A New Generation of Cabin Fever Days

Led by a younger crop of organizers, the 42nd annual festival in Bad Rock Canyon will be held Feb. 14-16

By Maggie Dresser
Rick Houseal pushes Tom Boydsen during the Barstool Ski Races at the 37th annual Cabin Fever Days in Martin City on Feb. 14, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Over Presidents’ Day weekend, thousands of people from across the Flathead Valley and even Canada will flock to Bad Rock Canyon for barstool ski races, snowshoe softball and arm wrestling contests at the 42nd Cabin Fever Days.

The Trapline Association, which organizes the festival held on Feb. 14-16 this year, has been working in recent years to enhance the event with professional course groomers, live online brackets and a stronger emphasis on kids events to create a more family friendly atmosphere.

“We’re not going to reinvent this 40-year-old community tradition,” Trapline Association Board President Ben Shafer said. “We’re trying to make a few tweaks here and there to bring it into modern times.”

Last year, the Trapline Association used Cabin Fever Day funds to donate $6,000 to the Martin City Fire Department, the Canyon Quick Response Unit, the Canyon Cleanup Day, the Canyon Kids Christmas fund and the Sheriff’s Posse.

Cabin Fever Days funds have also benefited the Gateway to Glacier Trail bike path, which was completed in 2018, and Shafer says they are always looking for new causes to support.

A fifth-generation Hungry Horse native, Shafer has been involved with the festival on and off for more than two decades. He’s grown from bucking hay bales at the Barstool Ski Races in junior high to becoming the Trapline Association president 25 years later.

“As I started attending meetings about 10 years ago, the more I said and the more I showed up, the more tasks I was given,” he said.

While the Trapline Association has a solid group of 10 board members with around 40 additional volunteers, Shafer says it struggled to find enough organizers a few years ago as former volunteers began to phase out.

“There was a void to fill and my generation took a little bit longer to come around,” he said. “I have a really solid team now and it’s taken us a few years to rebuild from that generational transition.”

The traditional events will return this year with the popular Martin City barstool ski races, starting at the top of Sugar Hill. The races are separated into three categories, including steerable and non-steerable, and an open class that’s not confined to a barstool where competitors can use anything on skis. Each team consists of a rider and a pusher.

Shafer says, in years past, he’s seen an 8-foot beer bottle on skis and a UFO. The luge-style sleds where people can use their hands to steer are the fastest, he said.

There’s also a Best of Show contest, where the winner doesn’t necessarily need the fastest time but performs the best show heading down the hill. Shafer says every year a band performs on a few pallets attached to skis.

“We’ve had all kinds of sleds over the years,” Shafer said. “We had two guys in recliners with a car battery, a VCR and a TV, and they were drinking beer and watching football going down the hill.”

Other events over the weekend include arm wrestling, roshambo, pool and dart tournaments, snowshoe softball and chicken scat bingo.

Kids events at the Lietz Fire Hall include sled races, cakewalks, egg and spoon races, limbo contests and a balloon stomp. The kids pool will be at the Dew Drop.

Live music from The Hit Men, EMR Project, Roots Uprising and more will be at the Stonefly, Packers Roost and the Southfork Saloon all weekend. Other establishments hosting events include the Deerlick Saloon and the Dam Town Tavern.

A canyon shuttle service will operate from noon to 2 a.m. on Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday. A $5 entry button is required for all events and to ride the shuttle.

For more information, visit http://www.cabinfeverdays.com.


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