The Snowball Music Festival will take place this March with live music, fireworks, a snow sculpture contest, sled races and more. Ski and ride the incredible terrain during the day and at night, rock out to fun music. Winter Park is so conveniently close to Denver that visitors can come up for just an evening of music. Last year’s festival lineup boasted well-known artists such as Pretty Lights and STS9. There are pubs and hangouts just feet from the lifts and downtown such as Deno’s Mountain Bistro, Freestyles Sports Bar and the Moffat Station Restaurant & Brewery.
Vail Film Festival
Dates: March 28-31, 2014
When skiers around the world think of Colorado powder, Vail is one of the first places that comes to mind. March is a big month for Colorado winter festivals and Vail’s 10th Annual Vail Film Festival will be a must see. The Vail Film Festival will include activities such as film screenings, panel discussions, live music, nightly galas and a filmmaker reception. Live it up like the movie stars do for a getaway of a lifetime. The Colorado Film Institute is a nonprofit that promotes independent cinema. This organization hosts the Vail Film Festival for days of creativity and fun. Vail has plenty of resorts and hotels to crash for the night and plenty of food and nightlife. Some of the delicious restaurants include Garfinkel’s, The 8150 and even the famous Turtle Bus Bar which is an actual moving bar.
Colleen Bement is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.