389 participants dressed up for 2012 and took the chilly plunge into Whitefish Lake
Whitefish, Mont. used to have a little known secret; it produced an incredibly impressive Winter Carnival. That secret, however, is now on the world’s stage after its ranking by National Geographic as one of the planet’s Top 10 Winter Carnivals. After experiencing it first hand, it’s easy to see why.
For the past 53 years the town of Whitefish, located about two hours south of Fernie B.C., has hosted a not-to be missed experience the first weekend of February.
The folklore of the fest goes something like this... Ullr, the snow god, took residence on Big Mountain many years back (home to Whitefish Mountain Resort). Aiding him were his Prime Minister & Queen, all working to ensure great winters with lots of snow.
However, up in the mountains also lived the Yetis (a fierce group of snowmen) who at any chance, would try to steal the Queen and put an end to their winter fun. Ullr wouldn’t have any of this and has for years purveyed over the community to keep its women safe and its ski slopes full of snow.
Every year the community throws a party in honour of Ullr and his court, a festival called the Whitefish Winter Carnival.
The Penguin Plunge kicks starts the annual Winter Carnival
The art of show and the level of detail in this festival is outstanding. My buddies, Curt and Paul, and I could only make it to a handful of the events, but for folks who are fans of winter this event will not set anyone wrong.
With events like the Penguin Plunge (389 participants all jumped in a hole cut in the lake and raised $55,000 for charity), the one-and-a-half-hour parade (with lots of candy for the kids), and a pie social complete with approximately 30 types of pies and a full pipe band.
Just to round things out is a beer barter, in which you’re asked the question, “What would you do for 52 weeks of free beer?” There's also a torchlight ski run, fireworks, a hockey tournament and so much more.
Pie anyone? Just one of a number of Whitefish Winter Carnival attractions
Lynsey Dyer, a pro-athlete whose skiing prowess was featured in Warren Miller’s Like There is No Tomorrow, grew up racing out of Montana. She was in town for the carnival and said to me, “There is a total sense of community here in Whitefish. This is just the way a ski town is supposed to be. Super soulful, a great community, and everyone knows how to have an awesome time.”
"This is the friendliest place I have ever lived. I have lived in 12 places in my lifetime all across the U.S., but this one has the most heart,” said Jean-Anne Swope, who we ran into during our time at the pie social. “This place has the most amazing community spirit. People volunteer for everything and are so happy.”
To get in on this happiness click the link, or have a go through the slideshow below from the weekend.
Warren Miller's newest film, Ticket To Ride, will be shown at the 2013 Backside Ski and Snowboard Film Fest. Check it out here.
National Geographic's Top 10 Winter Carnivals
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