Colorado is known for its summer festivals, with world-class events like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Boulder’s own Creek Festival and many more. But fun in the sun doesn’t end when the snow hits the ground. The winter may be colder, but that doesn’t mean that the action stops. Here are Spring Back to Vail Boulder Weekly’s picks for the best events to catch during Colorado’s second season.
Birds of Prey — Beaver Creek Cost: free Info: www.vail.com
Start your winter off with the only USA stop for the men of the “white circus.” Once again, Beaver Creek hosts the best ski racers in the world in early December as they compete on one of the most challenging slopes on the World Cup: the Birds of Prey downhill course. Americans have traditionally done well here, including Bode Miller, who won gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’ll be leading a Yankee charge that includes Marco Sullivan and 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety. The event kicks off with the Downhill, a high-speed test of cajones that’s followed up with a Super G race and then a Giant Slalom. Spectating is free, and so is the adrenaline.
White Christmas Ball — Boulder Cost: $30-$35 door ($5 senior discount) Info: www.1940sball.org
Sure to become a winter favorite, the premier edition of the White Christmas Ball features a 1940s-style bash that will bring back the warmth and nostalgia of a more simple time. Featuring topnotch entertainment from Dean Bushnell’s 12-Piece ’40s Dance Orchestra, world-famous Bing Crosby tribute artist Bob Pasch, aerialist Brandy Dew and more, you’re guaranteed to shake a leg. And, with organizers re-creating scenes from the classic movie White Christmas, you may also shed a tear or two. Best of all, you can have fun by doing good: Proceeds benefit The Wounded Warriors Project, The Spirit of Flight Center and Toys For Tots. Hosted by Dan Daru of Fox31 News and KUNC’s Wendy Wham.
New Year’s Eve — Monarch Ski Area Cost: $56 (cost of adult full day lift ticket, if you want to ski) Info: www.skimonarch.com
New Year’s Eve has aptly been termed “amateur’s night” by those who’ve watched over-eager partiers go a bit too deep. Avoid the kooks by heading down to Monarch Ski Area where you can participate in an actual torchlight parade on the mountain while ringing in the New Year. The evening will feature fireworks, drink specials in Monarch’s quaint bar at the base of the mountain and the opportunity to be part of the show rather than a mere spectator. Flasks of schnapps for those who participate in the parade are optional, but signing up with Monarch’s guest services prior to being in the parade is not.
January 6-9 Ouray Ice Festival — Ouray Cost: free Info: www.ourayicefestival.com If you like frozen waterfalls, buff men and women, and spectacular mountains (a perfect recipe for winter photography, see Page 25) you could do a lot worse than the 16th annual Ouray Ice Festival. While the focus is on the climbing, you can also catch a variety of legendary climbers give presentations. This year’s lineup includes Chad Peele, Canadian Barry Blanchard and Conrad Anker, who will also unveil his new fulllength film on the search for George Mallory’s remains on Mount Everest. The event also benefits the Ouray Ice Park and Ouray Volunteer Fire Department.
Telefest — Powderhorn Cost: $56 (adult lift ticket) Info: www.powderhorn.com Freeheel skiers of the world unite! Powderhorn’s Telefest is a celebration of skiing’s first turn and all the history behind it. Head west to this hidden ski area high on Grand Mesa outside of Grand Junction to indulge in all things tele: races, equipment and technique clinics, product demos, parties and costume contests. It’s a return to a simpler kind of skiing, and Powderhorn’s great snow and low-key vibe is just the place to experience it.
Winter X Games — Aspen Cost: free Info: www.aspensnowmass.com It’s hard to describe the mayhem, excitement and pure stoke that is the Winter X Games. For alternative sports, this is the Olympics, if the Olympics featured guys on snowmobiles doing massive backflips. With tons of live action, including some of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world, free live concerts with bands you’ve actually heard of and the charms of one of Colorado’s most picturesque and historic ski towns, you have a winter highlight. While the spectating is free, and you could camp in your car to save money, we suggest that if you want to catch this event, you go online and book a condo today, as last-minute lodging in Aspen during the games is impossible to find.
January 25 - February 6
Breckenridge Ice Carving Festival — Breckenridge Cost: free Info: www.townofbreckenridge.com
Twenty-one years old, the Breckenridge Ice Carving festival is anchored by the International Snow Sculpture Championships. Watch teams from around the world bring massive blocks of ice to life with an amazing combination of skill, creativity and frozen fingers. Artists sculpt from Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. until Saturday, Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. Judging is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29, and the awards ceremony is at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 30. Sculptures will remain standing, weather permitting, until the night of Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011. For the best viewing, go at night, when the artists are finished, and soak in the crystalline creations as they reflect the glow of Breck’s streetlights.
Monte Vista Crane Festival Cost: free Info: www.cranefest.com
Get in touch with your inner naturalist at the Monte Vista Crane Festival by viewing thousands of sandhill cranes. The sandhills have been spending their “spring break” outside the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge for thousands of years. They stop in Colorado to load up on fuel prior to heading to more northern climes for the summer. 20,000 or so greater sandhill cranes are joined by lesser sandhills, wintering bald eagles and other raptors that highlight the wildlife viewing. The festival hosts wildlife experts, local naturalists and biologists who present educational workshops. There are special tours featuring raptor identification, sunset trips to view cranes, and visits to closed areas of the refuge for Crane Fest participants.
April (dates to be announced)
Spring Back to Vail — Vail Cost: free Info: www.springbacktovail.com
Wrap up the winter season festival with Vail’s huge end-of-theseason bash, featuring nightly free concerts with top-shelf bands, street parties and packed bars and restaurants. And don’t miss the World Ponds Skimming Championships. The concerts are free, as is spectating at the Pond Skimming Championships, but given Vail’s propensity for great snow in April, you’ll want to show up with your Epic Pass in hand ($619) or plan on buying lift tickets ($70 at vail.com) to cure that hangover with a few turns and some fresh air on top of the mountain.