Nobody moves to southwest Montana looking for balmy beaches. The choice to live here is a choice to embrace the long winters that come with the territory. June snowstorms aren’t out of the question, nor is ice-fishing in November.
Not surprisingly, folks in southwest Montana know how to find fun in the deep of winter. Here are some upcoming events in the region that offer great visitor appeal while giving locals a chance to shake off their cabin fever.
Witness Ski Jumpers... on Main Street?
For those who have never heard of ski-joring, imagine taking the best parts of water skiing and horse racing, and then putting it on Main Street in one of southwest Montana’s quaintest towns. That’s the scene you will experience at the Big Hole Valley Winterfest, a heartwarming hootenanny in one of the continental United States’ perennially coldest locales.
For the ski-joring competition, skiiers towed by rope behind galloping horses race down Main Street through eight gates and over three jumps. The adrenaline-charged race highlights two days of events that also include dog races and other family fun. Winterfest takes place March 2-3 in the town of Wisdom. For information, visit BigHoleValley.com.
Sail on the Ice
Over the past three decades, Canyon Ferry Reservoir has become a regional epicenter of ice boating, an adrenaline-charged sport that’s half sailing, half ice-skating. Every weekend from late December into March, the frozen lake just east of Helena draws hoards of avid iceboaters, many of whom are happy to take first-timers out for a high-speed trip across the ice in their sleek, outrigger-style boats. Thanks to reliably steady winds, hard freezes and scant snow, the lake is known to aficionados as one of the fastest and most scenic iceboating spots in the world. More information at montanakitesports.com/ice.
Experience Irish Culture, Montana Style
For one day every year, the town of Butte becomes the “Fifth Province” of Ireland. That day, of course, is St. Patrick’s Day, which this year lands on a Sunday—making a fun weekend getaway even easier for those who would like to experience one of the most authentic celebrations of Irish culture in America.
Butte’s deep connection to the culture of Ireland dates back to its time as a mining town populated largely by Irish laborers. The mines may not be as busy as they once were, but the culture remains central to this historic town. For proof, join the tens of thousands of visitors on March 17 for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and other activities throughout Butte’s historic Uptown district.
Visit southwestmt.com for more information and ideas on kicking cabin fever this winter.
Photos of Butte courtesy Donnie Sexton at Travel Montana.
Photo of ice boating courtesy Montana Office of Tourism.