Can’t Miss Events: Winter 2018-2019

From Woods Bay to Martin City and everywhere in between, the Flathead Valley is flush with winter festivals and community events

By Myers Reece
The barstool ski races at the 40th annual Cabin Fever Days in Martin City. Beacon file photo

The Flathead Valley annually hosts a full slate of winter festivals and other community events, and will welcome another addition to the lineup in January with the launch of “Frosty the Brewfest” in downtown Kalispell.

Below is a guide to some of the can’t-miss happenings this winter. Be sure to visit www.flatheadevents.net for daily updates on events throughout the valley.

Bigfork Holiday Parade of Lights
Dec. 1, 6 p.m.

Held the first Saturday of December every year, this event is a great opportunity for all ages to ease into winter. Bring the kids to visit local businesses, grab a hot drink and enjoy the show. After the parade wraps up at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts, Santa will be available for pictures until 8 p.m. Cash prizes are awarded for best floats.


Downtown Kalispell Art Walk and Holiday Stroll
Dec. 7, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Meet up with your friends and family and come enjoy Kalispell’s festive downtown for an evening of great shopping, food, refreshments and holiday cheer. Peruse local artists’ creations while sipping on a craft brew, meeting local businesspeople and checking off your holiday gift list. You can also enter to win one of several $100 gift certificates to use at participating locations.


Whitefish Christmas Stroll
Dec. 7, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This eagerly anticipated annual event actually kicks off earlier than 5:30 with pet holiday photos at Tailwaggers beginning at 4 p.m. The stroll shuts down Central Avenue to car traffic for an evening of entertainment. This year’s event features wagon rides, chestnut roasting, family holiday photos, fire pits, food and crafts vendors, face painting, fire dancers, a shoppers’ drawing, a tree lighting at about 6:20 p.m. and much more.


Columbia Falls Night of Lights
Dec. 7, 4 p.m.

Gather in downtown Columbia Falls with residents, local businesses, organizations, and community groups as they celebrate their Christmas spirit during this annual fun-filled gathering, which kicks off with a craft fair at 4 p.m. The main event is the parade, with floats lining up at 5 p.m., judging at 5:30 and the parade itself at 6:30. Be sure to stick around until the end of the parade to see Santa and enjoy music at The Coop afterward.


Skijoring at Rebecca Farm
Dec. 29-30

Previously held in Lakeside, this skijoring competition — during which a skier is pulled by a horse around a course featuring jumps — is in its second year at the internationally known Rebecca Farm equestrian facility west of Kalispell.


New Year’s Eve Rail Jam and Torchlight Parade
Whitefish Mountain Resort, Dec. 31, 3 p.m. – midnight

Watch as up to 60 skiers and snowboarders hit the rails and boxes on a custom venue during the Rail Jam as they compete for a $1,000 cash purse. Following the jam, watch the torchlight parade down the mountain to celebrate the New Year, followed by fireworks. Round out the night with live music at Ed and Mully’s and the Bierstube.


Polar Bear Plunge
Woods Bay, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Celebrate the New Year with a brisk dip in Flathead Lake. The Raven makes this annual event as fun as it is freezing, with costumes, a chili feed and warm beverages. Onlookers are also invited, as not everyone needs to jump into the lake to have a good time. The plunge happens at 2 p.m. sharp.


Frosty the Brewfest
Downtown Kalispell, Jan. 19, noon to 6 p.m.

The first installment in what organizers say will be an annual affair, this event has dubbed itself the “Koolest Party in Kalispell.” Initiated by Bias Brewing, the winter festival has added a number of sponsors and participants from the downtown business community, including SunRift Beer Company, Kalispell Brewing Company, DeSoto Grill, Wheaton’s Cycle, Straight Blast Gym and Valley Bank. All proceeds from the event, which will be held in the Valley Bank parking lot on Third Street and First Avenue West, will go to the Kalispell Downtown Association and Flathead Community Foundation.

Smart Alex and Jameson and the Sordid Seeds will provide live music, while Bias, SunRift and Kalispell Brewing Co. are donating their beer to offer an extensive beer garden. There will be heated covered tent areas, food trucks, fat bike races and kids activities such as a snowman-building contest. The $20 entry fee gets attendees enameled camping mugs with the event logo and two drink tickets, with more drink tickets available for sale onsite. Hot non-alcoholic beverages such as ciders and cocoa will also be available.

“I envision this getting much bigger with larger spectator events being held and possibly multiple days in the future,” said organizer Gabe Mariman with Bias Brewing. “But really the focus is to bring people downtown for a winter festival, because that’s something they have in many communities and we’d really like to grow in downtown Kalispell for the community.”

Organizers are still ironing out details. For more information, call Bias Brewing at (406) 730-3020 and ask for Gabe Mariman or email Mariman at [email protected].

Whitefish Winter Carnival LIX
Feb. 1-3

The winter carnival is one of Whitefish’s longest-running winter traditions, bringing locals and visitors together in the streets to break up the seasonal monotony with parties, kings and queens, yetis, penguins, parades, and raucous fun for the whole family. Though the festival officially kicks off with the Merry Maker on Jan. 5 and features earlier events such as ski joring on Jan. 26-27, the main events run from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3.


Cabin Fever Days
Bad Rock Canyon, Feb. 8-10

For over 40 years, folks in Bad Rock Canyon have warded off cabin fever with a slate of creative and entertaining events wrapped into a weekend of fun, all while raising money for canyon community causes. The World Famous Barstool Ski Races in Martin City are the main event, but there are happenings in communities throughout the canyon all weekend, including lots of kids’ activities.