Colorado falls and winters are breathtaking which attracts many out-of-towners. Aspen trees turn from green to fiery oranges and yellows during fall, and snow blankets the mountains during winter. Many Coloradan towns are hosting winter carnivals and festivals between January and April, so now you might have a reason to escape the city for a weekend. The holidays are over but winter fun has just begun, so bundle up and find a winter festival/carnival you would like to attend.
Editor’s note: dates have been updated for the 2019-2020 season.
Ullr Fest in Breckenridge
When: December 13-15, 2019
Cost: Tickets are currently sold out, but there’s still a waitlist available to partake in the World Record Shotski that costs about $12.
The Lowdown: Ullr Fest pays homage to the Norse god of winter, Ullr. This festival has been going in Breckenridge for 56 years which explains why tickets sell out so fast. People who were able to snag a ticket before it sold can enjoy many activities, including the biggest bonfire in town to throw your Christmas tree in, thousands of people filling the streets for the Ullr Parade, the Ullr ice plunge that proves your dedication to the cold and witnessing the world’s longest shotski record. This festival is open to all ages, but you need to be over 21 to participate in the shotski event and bring valid ID along. Be sure to grab your viking helmet and rejoice in all things winter.
69th Annual Wintersköl in Aspen
When: January 9 – 12, 2020
Cost: Prices vary depending on the activity.
The Lowdown: This year is the 68th year of Aspen’s winter festival — Wintersköl — that celebrates all things winter. There will be a wide range of activities catering to all ages across town and all four of its mountains. Its biggest event and competition of the weekend is snow sculpting. Beginning on January 10, participants in this competition have 48 hours to sculpt a creative piece on the Aspen pedestrian mall. A few other events include a bonfire, a torchlight descent on Aspen Mountain that’s followed by a spectacular fireworks show. People can also bring their children to Snowmass Base Village for free ice skating and face painting.
Estes Park Winter Festival
When: January 18 – 19, 2020
Where: Estes Park
Cost: $5 – $30 depending on your age. Children under four get in for free. Check the site for detailed info.
The Lowdown: Visitors can explore many retail vendors and bask in a variety of food and drink options as they celebrate winter in Estes. There will be live music (line-up has not been announced yet) and an indoor ice skating rink, so people can skate around the rink while enjoying good music. People who are 21 years old or older will receive a free tasting class and get to enjoy free beer samples from local brewers. What makes this festival even better is that you can munch on free food from local food trucks as well. There will also be an outdoor area for people to try out the newest equipment in winter sports gear. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway in Estes, you can browse lodging options here.
Ouray Ice Festival at Ouray Ice Park
When: January 23 – 26, 2020
Where: Ouray Ice Park
Cost: Free. Only certain nightly activities and clinics will cost money.
The Lowdown: Everyone is welcome to this event, especially those who are ice climbers or wanting to learn more about it. Festival goers can climb with friends at the park, watch the different competitions and browse the vendors at this ice climbing mecca. Visitors can line up at the top of the Gorge to see the best ice and mixed climbing talent compete for prizes on January 26 and 27 and have the chance to try out the latest ice tools, apparels and gear from leading retailers. Interactive and educational clinics will also cater to all skill levels. The festival continues throughout the night with presentations by leading climbers, food, music, dance parties and silent auctions for the latest outdoor gear.
Rio Frio Ice Fest
When: January 24 – 26, 2020
Cost: Prices vary depending on the activity.
The Lowdown: The city of Alamosa is hosting its 10th annual Rio Frio Ice Fest, and it’s pirate-themed this year. The first event is Luminaria Cross Country Skiing and is on January 25 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Cattails Golf Course. Participants of this event will have to bring their own skis and enjoy cross-country skiing on groomed trails, and if snow is scarce, a hike will take place instead. There are many other events and activities taking place on January 26, including the Rio Frio 5k on Ice, ice carving, faux snowman building, a costume contest, grub & pub and a bonfire. There are only a couple events happening late morning on January 27 which include a fat tire bike race and a polar ice plunge. During the polar ice plunge, people will also get to go on an ice carousel.
When: January 24 – 26, 2020
Where: Pagosa Springs
Cost: Most events are free, but some have registration fees or ask for a small donation.
The Lowdown: Pagosa Springs is a sweet town that’s home to a hot springs resort. Not only does the town know how to pull off a great fall festival but a great winter festival as well. Festival-goers will get to enjoy two mass ascensions of hot air balloons in downtown and uptown. There’s also a fat tire race the whole family can participate in, and visitors will get to enjoy crepes throughout the race. Pets are welcome as well but be sure to dress them in costume to participate in the fourth annual Barkus Parade. A sled racing competition and polar plunge are just a couple more activities happening at Winterfest — to see other events and details, visit here. Keep in mind that all events are weather contingent.
Steamboat Winter Carnival
When: February 5 – 9, 2020
Where: Steamboat Springs
Cost: A $10 winter carnival button is required for entry and spectating at most events. The button also gives you free skiing at Howelson Hill for the weekend and a free lift ticket. Some events also require you to pay for a ticket or registration fee.
The Lowdown: Steamboat Springs’ winter celebration embraces its western heritage and its tradition of winter sports — making it one of the “oldest, continuous Winter Carnival west of the Mississippi,” according to their event on Facebook. There’s going to be numerous ski races throughout the weekend that cater to all ages, so make sure to bring your whole family’s gear. If you need to refuel, don’t worry because there are many food events happening through the weekend as well, including a s’mores party, Tito’s Mountain Soiree Party and Knights of Columbus Pancake Breakfast. It then ends with a night extravaganza on the last day where the Lighted Man shoots fireworks from his pyrotechnic suit.
Cripple Creek Ice Festival
When: February 8 – 16, 2020
Where: Cripple Creek, Colorado
Cost: Prices may vary depending on the activity.
The Lowdown: Cripple Creek’s Ice Festival has happened every year for the last 12 years, and this year’s theme is superheroes on ice. Past themes include mythological wonderland, story time, under the sea, a military salute carved in ice, a Rocky Mountain wonderland, the old west and safari. The festival will have a fun ice slide and ice maze and some interactive sculptures for festival-goers to climb on or take pictures with. If you’re hungry, street vendors are going to be available. It will also have an ice bar and liquor luge available to give you extra warmth.
Leadville Ski Joring and Crystal Carnival
When: March 6 – 8, 2020
Where: Leadville, Colorado
Cost: Some events are free and other prices vary based on the activity.
The Lowdown: Leadville’s biggest event at their winter carnival is a certain kind of skijoring where a skier holds onto ropes that are attached to a horse and is pulled down Harrison Avenue in Leadville’s downtown. Kids can also get involved with the excitement by skijoring with a snowmobile with their own gear. Some other events include Leadville Nordic Paintball Biathlon, downhill skiing, sledding and ice skating. Find more details on the events here.
Frozen Dead Guy Days
When: March 13 – 15, 2020
Where: Nederland, Colorado
Cost: Ticket prices may vary depending on the day and activities.
The Lowdown: Frozen Dead Guy Days has to be one of the most unique and quirky events in the nation since it pays homage to Bredo Morstol — a dead man who is completely frozen and housed in a shed high above Nederland on dry ice. They are going to have over 30 live bands (local and national) play throughout the weekend in three massive, heated tents. A Blue Ball with the Ice Queen and grandpa costume contest is going to occur as well. Many of the other activities include coffin racing, costumed polar plunge, parade of hearses, frozen t-shirt contests, ice turkey bowling, snowy human foosball, brain freeze contests, frozen salmon toss, ice sculpting contest, frozen dead poet slam, the newly dead game, “Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed” movie and silent disco.