A version of this story appeared in the winter 2020 issue of Uncommon Path.
Yes, the days are short, and the weather may not be everyone’s ideal. But we still have some festive events and experiences to bring us together.
- Location: Bermuda
- Date: Jan. 17–19, 2020
Swap your parka for short sleeves, hop on a two-hour flight from many East Coast cities and compete in a half-marathon or marathon, plus a miler and 10K. (The “challenge” part is doing three races in three days.)
It took Leonard Mucheru, the Bermuda challenge 1-mile record holder, 242 seconds to finish.
- Location: Breckenridge, Colorado
- Date: Jan. 20–29, 2020
For elite teams, it takes around 96 hours of focused chipping and carving—without power tools—to create mind-boggling art from 20-ton blocks of Colorado snow. For spectators, it’s easier: Wander the Riverwalk Center, admire, then vote on your favorite.
“We drove 8 hours—from Wichita, Kansas—just to see the sculptures.” —fan Lori Ewert
- Location: Sandy Point State Park, Maryland
- Date: Jan. 23–25, 2020
January temps in Chesapeake Bay can dip below 40°F, which makes this plunge especially polar, but the sting is mellowed somewhat by sharing the experience with more than 10,000 others. (This is the largest of dozens of polar plunges in the U.S.)
“Just keep running. Don’tstop until you’re chest-deep.” —Maryland City Volunteer Fire Department member Jon Butler on his strategy for getting in the frigid water
- Location: Ouray, Colorado
- Date: Jan. 23–26, 2020
Welcoming novices and pros alike, the festival is on its 25th year. For climbers, the 100-plus mixed and ice routes in this narrow box canyon are like a glistening theme park. End your day with a soak in the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.
- Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
- Date: Jan. 23–Feb. 2, 2020
This festival has three diﬀerent components: the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which features ice palaces and snow mazes; the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships; and a popular urban loppet (a cross-country ski race).
- Location: Taos, New Mexico
- Date: Jan. 30–Feb. 2, 2020
A ski-in, ski-out lamb roast party is one element of a homegrown four-day event that includes dozens of featured wineries, wine-pairing dinners and seminars about champagne, caviar and blini.
- Location: Camden, Maine
- Date: Feb. 7–9, 2020
This competition takes sledding to the next level. The field—open to all—maxes out at 425 teams. The crowd of spectators tops 6,000. The chute is 440 feet long, and sleds can reach up to 40 mph, skimming an extra quarter mile on the runout across frozen Hosmer Pond.
- Location: Florida
- Date: Feb. 27–Mar. 1, 2020
Pile onto a bus with your teammates, disembark at a surprise starting line somewhere on the Gulf Coast of Florida and start strategizing: You and your team have to reach St. Augustine, on the east coast, in the shortest amount of time—usually around 72 hours—by paddling, trekking and biking to checkpoints along the way. Sharpen your skills before you go with kayaking clinics and navigation workshops at REI.
- Location: Brighton Ski Resort, Utah
- Date: Feb. 28–Mar. 1, 2020
With a slate of ski-mountaineering races—from the Viking division (14 and under) to Heavy Metal (five climbs, 6,200 feet, 10 miles)—the Powder Keg is one of North America’s premier backcountry events. Inspired by the racers and want to head oﬀ-piste? At an REI Backcountry Skiing: Beyond the Groomed class, you’ll get an introduction to backcountry-specific skills, equipment and safety.
- Location: Trenary, Michigan
- Date: Feb. 29, 2020
Tap into childhood soapbox-derby memories by making an outhouse from wood or cardboard. Or maybe out of tape and giant piano crates. This is your moment to attach that structure to skis and push it down Main Street in a race for cash prizes.
- Location: Red Lodge, Montana
- Date: Mar. 14–15, 2020
This Montana mountain town hosts a national ski-joring competition, where a horse and rider pull a skier at roughly 25 mph through more than 20 slalom gates and over four jumps. You also enjoy live music, a chili cook-oﬀ and more.
- Location: Squaw Valley, California
- Date: Mar. 27–29, 2020
Bluegrass and mountain towns go together like pizza and beer. At Squaw, expect lots of sun, spring skiing and musical acts such as the Devil Makes Three and the Infamous Stringdusters.
- Location: St. George, Utah
- Date: Multiple dates
Gooseberry Mesa and the Whole Guacamole Trail, on the doorstep of Zion National Park, are iconic singletrack destinations—all slickrock, sand, exposed hike-a-bikes and geological marvels. The four-day REI adventure travel trip provides a basecamp, tasty meals, guides and bikes; you just have to bring your own grit.
- Location: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
- Date: Mid-December to mid-March
Esteemed mountain guides run three- and four-day courses, which cover companion rescue, slope evaluation and route finding. Practice your skills with a full day of touring in Grand Teton National Park. And check locally for REI-hosted avalanche awareness classes.
- Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California
- Date: Multiple dates
This four-day REI adventure travel trip in January, February and March features backpacking and scrambling through dramatic landscapes. Guides drop knowledge about desert life and techniques, prepping you for an optional Class 4 climb to the Oh-Bay-Yo-Yo shelter.