10 Cool Snow Festivals to Keep You Warm This WinterArticle by: Lauren Jahoda|@jahodarose
Fri December 01, 2017 | 17:00 PM
We’ve found that our 10 best winter festivals tend to run longer than their summer siblings. They range from an average of two or three days, to as long as two months – after all, in most regions, winter is longer than summer, and passes by ever so slowly. Since it’s not your average “festival season,” winter fests are relieved of the peak-season festival competition of the summer months, and promise fun during a season which for some, has a not-so-fun rep. But fret not. These festivals will actually cure your winter blues.
Banff National Park had its highest number of visitors in 15 years this year with an astounding 3.6 million. Of course, its highest monthly counts land in the bustling summer months, but for the past three years, January in Banff offers one event that you won’t find during any other month: SnowDays. The festival is all about celebrating winter, including the scenery, weather, sports, ice carving, ice climbing and entertainment.
The Budapest Christmas Fair entails a hearty blend of shopping and partying...hey, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Much like your annual family celebration, this festival is a Christmas gathering...only much bigger. The fest includes over two stages of performances all day and night, 150 booths of arts and crafts, delicious food and drinks, and every inch is decked with Christmas lights. At sundown, the festivities shift from kid-focused to more grown up, with Hungarian folk dancing, drinking, and music throughout the street.
China’s Harbin Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival is all about the art, all of which is created with ice from the Songhua River. In exchange for spectacular art that will inevitably not last – due to its thaw-inspiring medium – is an extra-long festival to experience the astounding creations...two months long, to be exact. Each year, in just half a month, 15,000 people carve more than 4 million cubic feet of ice, and throughout January and February, 800,000 visitors arrive to admire these ephemeral beauties.
The Quebec Winter Carnival is named the largest winter carnival in the world. Some form of this celebration has been occurring in Quebec since 1894 – however it wasn’t official until 1955. Bonhomme, an ever-smiling snowman with a red cap and a gorgeous sash, is the festival’s mascot and is the main attraction, especially among children. As of the first day of each carnival, Bonhomme is handed the key to city and rules until Lent. The carnival’s festivities include dogsled and canoe racing, night parades, snow sculptures, and a snow bath.
This ten-day winter festival began in 1975 when Queenstown, New Zealand locals thought the onset of the winter season was the perfect reason to celebrate – and they were right. Queenstown Winter Festival has been a success since day one, and is now draws 45,000 fest-goers each year. The 60+ festival events include a free kick-off firework party, winter sports (skiing, snowboarding, hockey), mountain bikes on snow, cross-dressing events, a dog derby, a birdman contest and, of course, Mountain Mayhem. Mountain Mayhem includes participants sliding downhill on suitcases while in funky costumes, competing for one of two possible wins: first place in the race or best dressed.
When the Sapporo Snow Festival began 50-plus years ago, it included only a handful of snow statues, which were built by students in Odori Park. It later grew with the participation of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Sapporo, known for its heavy snowfalls and pristine skiing and snowboarding landscapes, became the host to the 1972 Winter Olympics. This exposure shined a light on the Japanese festival, which now averages about two million visitors per year with approximately 400 ice and snow sculptures across a twelve-block stretch of where it all began – Odori Park. Two years ago, the festival debuted an epic Star Wars ice sculpture. Last year, even more pop culture figures popped up at the fest, like Final Fantasy characters and the PPAP guy.
Snowbombing is unpredictable, in the best possible way. The possibilities are endless, from igloo parties, to back-country lumberjack parties and forest raves, to its eclectic, high-altitude venues, such as The Racket Club (an underground tennis center), The Podcast Pyramid and more, where the fest showcases a lineup of over 100 artists from around the world (Claude VonStroke, Skrillex, Disclosure and many more big names have played). This Austrian festival, which has been around since 2000 and is one of the first of its kind, also comes with a mid-afternoon offbeat dress-up street party, Ride & Seek, Snowbombing’s three-day ski and snowboarding competition, and an indoor pool party that gets pretty wild.
Why spend another year wondering which mediocre New Year’s Eve party you are going overspend on, when Lake Tahoe is the scene of a dance music festival/ski & snowboard adventure/NYE party that clearly outshines all the rest? Who needs to be indoors watching the ball drop, when all you need is outdoor mountain air and the body warmth of your fellow dancing SnowGlobers and enough fireworks to forget the glow of Times Square year after year? The Lake Tahoe locals saying is “Sleep is for the weak,” and there’s no better time to prove it than the final two days of the year.
Though formally known as Fur Rendezvous, this Alaskan festival is more commonly known as Fur Rondy, or, better yet, just "Rondy.” In 1935, Rondy’s founding father, Vern Johnson, and some of his friends produced the inaugural three-day festival during a time in February when miners and trappers flocked to Anchorage. Nearly all of Anchorage (approximately 3,000 at the time) participated in the events, which featured sled dog races, skiing, hockey, basketball and boxing. Now, Rondy lasts ten days and the events include a blanket toss, cornhole championship, frostbite foot race and costume run, an outhouse race, a running of the reindeer, snow sculpture competition, a Miners and Trappers Ball, as well as some of the festival’s original celebrations.
Bansko, Bulgaria’s, Horizon Festival promotes itself as “Europe’s Greatest Ski Party,” and our research shows that the festival appears to be just that. 2017 was its fifth year of six days and five nights in March and April of “snow based action, affordable booze and grub, and an epic list of club events and raves." The festival’s turf, Bansko Ski Resort, is the largest ski resort in Bulgaria and the area of Bansko offers a gateway to Pirin National Park, in case Horizon’s attendees need to detox and explore beyond festival boundaries.