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Big craft beers, big Viking parties and really, really big snow sculptures. Besides their immense scale, what do these otherwise seemingly unrelated things have in common? They will all be heartily celebrated in Breckenridge in January! If you think January in Breck is only about the slopes, you’re missing out; people go hard at winter sports here, but they also unwind hard. And in the depths of winter, this is how mountain folk fend off the winter chill and celebrate their inherent … mountainness. And the best part: The community welcomes you to come and do it all with them. If you’re looking for a place to stay, here’s a great lodging special that runs through the whole month.

1. Unleashing Your Inner Viking, Jan. 9-12

Ullr Fest
Join Breckenridge in celebrating the 56th annual Ullr Fest with bonfires and various bacchanalia. Photo Courtesy: Breckenridge Tourism Office

For more than a half-century (since 1963, specifically), the town of Breckenridge has hosted Ullr Fest annually, exalting the Old Norse god of the same name. The divine attributes and lore surrounding Ullr are extensive, and he goes by different names in various European locales, but he is generally considered the guardian patron saint of skiers. The legend goes that if this celebration pleases him, he will deliver more snow to the burg.

Snow lovers of all ages are invited to join this four-day party in his name, where revelers don Viking hats and bask in the warmth of huge bonfires. And that’s not the only huge thing: An expected crowd of 12,000 will be celebrating in the streets of Breckenridge. Evidently, Ullr is seriously down with a good party. That’s why Ullr Fest is so much fun — rather than being just spectators, attendees become part of the event. It’s everyone’s participation that makes it truly memorable.

Related events include the Ullr Fest Parade on Main Street, with a procession of nontraditional floats and entertaining shenanigans, the crowning of two local residents as the Ullr King and Queen, trying to break the world’s longest shot ski record (last year’s shot ski had a staggering 1,234 participants), an Ullr Ice Plunge where participants jump into the frozen depths of the Maggie Pond, the Fat Tire Ullr Bike Race, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, and more.

Learn about all the events surrounding Ullr Fest.

2. Warming Your Belly with Strong and Complex Beers, Jan. 10-12

Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival
The Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival will bring esoteric beer styles and brewing seminars to Breck. Photo Courtesy: The Brewtography Project

Originating from jolly old England, barley wine is a high-octane beer intended to be set aside for aging, and consumed on special occasions during the cold winter months. And to make events … well, even more jolly. Likewise, the Belgians are known for stronger ales such as Tripels and Dark Strong Ales brewed by Trappist monks to sustain themselves during periods of fasting, and to sell in support of their monasteries.

Now in its 19th year, and voted one of USA Today’s 10 Best Beer Festivals in the United States, the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival specifically celebrates these beer categories and more. In order to qualify for the festival, quaffables must be 7 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) or higher, be Belgian in style or experimental in nature. Showcasing the beers of over 120 breweries and importers, the festival offers a place for the best in the industry to gather, learn and play. And, of course, for all attendees to enjoy some of the finest beers in the world.

Another founding principle of the festival is a focus on zymurgic education. In fact, this year’s attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy thirteen educational seminars and four food/beer pairing sessions.

Get more details on the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, and tickets.

3. Viewing Some Amazing Snow Sculptures, Jan. 21-30

International Snow Sculpture Championships
Teams from the U.S. and 11 other countries will create an amazing outdoor art gallery in downtown Breckenridge. Photo Courtesy: Breckenridge Tourism Office

The 29th annual International Snow Sculpture Championships will feature the work of 16 teams traveling here to compete from China, Ecuador, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Mongolia and Turkey, in addition to that of domestic competitors. These artists will all use identical 25-ton blocks of snow to create their impressive sculptures, but to describe them as just impressive seems like an understatement — they truly must be seen to be fully appreciated.

It’s even more astounding to know that the use of power tools is forbidden; artists are only allowed to use hand tools to bring their frosty concepts to fruition. The teams will sculpt for roughly 96 hours over a five-day period to create a completely one-of-a-kind outdoor art gallery in downtown Breckenridge. This event is free to the public, but don’t forget to text a vote for your favorite to receive the People’s Choice Award.

Sculpting week spans January 21-25, beginning with a shotgun start at 11 a.m. on Monday and ending Friday morning, with the awards being presented that evening. Thursday the 24th is one of the best times to visit, as the artists are preparing to stay up all night to do the detail work, and the relief that results from their works being near completion generates a celebratory atmosphere. Viewing week runs Jan. 25-30, when the sculptures will be breathtakingly illuminated with colored lights from dusk until dawn, throughout the week. There’s also a fireworks show on Saturday the 26th, with viewing ending at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30, at which point the event site will close and the sculptures will all be dismantled.

Here’s more information about the International Snow Sculpture Championships.

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