Image above appears courtesy: McCall Winter Carnival
If you’ve been feeling listless, bored, or maybe even a bit on edge, we’ve got the cure for your cabin fever – the McCall Winter Carnival! Every year during the last week of January, the authentic ski town of McCall celebrates all things winter. It’s the perfect excuse to combine a few days of skiing with a family fun winter vacation. So, grab your warmest coat and head off for some winter days full of cheer!
Roots Go Back To The 1st Ever Winter Olympics
The year is 1924. It’s the roaring 20’s and the first EVER Winter Olympics. From January 25th through February 5th in the sleepy village of Chamonix, over 258 athletes descend upon the town to compete. Around the same time thousands of miles west of Chamonix, a train from Boise whisked 248 visitors up to McCall for their own version of the Olympics – The Payette Lake Winter Games. The sports carnival existed for several years until it became an ice-breakup contest and ended in 1941. As years went by, visitors fondly remembered the events, and in 1965, the McCall Winter Carnival was born.
An Event That’s Grown To Over 60,000 Attendees
From its humble beginnings of a few hundred visitors, the popular nine-day extravaganza has catapulted McCall into the forefront with over 60,000 people attending. After so many years, this has become a tradition for countless generations.
5 McCall Winter Carnival Events To Check Out
Opening Ceremonies & Torchlight Parade
With a deep connection to the 1st winter Olympics, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the opening ceremonies are a must see. Kicking things off is the Children’s torchlight parade where kids in some-of-the-most festive Mardi Gras gear strut their stuff with McCall’s firemen through the center of downtown. That’s followed right after by a fireworks extravaganza over the frozen waters of Payette Lake at Depot Park.
Mardi Gras Parade
The parade fun continues on Saturday at noon with the popular Mardi Gras parade. A perfect family outing, expect to see uniquely themed and decorated floats cruise through the center of town. As the floats float by, be prepared to catch handfuls of candy and beads.
The Iditarod Of Idaho
Before motorized transportation, the primary mode of travel during the winter months was dog teams. That’s just how you got around. To honor this history, the Idaho Dog Sled Challenge was born. The challenge attracts some of the best in the world with the 300-mile premier event being a qualifier for both the Iditarod AND Yukon Quest races.
Monster Dog Pull
Another dog-gone fun event that’s a little less serious is the Monster Dog Pull put on by MCPAWS, the regional animal shelter. The event is just for fun so no experience is necessary for your pup to run a short track pulling a weighted sled. Registration is $15 per dog. To keep the competition fair, there are three weight classes and each class gets a prize.
The jewel on the crown of the McCall Winter Carnival is the snow sculpture contests. What many are unaware is that there are TWO snow sculpting events happening during the nine days. One is sponsored by local businesses where you’re allowed to use things like power tools and chicken wire to form your creations. These can be seen throughout town including on the slopes of Brundage Mountain. The other event and more challenging of the two is the Idaho State Snow Sculpting Championship. This is the one that artists from around the country come to duke it out. No power tools and no chicken wire are allowed. Think of it as the sculptor’s challenge. To see these sculptures, you’ll have to head to Depot Park.
This is just a small sample of all the fun things to do during the McCall Winter Carnival. From snowshoe golf at the McCall Golf Club to live music, sleigh rides and even fat biking on Nordic trails, the choices of unique winter fun will make sure your cabin fever is healed! If you want to learn more about how to get to McCall, where to stay, what to eat, and even tips on powder stashes be sure to read our 1st timer’s guide: McCall Idaho Travel Tips.