Winter months provide the opportunity to enjoy festivals and gatherings that celebrate all things icy and cold. Here are five places where you can chill out with carvers, climbers, and history makers:
1. Ouray, Colo. - This southwestern Colorado mountain town, known for its picturesque jagged peaks, is home to one of the country's premiere ice festivals. Competitors of all levels, climbing companies and spectators gather for the event and the opportunity to demo the latest ice tools, apparel and gear. Family members can access dozens of interactive and educational climbing clinics through out the festival. For many, the highlight is watching the world's best ice and mixed climbing experts battle for the top prize. Jan. 18-21, 2018. www.OurayIcePark.com
2. Whitefish, Mont. - The Annual Whitefish Winter Carnival kicks off with the coronation of a king and queen, followed by a Penguin Plunge (a hole is cut into Whitefish Lake and participants take a dip to raise funds for charity). Visitors are welcomed by mountain men, penguins and Viking divas, otherwise known as the costume-clad volunteers who share stories and point the curious toward the old-fashioned Main Street parade, an ice sculpting contest, a kid's carnival, a pie social and a pancake breakfast. You can also expect a torch-light ski parade, ski-joring, cross-country ski races, and a figure skating demonstration. The festivities are open to the public and most are free. Feb. 2-4, 2018. www.whitefishwintercarnival.com.
3. Washington Crossing Re-enactment, Bucks County, Pa. - George Washington's daring 1776 Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River and defeat of the opposing troops in Trenton is considered an important turn of events in the Revolutionary War. This historic scene is reenacted twice during December, as thousands gather on the banks of the Delaware River to garner a glimpse of the past. Witness participants, clad in Continental military dress, listen to "George Washington's" inspiring speech, before he leads them across the icy river in replica Durham boats. Dec. 10 and 25, 2017. http://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/park/crossing-reenactment/
4. Stowe, Vt. - The Annual Stowe Winter Carnival, scheduled for Jan. 13-27, 2018, offers a seasonal wonderland of family fun. Expect kooky sporting events, ice carving competitions, ski movies, Kids Carnival Kaos and Snowgolf and Snowvolleyball tournaments. Tour the Northern Vermont town, while watching professional ice carvers manifest clever Ice creations throughout the village. The Vail Resorts Epic Pass now offers unlimited, unrestricted access to Stowe Mountain Resort for the 2017-2018 winter season. www.stowewintercarnival.com
5. Aspen, Colo. - With a nod to the town's Nordic heritage, local Aspenites began celebrating the popular winter festival, Winterskol in 1951. Surrounded by the peaks of the Elk Mountains, visitors celebrate the "toast to snow" with four days (Jan. 11-14, 2018) of festivities including a quirky canine fashion show, torchlight ski parades, a soup cook-off as well as broomball and fat biking competitions. Make time for downhill and cross-country skiing as well as shopping, dining and spa time. Contact: www.aspenchamber.org.
Lynn O'Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer.