The winter event season kicks off in a big way this week with shindigs in every major town: Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Bigfork.
From there, the events keep rolling in through February. Below is a sampling of the valley’s many can’t-miss winter offerings. Be sure to visit www.flatheadevents.net for daily updates on events throughout the valley.
Downtown Kalispell Art Walk and Holiday Stroll
Dec. 6, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Enjoy Kalispell’s festive downtown with an evening of shopping at local businesses, food, refreshments and plenty of community camaraderie. Knock a few checkmarks off your holiday gift list, check out local artists’ work and grab a bite to eat at one of downtown’s fine restaurants. You can also enter to win one of several $100 gift certificates to use at participating locations.
Whitefish Christmas Stroll
Dec. 6, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
This big annual gathering has a full lineup of events and showcases all evening, including wagon rides, chestnut roasting, family holiday photos, fire pits, food and crafts vendors, face painting, a bounce house, window-decorating contest displays, fire dancers, photos with Santa, a tree lighting and much more. The shoppers’ drawing is expected to run from 8:05 to 9 p.m.
Columbia Falls Night of Lights
Dec. 6, 4 p.m.
For more than 30 years, local residents, businesses, organizations, and community groups have showed off their Christmas spirit at this annual event, 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. There will be music, fun and shopping. Festivities, including a visit from Santa, continue at The Coop after the parade.
Bigfork Holiday Parade of Lights
Dec. 7, 6 p.m.
This event is held the first Saturday of December every year and is an ideal outing for all ages. It’s also a great way to support local businesses. The parade starts on Grand and Electric avenues. After it wraps up at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts, Santa will be available for pictures until 8 p.m.
Skijoring at Rebecca Farm
This skijoring competition — during which a skier is pulled by a horse around a course featuring jumps — is held at the internationally known Rebecca Farm equestrian facility west of Kalispell. Event organizers are seeking volunteers.
Trio of Torchlight Parades
Whitefish Mountain Resort, Dec. 24, Dec. 31 and Feb. 15
The Christmas Eve parade and gift-giving event starts at 6 p.m., with Santa handing out presents to kids and the torchlight parade descending from the top of Chair 2. The New Year’s Eve event, the best known of the three, includes a rail jam with 60 skiers hitting rails and boxes on a custom-built venue. The event begins at 5:15 p.m., with the parade and fireworks kicking off at 6:30. The Presidents’ Day weekend event starts at 6:45 and features a torchlight parade, fireworks and live music.
Polar Bear Plunge
Woods Bay, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Celebrate the New Year with a chilly but invigorating dip in Flathead Lake. The 26th annual event is hosted by The Raven and features costumes, a chili feed and warm beverages. Spectators are welcomed. The Raven open at 10 a.m. for registration and drinks, the plunge happens at 2 p.m. and an after party across the street at Montana Bonfire will cap the day off.
Frosty the Brewfest
Downtown Kalispell, Jan. 18, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural event, which drew 1,000 people, founder Gabe Mariman of Bias Brewing is once again organizing this winter festival. There will be heated covered tent areas, food trucks, fat bike races, free ski and snowboard waxing, live music and kids activities such as a snowman-building contest and a gear dash. In addition to local beer on tap, hot non-alcoholic beverages such as ciders and cocoa will also be available. The event raises money for local nonprofits.
For more information, email Gabe Mariman at email@example.com.
Whitefish Winter Carnival LIX
The winter carnival is one of Whitefish’s longest-running winter traditions, bringing locals and visitors together in the streets to spice up the late-winter lull with parties, kings and queens, yetis, penguins, parades, and raucous fun for the whole family. The theme this year is The Roaring 2020s. Though the festival officially kicks off with the Merry Maker on Jan. 11 and features earlier events such as skijoring and a disco party, the main events run from Feb. 7-9.
Cabin Fever Days
Bad Rock Canyon, Feb. 14-16
Now in its 42nd year, Cabin Fever Days once again offers the residents of Bad Rock Canyon and beyond an opportunity to ward off cabin fever with a lineup of 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.