CELEBRATE Whitefish Winter Carnival
The first weekend in February offers unique insight into the psyche of Whitefish by the time winter has had its grip on the Flathead for a few months.
Whitefish Winter Carnival is a delightful mix of cabin fever, myth and mirth, with the main weekend of events on Feb. 6-8. The festivities, which have been part of the winter culture in Whitefish for more than half a century, start about a month before the auspicious weekend, all geared toward three days of frivolity.
One of the most popular activities is the gut-clenching, breath-catching sport of skijoring, in which skiers are pulled around a track and over jumps by a rope connected to a horse. Sure, it sounds crazy, but that’s part of its appeal.
Other events include a themed parade, this year’s dedicated to celebrating veterans with “America the Beautiful,” kids’ activities, a Penguin Plunge into Whitefish Lake, coronations, and royal mischief.
The carnival’s origination myth includes Ullr, the Nordic god of snow, living on Big Mountain and deigning to visit the humans for a party. His lovely Queen of the Snows suffers constant pursuit from a band of yetis, who also like to harass carnival goers, though a valiant band of Valkyries do their damnedest to keep the yetis in line.
Sound intriguing yet? Good. Head to downtown Whitefish for the carnival and kick off some of the stir-crazy built up and socialize with other revelers – it’s all in good fun.
For scheduling information, visit www.whitefishwintercarnival.com.
EXPLORE Pond Hockey Classic
One of the valley’s latest signature events, the Montana Pond Hockey Classic, is a lively weekend festival devoted to celebrating the old-school nature of hockey. The second annual tournament is Feb. 20-22 on Foys Lake west of Kalispell. At last year’s inaugural event, 51 adult teams from across the U.S. and Canada converged on the frozen lake and enjoyed the rugged origins of hockey, playing atop natural ice in four-on-four games throughout the day. Spectators were treated with plenty of action, as they surely will be again this year.
Here’s how it works for those interested in playing: this is a four-on-four round robin tournament, played on an ice sheet 150-feet by 75-feet, or about 2/3 the size of a normal ice sheet. Games consist of two 15-minute halves with a two-minute break between halves. There are several men and women adult divisions, including 30 and older, 40 and older and 50 and older. For spectators, there’s plenty to enjoy, including food and drink vendors. For more information or to register, visit pondhockeyclassic.com.
LISTEN Glacier Symphony and Chorale
It’s easy to fall under the false assumption that because of the stunning scenery, the best the Flathead has to offer is all outdoors.
The Glacier Symphony and Chorale easily puts an end to that line of thinking with high-quality musical performances from local and guest musicians, all available on the valley’s stages.
Shows often combine various aspects of classical culture and sometimes interspersions of modern culture, making the music and the message accessible to the audience, no prior experience or PhD in music theory necessary.
For example, on Jan. 24 and 25, the symphony will tackle the venerable score from the 1920 silent film, “The Mark of Zorro.” While the film plays onscreen, the symphony will play the music live, bringing life to a familiar tale.
Following up in February, meet violinist David Halen, concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony and professor of strings at the University of Michigan, at a solo performance on the 19th before his Masterworks show, “Splendid Reveries,” on Feb. 21 and 22.
In March, the symphony and chorale will present another Masterworks concert, “Into Paradise,” featuring Faure’s “Requiem,” Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus,” and John Williams’ theme to “Schindler’s List,” among others.
Regardless of your history with classical music, these concerts are not to be missed; come in from the cold and give your brain and ears a treat.
For ticketing and scheduling information, head to www.gscmusic.org.
DISCOVER Flathead Lake Brewing Company
Flathead Lake Brewing Company started out with a brewery and small taproom in Woods Bay and quickly developed into a cherished destination for microbrew enthusiasts. It then opened a pubhouse in downtown Missoula, which is today a hugely popular three-story restaurant and bar.
Now it’s expanding once again, with its highly anticipated Bigfork pubhouse and brewery expected to open this winter.
The brewing company has been busy renovating the old bowling alley building on Holt Drive to house its Bigfork expansion. The brewery comes in response to growing demand for the company’s award-winning beer, while the pubhouse is an ambitious undertaking to provide a first-class dining and drinking experience in the Flathead.
The pubhouse is slated to have a main floor with a full retail shop, growler refill station, espresso machine and dining area with tables, TVs, a fireplace and views of Flathead Lake. A deck area will also boast a TV, fireplace and heaters.
Downstairs will be the entertainment floor, with shuffleboard, darts, golf simulators and a walk-up kitchen. Menus on each floor will feature foods made with fresh, local ingredients, including house-made pastas, soups, pizzas, BBQ, seafood, steaks, burgers, nachos, salads, wings and more.
For more information, visit www.flatheadlakebrewing.com.
KICK AND GLIDE Glacier Nordic Center
Likely the most popular groomed Nordic ski area in the Flathead Valley, the Glacier Nordic Center maintains 13 kilometers of impeccably groomed trails for both skate skiing and classic techniques, located at the Whitefish Lake Golf Club, just one mile west of downtown Whitefish on U.S. Highway 93 West.
Luminaries line 4 kilometers of trail for night skiing – all night, every night – affording skiers the cold, quiet comforts of kicking and gliding or diagonal striding along snow-covered trails in the crisp, crystalline winter darkness.
The trails meander along the 36-hole Whitefish Lake Golf Club, with loops located on both the north and south sides of the highway.
Ask an expert: Ron and Jan Brunk, owners of Glacier Cyclery and Nordic, are the go-to gurus for gear and information. Or stop in at their Nordic Shop, located at the club-house parking lot. It opens when the snow flies and grooming begins.
Need to know: No dogs. $8 per day, $55 for an individual pass and $110 for a family.
Info: glaciernordicclub.com or call Glacier Cyclery and Nordic at (406) 862-6446.
Other Nordic ski areas: Big Mountain, Stillwater Nordic, Round Meadows, Blacktail Mountain, Izaak Walton Inn, Flathead Valley Community College, Seeley Lake.